By Harold Fuller
Special to MCIN
Hawthorne’s 2020 annual Armed Forces Day celebration will probably be remembered in years to come as the one knocked out by the coronavirus. A sad time for our community and the whole world.
Our first AFD was a much happier time.
The Armed Forces Day celebration in Hawthorne on May 20, 1950, came about because of an act initiated by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson a few months earlier, when he announced the creation of a special day to be set aside each year for recognition of our military. This action consolidated celebrations for the Army, Navy and the Air Force on the same day of the year. The Marine Corps did not totally agree and still maintains a Nov. 10 day, although they recognize AFD as well.
The first celebration set the standard for future generations as Capt. J.S. Crenshaw, the base commanding officer, took charge as chairman. Many of the programs and festivities begun that first year were repeated in years after. However, there were some memorable exceptions in 1950.
The parade, with Doug Golden, NAD fire chief as parade marshal, started at the south end of town and under a fly over of several B-29 bombers along with some thrilling formation flying by four F-51 fighters, the parade continued down to Babbitt, where the construction of the new Seabee Park was nearing completion. Formal dedication of the park was conducted with Gov. Vail Pittman as principal speaker. Lt. Comdr. W.J. McFarland Jr., introduced N.E. Donaldson, commander of the local Seabee unit, who in turn presented the park _ a result of volunteer efforts by the Seabees _ to Capt. J>S> Crenshaw, the depot commanding officer.
I was there during this gathering and I remember hundreds of people and the new park fountain was splendid. It was a bus y 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 15-years-old 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 Brig. Gen. James A. May, adjutant general of Nevada, giving the main 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 Armed Forces Day celebration.
The day was celebrated in other cities and towns throughout Nevada but Hawthorne’s AFD was generally recognized as being the biggest and best, just as it is today.
1950 Armed Forces Day
By Harold Fuller