Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Thanksgiving Day Parade!

The Energizer Bunny in Macy's 81st parade.
Nothing says Thanksgiving like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City!

One of the second oldest Thanksgiving Day parades in the country, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an event generations of Americans have grown up with, either from watching it on TV or seeing it in person.

To celebrate Thanksgiving as well as this beloved cultural icon, we are including some images from the parade from recent years as well as going back to 1930. Maybe they will bring back some memories.

We also are including a list of other Thanksgiving Day parades from across the country and providing links for information on parade routes, times, floats and celebrity grand marshalls.

Have you seen any of these parades? If so, we invite your comments and memories. 

Here's a video of the floats getting inflated for the 85th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2009:
And here's ... 
The USFlagstore parade of Thanksgiving Day parades... 
The Man of Steel in the Macy's parade, c. 1940

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
New York, NY
Starting in 1924, it is one of the three oldest Thanksgiving parades in the country. It starts at 9 a.m., and finishes around noon.

Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Detroit, MI
Known as America’s Thanksgiving Parade®, this parade started in 1924, the same year as the Macy’s parade. It is one of the three oldest parades in the country. It begins at 9:05 a.m. and will be broadcast on WDIV, channel 4.

Miss Piggy, c. 2009 Philly Parade (Examiner)

Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Philadelphia, PA
The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country, starting in 1920 and followed by Macy’s in NY and America’s Parade in Detroit in 1924.
The parade broadcast on 6ABC begins at 8:30 a.m.
McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Chicago, IL
The Chicago parade is big and beautiful and dates to 1933. This year the Grand Marshal is Holland Taylor, the Emmy-award winning actress from the TV show, "The Practice”.
It starts at 8 a.m. and will be rebroadcast at 1 p.m.

Mr. Potato Head in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
Belk Carolina’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Charlotte, NC
The parade will be broadcast on WBTV at 1:00 P.M. The East Burke High School Marching Cavaliers is serving as the parade’s Honor Band.

Ameren Missouri Thanksgiving Day Parade
St. Louis, MO
The Ameren Missouri Thanksgiving Day Parade is in its 27th year, making it one of the oldest in the country. This year the Harlem Gobetrotters are Honorary Grand Marshalls.
It begins at 8:45 a.m. and will be broadcast by KMOV-TV, channel 4

A dragon from the 1931 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Holiday Parade
Houston, Texas
In its 62nd year, the Houston parade can draw as many as 400,000 spectators. This year’s Grand Marshall is President of the Houston Dynamo, Chris Canetti.
It starts at 9 a.m. and is broadcast on KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Let it fly!
To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coventry: Nov. 14, 1940

Veterans Day was just a few days ago, a day to remember and pay our respects to the men and women of our military. Today, November 14, 2011 is the 71st anniversary of the bombing of Coventry, England during WWII. Today also is a day to remember our veterans as well as the civilians who also bear the brunt of war.
Coventry Cathedral after the November, 1940 blitz

These are the facts...

The bombing of Coventry was remarkable for its destruction as well as the sheer scope of the event in simple and practical terms: the hours the bombing continued, the tonnage of explosives dropped, the rubble that the city was reduced to and, of course, the lives that were lost or destroyed as a result of the bombing. 

With these pictures and the chronology of the bombing of Coventry, pays its respects:

At 1 p.m. on Nov. 14, 1941, a German radio beam was detected. No one knew where the beam was headed or precisely what it meant.

At 3 p.m., the Royal Air Force is notified that the German radio beam seems to be headed for Coventry. Coventry receives its first message at 6:50 p.m. At 7:07, the raid alert for approaching enemy is given. At 7:10 p.m., the signal for "Raiders approaching your area" is given. At 7:10, the first sirens begin and the first bombs start to fall.

The bombs fell all night, apparently reaching their fullest at 11:45 p.m. It was not until 6:16 a.m. on the morning of November 15 that the all clear signal was given.
Coventry days after the blitz. (Photo: Getty Images)

Records confirm that 522 German bombers took off from France. Some flew a diversionary mission to London. Some 881 canisters of explosives were dropped on Coventry. These canisters contained 30,000 incendiary devices. Approximately 503 tons of explosives were dropped on Coventry.

