Headstones are adorned with flags at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 27, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. Mourners from throughout the United States travel to Arlington to visit their loved ones on Memorial Day.
CNN  — 

Here’s a look at Memorial Day, a day honoring American soldiers who died serving the country in wars. It is observed annually in the United States on the last Monday in May.


Several towns claim to be the originators of Memorial Day, but in 1966 Congress declared Waterloo, New York, to be the birthplace of the holiday.

Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865).

The holiday now honors those who died in any war while serving with the United States.

It is also called Decoration Day.


May 5, 1866 - Residents of Waterloo, New York, observe a Memorial Day in honor of all who died during the Civil War. Businesses are closed and soldiers’ graves are decorated.

1868 - General John Alexander Logan officially proclaims May 30, 1868, as Memorial Day in honor of the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. Until after World War I, southern states celebrated a separate Memorial Day in honor of the Confederate dead.

1971 - Congress declares Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.

December 28, 2000 - President Bill Clinton signs the “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” which designates 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance.

US War Casualties

Civil War - Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.

World War I - 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.

World War II - 405,399 Americans died.

Korean War - 36,574 Americans died.

Vietnam Conflict - 58,220 Americans died.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm - 382 service members died.

Operation Iraqi Freedom - 4,418 service members died.

Operation New Dawn - 74 service members died.

Operation Enduring Freedom - 2,349 service members died.

Operation Freedom’s Sentinel - 107 service members died.

Operation Inherent Resolve - 107 service members have died as of May 2023.