Memorial Day Preparedness Parade

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Americans began debating the idea of preparedness. Some, like Theodore Roosevelt, advocated expanding the military in anticipation of the spreading conflict. President Woodrow Wilson was determined that America’s position would only be “armed neutrality.” Parades for and against military involvement were held around the nation, including San Francisco, a stronghold of the anti-war movement and labor unions.

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Image One Photo Archive The Spokesman-Review Image Two Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Americans began debating the idea of preparedness. Some, like Theodore Roosevelt, advocated expanding the military in anticipation of the spreading conflict. President Woodrow Wilson was determined that America’s position would only be “armed neutrality.” Parades for and against military involvement were held around the nation, including San Francisco, a stronghold of the anti-war movement and labor unions. One union pamphlet declared they would “show that militarism can’t be forced on us and our children without a violent protest.” During a preparedness parade in San Francisco on July 22, 1916, a suitcase bomb was detonated in the crowd, killing 10 and wounding 40. A young girl”s legs were blown off. Two union leaders were tried and sentenced to hang. Over the decades that followed, their guilt was called into question and their sentences commuted to life in prison. Just two months before in Spokane, men marched down Riverside Ave. in a combination Memorial Day and preparedness parade, each one holding a small flag. The sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine and a raid by Pancho Villa in New Mexico, changed Wilson’s attitude. The National Defense Act of 1916 authorized increasing the size of the military. The act led to the establishment of Fort Lewis near Tacoma. The movement slowly faded as America was drawn into war.


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