The number of dead is far less than the casualties from the London blitz; however, Coventry had a much smaller population. It is estimated that if you were in Coventry, your chances of dying from the bombing were 60% greater than anywhere else in England at any other time during the war.

According to, the actual casualties from the Coventry bombing are as follows: 568 were confirmed killed. 863 seriously wounded.  393 injured.

"Although higher total casualties had been seen in London, the relatively smaller population in Coventry meant that each person had actually stood a 60% higher risk of being killed in Coventry that night, than the average anywhere else in the UK during the war." (

A WWII RAF pilot with his plane (Photo: Allposters)
Coventry had 79 public air raid shelters. These shelters could accommodate 33,000 people. Of these shelters, nearly half were damaged. Eleven of the 33 damaged shelters were beyond repair. There were 3,000 homeless people that were now homeless after this raid.

These numbers are just one way of looking at the heartbreak of war and the courage of the human spirit to survive.

The video below is part of a BBC series on the bombing of Coventry.

BBC Timewatch

Let it fly!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's Day: 11.11.2011

A US Marine holding a folded memorial or interment flag.

From President Obama's proclamation recognizing November 11, Veteran's Day, as an annual federal holiday...
On Veterans Day, we come together to pay tribute to the men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces. Americans across this land commemorate the patriots who have risked their lives to preserve the liberty of our Nation, the families who support them, and the heroes no longer with us. It is not our weapons or our technology that make us the most advanced military in the world; it is the unparalleled spirit, skill, and devotion of our troops. As we honor our veterans with ceremonies on this day, let our actions strengthen the bond between a Nation and her warriors.
America’s sons and daughters have not watched over her shores or her citizens for public recogni­tion, fanfare, or parades. They have preserved our way of life with unwavering patriotism and quiet courage, and ours is a debt of honor to care for them and their families. These obligations do not end after their time of service, and we must fulfill our sacred trust to care for our veterans after they retire their uniforms.
As a grateful Nation, we are humbled by the sacrifices rendered by our service members and their families out of the deepest sense of service and love of country. On Veterans Day, let us remember our solemn obligations to our veterans, and recommit to upholding the enduring principles that our country lives for, and that our fellow citizens have fought and died for.

From Armistice Day to Veterans Day...
At 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 a cease fire is declared. This is the first step to end World War I, the Great War, the war everyone thought was so awful that surely it would be the last war. 

Every year after that first Armistice Day in 1918, the holiday was celebrated all over the world with parades to honor the war dead as well as to celebrate a world at peace. 

It is from that first celebration that the current Veteran's Day has its roots, a holiday that has come to honor all veterans, both survivors as well as the war dead, from the Great War and beyond. This and Memorial Day our two holidays when it is customary for families to place stick flags on their veterans' graves.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with Honor Guard
On November 11, 1921, Congress passes new legislation to create the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to stand in Arlington National Cemetery in honor of our soldiers who died unknown in combat. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is presided over by a special honor guard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While customs vary from country to country, most nations do have their own memorial to the Unknown Soldier. To read about the history of the guard and their particular customs, visit their link here.

In 1926, the United States government passes legislation making November 11 a federal holiday. Part of the legislation for Armistice Day requires that the president read the proclamation anew each year. This tradition still continues.

In 1954, new legislation is passed giving Armsitice Day a new name and a new emphasis. The legislation, signed by President Eisenhower, turns Armistice Day into Veteran's Day. Still a federal holiday and still requiring the president to declare it anew each year, Veteran's Day is meant to remember all the soldiers from all of the wars, including those who died as well as those who fought most recently in World War II and in the Korean War.

Eisenhower signing Veteran's Day legislation, 1954
From President Eisenhower's Veteran's Day Proclamation...
 In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.

In 1978, Veteran's Day, which had been celebrated in October in some states and in November in other states (confusion arising from the new Monday holiday law from the 1970's), is formally returned to November 11. 

The Department of Veteran's Affairs has made this video explaining Veteran's Day:

The art of Veteran's Day ....
The 2011 official Veteran's Day poster:

The 2010 poster is a history of the United States as seen through the battlefields, from Lexington to Basra.

The 1995 poster memorialized the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The hands of an old soldier, once a young hero, are a poignant nod to the history or war and peace:

Let if fly! 
To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Armistice Day: What Peace Looks Like

A world at war...

The history of Veteran's Day begins with Armistice Day. 

