Memorial Day, set aside as the last Monday in May to honor Americans who have died while in military duty, was formerly known as Decoration Day, and originated as a holiday following the Civil War to pay respects to the casualties on both sides of that conflict. Louisiana has a long history of offering its sons and daughters for wartime and peacetime service, and KnowLA.org, the Digital Encyclopedia of Louisiana, offers numerous entries related to their sacrifice and those of civilians as well.
The Civil War alone offers a complexity of viewpoints, from the role of African American soldiers to that of Confederates, Unionist troops and guerrilla warriors. Specific battles, including the Red River Campaign, the Battle of Baton Rouge, the Siege of Port Hudson and the Fall of New Orleans are also covered.
Louisianans’ patriotism was evident in their support for the doughboys of World War I. New Orleans raised $103 million in war bond drives, and Shreveport’s contribution totaled $15 million. World War II radically transformed all aspects of life on the home front, and Louisianans served a critical role in the hard-fought victory by constructing the Higgins landing craft that stormed the D-Day beaches and by training thousands of enlisted men in the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers combat exercises. These same military bases later trained soldiers to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia during the divisive years of the Vietnam War, and many South Vietnamese refugees fleeing the communist takeover of their homeland in 1975 found safe haven in Louisiana’s towns and cities.