Press Release

National WWII Museum Poll Shows 80 percent of Americans Unfamiliar with Memorial Day’s Real Meaning

Website Launched to Honor, Remind and Remember

NEW ORLEANS (May 11, 2011) — What is Memorial Day? A new poll commissioned by The National WWII Museum reveals the nation is in danger of forgetting. Eighty percent of all Americans confess to having “little” or “some” knowledge of the holiday. Just 20 percent claim to be “very familiar” with the day’s purpose, which is to honor those who have died while fighting the nation’s wars.

In response, The National WWII Museum has unveiled a new website featuring 10 ways to honor those who have fallen in the service of their country.

“The site offers ideas for all,” said The National WWII Museum President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller. “A family can visit a military site, or an individual can read a book about WWII history. It’s a way to honor, remind and remember why this day is important.”

Concerned that Americans were forgetting Memorial Day’s meaning, The Museum asked New Orleans-based Market Dynamics Research Group, Inc., (MDRG) to conduct the national survey. The firm polled more than 1000 people and discovered an eye-opening lack of knowledge about the holiday:

  • 20 percent of those surveyed said they knew “a lot” about Memorial Day
  • 46 percent said they knew “something”
  • 31 percent said they knew “little”
  • 3 percent said they knew “nothing”

On Monday, May 30, The National WWII Museum will commemorate Memorial Day with a series of events featuring veterans from World War II to Afghanistan who will talk about the importance of honoring those who died. Others will speak about family members they have lost in battle. At 3:00 pm, the Museum will participate in the National Moment of Remembrance.

While there are differing historical opinions on how Memorial Day originated, it is known that the practice of decorating graves was widespread in both the North and the South following the Civil War. The name gradually changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day and it became a day for honoring all of the nation’s fallen. Observance of Memorial Day increased after World War II, but was not declared a holiday by Federal law until 1967. In 1971, a law was passed moving the date from May 30 to the last Monday in May. In December 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance, observed by a moment of silence at 3:00 pm, was passed into law.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world — why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or visit our Facebook fan page.