Presidential Inaugurations and the U.S. Military

Inauguration Day is always a major moment in United States history. Once every four years, on the steps of the United States Capitol Building, the newly elected (or reelected) President and Vice President of the United States are sworn into office in a public ceremony. It’s a public holiday, and it’s common for schools and businesses to close to mark the occasion. The U. S. Military also plays a big part in the pomp and circumstance of welcoming a new or returning President to office.

The U.S. military’s participation in Inauguration Day dates all the way back to George Washington’s presidency. The National Guard is also a mainstay on Inauguration Day, and has been since President Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration in 1861. Today, service members operate on multiple planes for presidential inaugurations. They both maintain a secure perimeter to ensure the safety of those attending and participating, and also participate in the festivities. 

For more than a century, the Inaugural Parade has been part of Inauguration Day. It was preceded by a procession that began at the second inauguration of President Thomas Jefferson. On that occasion, President Jefferson rode from the Capitol to the White House on horseback. He was accompanied by a host of supporters including the public, Congressmen, diplomats, workers from the local navy yard, and The Marine Band, who played as they marched. 

The Inaugural Parade is not a military parade, but during certain inaugurations, they have resembled such. Notably, both of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inaugurations featured a display of military strength. His first inauguration spotlighted an 85-ton atomic cannon that could fire up to 20 miles, and the second displayed the Redstone, which was the US’s first ballistic missile to be successfully fired. 

A similar show of force was on display during President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Remember that America was in the midst of the Cold War, and what better opportunity to showcase the force of the U.S. military than during a presidential inauguration? As the newly inaugurated president and the world watched, dozens of missiles and sizable Navy boats brimming with sailors paraded through the streets of Washington DC, including the U.S. Army’s first missile designed to intercept ballistic missiles, the Nike Zeus. 

In the current day and age, it’s less common for the Inaugural Parade to resemble a military parade like they did at the conclusion of World War II or the Gulf War. However, there’s no shortage of servicemen and servicewomen proudly dressed in their military best to welcome a new or re-elected president to office on January 20 every 4 years. 

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Posted on January 19 2021 in Blog

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