[Updated: June 14, 11:30 a.m.]
Try your hand at this quiz, which will test your knowledge of Memorial Day and U.S. history that led to its establishment and continued observance. Answers, with a bit of history, are below.
1. Memorial Day was a response to the loss of American lives in which war?
a) Revolutionary War
b) Civil War
c) World War I
d) World War II
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2. One American city was declared the “birthplace” of Memorial Day in 1966 by Congress and then by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. What was it?
a) Savannah, Ga.
b) Annapolis, Md.
c) Gettysburg, Pa.
d) Waterloo, N.Y.
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3. What was the original name of Memorial Day?
a) Remembrance Day
b) Commemoration Day
c) Decoration Day
d) Dedication Day
4. Yes or no:
a) Was Memorial Day always celebrated on the last Monday in May?
b) Do all states celebrate Memorial Day on the same day?
5. Which is NOT a tradition on Memorial Day?
a) Small American flags are placed on each grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
b) American flags are flown at half-staff from dawn to noon.
c) The president or vice president lays a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
d) The president or vice president gives a speech at Arlington National Cemetery.
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6. Each year the 3rd U.S. Infantry places a small American flag before the gravestones and niches of service members buried at Arlington National Cemetery (and the U.S. Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery) just before Memorial Day weekend. What is the total number of flags placed at Arlington?
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7. How long does it take for the soldiers to put down all of the flags?
a) 3 hours
b) 6 hours
c) 10 hours
d) 14 hours
8. About 5,000 people attend the annual Memorial Day celebration at Arlington Cemetery. How many were at the first celebration in 1868?
9. True or False: The United States has an official National Moment of Remembrance.
10. Who said this?
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
a) John Adams
b) John Quincy Adams
c) John F. Kennedy
d) John Wayne
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1. b) Civil War.
Lots of towns had their own commemorations before 1868, but it is said that Memorial Day became a holiday in that year when Gen. John A. Logan of Grand Army of the Republic issued a proclamation, according to history.com, that said:
The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
After World War I, Memorial Day commemorations honored not just the Civil War dead but soldiers who had died in all American conflicts.
2. d) Waterloo, based on a May 5, 1866, community-wide observance honoring war dead. A number of cities, however, claim Memorial Day started there.
3. c) Decoration Day
4. a) No.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
A number of Southern states still have a separate day to honor Confederate soldiers who died in the war. Some of them are in April, May and June, and in Texas, Confederate Heroes Day is Jan. 19.
5. c). It is actually customary for the president or vice president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, not at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
6. d) The soldiers put flags in front of more than 260,000 gravestones and about 7,300 niches at Arlington. (Another 13,500 flags are placed at the Soldier’s and Airmen’s Cemetery.)
7. a) It takes them about three hours to place them all. Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry stay at Arlington during the long Memorial Day weekend to make sure flags remain at each gravestone and niche.
8. d) 5,000. The same number as the first commemoration.
9. True. On May 2, 2000, then-President Bill Clinton issued a directive declaring support for a National Moment of Remembrance and ordering federal agencies to encourage Americans everywhere “to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.”
10. c) John F. Kennedy
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