 On November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m.,  a cease fire was declared between the warring nations of War I. The war largely consisted of Germany and Austria on one side with Russia, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom (including England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) on the other. The Great War, the war to end all wars, did not officially end, however, until Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles on May 7, 1919.

On Nov. 11, 1919, President Wilson declared Armistice Day an official holiday to remember, with a two minute cessation of business each year at 11 a.m. on November 11, those who died in the Great War. The day originally was conceived to include parades and other civic events.

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.
                        ~ President Woodrow Wilson's Armsitice Day speech

While the root of this war began, in one way, with a single terrorist act, the assassination of Archduke Franze Ferdinand in June, 1914, it quickly mushroomed out of the complex alliances – some political, some cultural, some traditional – that formed in response to his death. Two good sources detailing the alliances between nations during this war and the details of the Treaty of Versailles (often cited as the root of World War II) are:

What peace looks like...
To understand how this war impacted this generation, all one has to do is look at these photos of the world celebrating the end of World War I. This is what peace looks like:

In London at the Stock Exchange:

Two minutes of silence – with thousands of people – also in London:

In New South Wales, Australia:

In New York on Wall Street:

In Chicago on Michigan Avenue:

In Detroit (Photo by The Detroit News):

In Iowa (Photo by the Iowa Alumnus):

And finally ...
American troops in France knowing they are coming home (Photo by AP):

Let it fly!
The remembers Armistice Day with this look at what peace looks like from 1918. To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wilfred Owen: Soldier Poet & Hero

Nov. 4, 1918

Just one week before Armistice Day (the first Veterans Day) is declared during World War I, the soldier poet Wilfred Owen dies in battle on the Western Front.

Owen was one of the great English voices who wrote about war from the battlefield:

I came out in order to help these boys—directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can.
Poet, soldier and hero, Wilfred Owen
~ Wilfred Owen 

In 1917, Owen lead his platoon on an attack on German trenches. Though he was not harmed in the attack, he was nearly killed by an exploding mine immediately thereafter. In an army hospital for recuperating officers, the Craiglockhart War Hospital for Neurasthenic Officers, he was diagnosed with "shell shock", the WWI terminology for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

At the hospital and before his return to duty, Owen met another great English war poet, Siegfried Sassoon. The two would become friends. Both would return to the war. Sassoon, however, is one of the few from a generation of poet soldiers that would survive the war.

Owen always loved poetry and wanted to be a poet. Sassoon's encouragement, however, is what motivated him to write about his experience of war. It should be noted that all of his poetry about WWI was written in a mere 15 months.

In September, 1918, Owen won the Military Cross for his courage in capturing a German machine gun and successfully turning it against the enemy. He was in boot camp for one year in England before arriving at the war. And when he arrived, like so many, he was placed on the front. 

Perhaps this description from summarizes Owen's and his generation's experience of war as the soldiers landed fresh from training in England to the combat fields of Europe:

Within a week he had been transported to the front line in a cattle wagon and was "sleeping" 70 or 80 yards from a heavy gun which fired every minute or so. He was soon wading miles along trenches two feet deep in water. Within a few days he was experiencing gas attacks and was horrified by the stench of the rotting dead; his sentry was blinded, his company then slept out in deep snow and intense frost till the end of January. 

Owen's mother learned late of her son's death – when the bells for Armistice were ringing. 

Two poems by Wilfred Owen

Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know. 

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young  
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together, Isaac the first-born spake and said,
My Father, Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps, and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him.
Behold, A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him. 

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Let it fly! remembers the voice of solider, poet and war hero, Wilfred Owen.

Yankee Doodle: A History

W. M. Hunt, Drummer Boy, c. 1882
Yankee Doodle is a song every American child used to know, not only as a song, but as a clapping game, and even as a kind of skipping children's dance. At various times, it has been glorified as a national nickname, and turned into the subject of Broadway plays and Hollywood musicals. But most of all, perhaps best of all, it has been shortened into a term that describes the American spirit: 

We are Yankees. Proud yankees. Damn yankees. A people full of something the world knows as "Yankee ingenuity." And sometimes, we are known simply as "Yanks."

By whatever moniker or form you know the term "yankee," they all find their way back to one man with an inconceivable feather in his cap called macaroni. What does it all mean? Keep on reading...

