By Harold Fuller
The first Armed Forces Day (AFD) celebration in Hawthorne, May 20, 1950, came about because of an act initiated by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson on Aug. 31, 1949, when he announced the creation of a special day to be set aside each year for the recognition of our Armed Forces. This action consolidated celebrations for the Army, Navy and the Air Force on the same day of the year. The Marine Corp did not totally agree with this and still maintains their annual celebration on Nov. 10 although they recognize AFD as well.
The first celebration set the standard for future generations as Capitan J. S. Crenshaw, the base Commanding Officer took charge as the overall Chairman. Many of the programs and festivities implemented in that first year were repeated in the years thereafter. However there were some memorable exceptions during 1950.
The parade, with Doug Golden, NAD Fire Chief as Parade Marshall, started at the south end of town and under a fly over of several B-29 bombers and some thrilling formation flying by four F-51’s fighters, the parade continued sown to Babbitt, where the construction of the new Seabee Park was nearing completion. Formal dedication of the park was conducted with Governor Vail Pittman as principal speaker and several other government officials making verbal overtures. Lt. Comdr. W.J. McFarland Jr. introduced N.E. Donaldson, commander of the local Seabee unit, who in turn presented the parade a result of volunteer efforts by the local Seabee unit to Capt. J. S. Crenshaw, Depot Commanding Officer.
I was there during this gathering and I remember lots of people and the new park fountain was splendid. It was a busy place that day. I especially remember all the old cars that Bill Harrah, director of the Nevada Horseless Carriage, and his group, brought down. Being fifteen years olds at the time all my friends and I could do was just dream about those babies. Upon conclusion of the park dedication, guests continued their pre-parade tour of the Naval Base. Fire fighting techniques were demonstrated, train rides offered and it seemed like there were snacks and sodas everywhere. That evening a banquet was held at the Civic Center with Brigadier General James A. May, adjutant general of Nevada giving the principal talk. Following the banquet there was a public “Wake up America” meeting presented by the Elks Lodge with Gov. Pittman making the address of the evening. The American Legion and VFW assisted in various parts of this colorful, patriotic program. Numerous clubs and organizations were thanked by Capt. Crenshaw for their fine support of Hawthorne’s first Armed Forces Day celebration.
The day was celebrated in other cities and towns throughout Nevada but Hawthorne’s AFD was generally recognized being the biggest and best, just as it is today.