(RNN) - Monday is Memorial Day.
Memorial Day started as Decoration Day to remember soldiers who died in the Civil War. Soon after, it was applied to all wars.
There are nearly 150 national cemeteries in the U.S., and 41 states and Puerto Rico have at least one. Virginia has the most with 19, including the most famous one in Arlington, which contains the Tomb of the Unknowns, the grave of Audie Murphy, who died in a plane crash May 28, 1971; and the final resting place of John F. Kennedy, born May 29, 1917.
An unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns on May 28, 1984. His remains were identified 14 years later as those of Michael Joseph Blassie. His body was removed and buried in Missouri.
If you aren't familiar with the special Army unit that guards the Tomb of the Unknowns, there was a documentary produced about it not too long ago, and it's fascinating. The changing of the guard ceremony occurs at different intervals during the day depending on the season.
Here are some of the events of note that happened between May 27 and June 2.
John Wayne was born last week, but Canadian comedian Johnny Wayne was born May 28, 1918. Howard Hawks was born May 30, 1896. Hawks directed the Duke in Red River, Rio Bravo, Hatari!, El Dorado and Rio Lobo.
Another great western actor, Clint Eastwood, was born May 31, 1930. My favorite Eastwood movie is High Plains Drifter, which Wayne hated and is cited by some as the reason why the two never worked together. I've had some endless debates with friends over who is better between Wayne and Eastwood.
I like both, but prefer the brash, tough-talking Wayne characters to Eastwood's sullen, dark antihero. Although, I will admit the Duke never did anything this awesome.
Mel Blanc was born May 30, 1908. Blanc voiced some of the greatest cartoon characters ever created, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester the Cat, Pepe Le Pew and the Tasmanian Devil.
I mentioned earlier my fascination with the names and facial hair of Civil War soldiers, but it's worth saying again. Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard was born May 28, 1818. He has one of the best names in American history and shares a birthday and mustache with Patch Adams, who was born in 1945, and was portrayed in a movie by Robin Williams.
June 1 is a big birthday day, with Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe (1926) born on that day in the same year and Morgan Freeman born 11 years later. Revolutionary War figure Patrick Henry was born May 29, 1736, and the anniversary of his death (June 6, 1799) occurs next week.
Millvina Dean, the youngest passenger on the RMS Titanic and its last survivor, died May 31, 2009.
Joan of Arc was executed May 30, 1431. She was burned at the stake for heresy, despite the evidence to support this being dubious at best. Records were allegedly altered to change the evidence against her, and a retrial declared her not guilty. However, it took place 25 years after she was executed.
Lou Gehrig died June 2, 1941. In a recent discussion with Viral Videos guru George Jones, I defended Gehrig, my favorite baseball player of all-time, against the blind allegation that all athletes since the beginning of time are guilty of using some form of performance-enhancing substance, even though it's probably true. Nevertheless, I coined a fantastic new word - unbesmirchable - and will stand by it no matter what science or spell check tells me.
John was crowned King of England on May 27, 1199. Which John? The only John that's ever been England's king. That's right. Only one dude named John has been the king. A little perspective: The British monarchy has been around about 800 years longer than the U.S. presidency. They've had one guy named John and we've had four.
Perhaps that is explained by John's legacy as king. If you don't know who John was, he was the younger brother of Richard the Lionheart (Richard I) and was largely a failure during his time on the throne. Accurate information on people who lived in the 12th century is hard to come by, but I hope the portrayal of him in the animated 1973 Disney movie Robin Hood is accurate.
Let's stay with British monarchs for a moment. Kate Middleton's grandmother-in-law's coronation was June 2, 1953. On May 28, 1533, Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn was declared valid. However, it didn't keep him from hacking her head off three years later and marrying Jane Seymour on May 30, 1536.
And now we move on to the closest thing we Americans have to royalty - Andrew Jackson. Jackson killed Charles Dickinson in a duel May 30, 1806, but killing him wasn't enough. Jackson killed him only after letting Dickinson shoot first and taking a bullet to the chest, which stayed there until Jackson died 39 years later.
The best-selling single of all time, White Christmas, was recorded May 29, 1942. People go unnecessarily crazy over snow and Christmas, and especially snow on Christmas, so I guess it makes sense. The best-selling song ever recorded could be a lot better, but it could also be a lot worse.
Last week was the anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge opening. Well, it took less than a week for somebody to think it was going to collapse. (Note: It didn't.) But 12 people still died May 30, 1883, when a panic over the bridge possibly collapsing caused a stampede.
The Golden Gate Bridge opened May 27, 1937, to pedestrian traffic, and opened to cars the next day. The Chrysler Building opened May 27, 1930. At the time, it was the tallest building in the world, but less than a year later, the Empire State Building took its place. It's still the tallest brick structure in the world, even though it has a steel skeleton.
Rhode Island became a state May 29, 1790, Wisconsin became a state May 29, 1848, Kentucky became a state June 1, 1792, and Tennessee became a state June 1, 1796. Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island, so it can go away. Without Wisconsin, there would be no cheese, so it has to stay. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby and now that prohibition is over, it and Tennessee contribute something to society, so they can both stay.
The Mars Odyssey satellite found signs of ice on Mars on May 28, 2002, and everybody freaked out for no reason.
Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. Hillary completed the ascent with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Norgay didn't know when his birthday was, but knew it was roughly late May, so May 29 is celebrated as his birthday. How much more awesome would life be if you got to pick your own birthday? Or would it be worse?
Mickey Mouse said his first words in Karnival Kid on May 31, 1929, CNN started broadcasting June 1, 1980, and Grover Cleveland became the only president to get married while in office June 2, 1886.
The first Indianapolis 500 was run May 30, 1911. Ray Harroun came out of retirement to win the race and promptly retired again. The average speed for the winner was 74 mph, and the race took 6 hours, 42 minutes to complete. Today, we call that pre-race coverage.
Montreal was awarded the Expos as the first non-American major league baseball team May 27, 1968. They stayed in Montreal until 2004 when somebody got smart and realized baseball is American and moved them from Canada to Washington, DC, renaming them the Nationals.
The Battle of the Eclipse took place in 585, and it is notable because a solar eclipse occurred during the battle. Because people in 585 didn't know what the heck an eclipse was and couldn't explain why the sun went dark in the middle of the day, they thought the gods were mad at them for fighting, so they quit.
The date is historically significant because it is one of the few dates from that time period known to be accurate and has been used to calculate other subsequent dates.
The Battle of Jumonville Glen took place May 28, 1754, in what is now Pennsylvania. It took place during the French and Indian War, and was a battle where George Washington was not only the commanding officer, but one he actually won. Only about 100 men total fought in the battle, but Washington ambushed his opponents and killed or captured nearly all of them.
The first land battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fairfax Court House, was June 1, 1861, and resulted in the first Confederate death. John Quincy Marr was a captain in the Confederate Army and was the first Confederate soldier to die in battle. It happened just four days after his birthday, which was May 27, 1825.
The German battleship Bismarck was sunk May 27, 1941, by the British Navy.
National Rocky Road Day is June 2. The best way to enjoy this superb ice cream flavor is to put two (OK, three) scoops into a chocolate-dipped waffle cone.
"No joy in Mudville."
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