Just how old is "Yankee Doodle"?
Yankee Doodle is such an old song that in some verses, General Washington is only a captain! Funnily enough, this error helps us to date the song as its roots rest in the camp of the British soldier and not with General Washington's Minute Men:

And there was Captain Washington,
With gentlefolks about him,
They say he's gown so 'tarnal proud
He will not ride without them.

Yankee Doodle or The Spirit of '76, by A.M. Willard
 In war, rank is always important, so what this early version of the song reveals is just how little regard loyalists to the Crown had for Washington and the Continental Army. As a result, British officers and officials were loathe, early on, to grant Washington his title not just in passing but also (especially?) within formal documents.

This issue of rank was at the heart of Washington's refusal to meet with representatives of the British government in August, 1775 to discuss a possible and early peace (i.e. capitulation). Correspondence bearing such a plan from Admiral Howe addressed to Washington did not acknowledge Washington as a general so Washington refused to acknowledge the communiqués. The sticking point may seem petty but such details – such respect or lack thereof – are at the heart of the give and take we call "negotiation."

Another version of the song reflects a different type of dissatisfaction with Washington's appointment as Commander-in-Chief:

There came Gen'ral Washington
Upon a snow-white charger
He looked as big as all outdoors
And thought that he was larger.

Given the hardship Boston had suffered over the years at the hands of King George's punitive legislation, some assumed the new general would be from Massachusetts; and some did not. John Adams, who suggested Washington for the job, was from Massachusetts and believed appointing a southerner would help unite all the colonies against the Crown.

So what was a Yankee doodle?
Early Yankee Doodle song sheet, Library of Congress
In the 17th and 18th centuries, a doodle was a term referring to fools, not totally unrelated to the nonsensical scrawls we call doodles. The word is thought to come from the German dudel meaning fool  (wikipedia). As a term if derision, it probably was a common one. 

In the 18th century, there also was something called a macaroni wig, an extremely curly wig whose popularity was limited to 18th century fops, that generation's equivalent of fashion extremonistas.

When the English army surgeon Dr. Richard Shackburg (or Shuckburgh) penned his lyrics (c. 1755), he was taking aim at the rough and tumble soldiers of the New World, not the kind of professional soldier that formed much of the British Army.

Shackburg met many such backwoods soldiers during the French-Indian War. One in particular, according to Wikipedia, stood out: Col. Thomas Fitch and his colonial unit. Fitch was the son of the Connecticut governor and would have represented an example of the colony's finest. Clearly, Shackburg was unimpressed.

Another pre-Revolutionary verse, dating to 1755 or 1758, takes aim at the courage of a certain colonial named Ephraim whom, claims the song, was an utter coward: 

Brother Ephraim sold his Cow
And bought him a Commission;
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the Nation;

But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant Coward,
He wouldn't fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour'd.

Some scholars believe the verse refers to Ephraim Williams who actually died in a battle at Lake George (wikipedia). If this is true, then some sources believe this is the same Ephraim Williams who, in his will, left his property for the founding of a school – Williams College.

Another early verse used as a marching song for the British army during their occupation of Boston (after the battles of Lexington and Concord, and Bunker or Breed's Hill) makes fun of John Hancock, one of the wealthiest Colonial merchants and a staunchly radical patriot:

Yankee Doodle came to town,
For to buy a firelock,
We will tar and feather him,
And so we will John Hancock.

As for the "Yankee Doodle" in the above stanza who came to town to buy a firelock and was subsequently tarred and feathered, one legend says this refers to a Billerica, MA patriot, Tom Ditson, who not only was tarred and feathered for his political beliefs but can be counted on the muster roll as having fought at the Battle of Lexington and Concord.
When turn around is fair play ...
A very special version of Yankee Doodle was played at the surrender of  the British Army's surrender at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the last battle of the American Revolution (

Cornwallis led a country dance
The like was never seen, sir,
Much retrograde, and much advance,
And all with General Greene, sir.

Yankee Doodle also is the official state song for the state of Connecticut (courtesy Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution).

Here are the complete lyrics of Yankee Doodle, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The US Fife & Drum Corps, presidential inauguration 2009

sources used for this blog:
Library of Congress

Want to see the US "Old Guard" Fife & Drum Corps play? 
Click here!

Let it fly! is collecting the history behind Yankee Doodle Dandy and other patiotic songs.