Memorial Day is often celebrated with beer and barbecues, but it’s really a day of remembrance of the military personnel who died while serving our country. In honor of Memorial Day, here are five war-themed moments in pop culture history.
The Doors, “The Unknown Soldier”
There have been many songs written about war, but one of the most interesting is “The Unknown Soldier” by The Doors. The first single on the band’s 1968 “Waiting for the Sun” album, the song was presumed to be Jim Morrison’s reaction to the Vietnam War and it included the sounds of military drums, military commands, and a firing squad. But some radio stations refused to play the controversial record at the time.
In a 1968 interview with Hullabaloo magazine, Morrison said he didn’t understand what the problem with the song was. Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek said, “It came out at a bad time. If it had come out maybe six months earlier or four months later … it probably would have done all right. It was the war thing, you know. When it came out, the war was just sort of really coming to a head. I think it came out just when we started negotiations and that everybody was really into a funny thing about the war. But now, I don’t know, I guess the war is over. Everybody assumes it’s over. It’s not, of course. They’re still fighting.”
Check out a rare promo clip of The Doors’ “The Unknown Soldier” here.
“Mad Men” Memorial Days
Two episodes of AMC’s 1960s drama “Mad Men” were actually set on Memorial Day weekend. The Season 5 premiere “A Little Kiss” opened on Memorial Day weekend 1966 (which also marked Don Draper’s 40th birthday), while a few years before that, Season 2’s “Maidenform” had Draper and then-wife Betty at a country club “Ribs and Fashion Show” that included an odd recognition for those who fought for our country when the fashion show emcee announced: “It is a tradition that we have our ribs and fashion show on this day every year. Well, this is not to dim our resolute admiration for the fortitude of those who have so nobly served our country, many of whom will not be enjoying ribs this afternoon. If you could please stand, all servicemen, for a moment of our insufficient appreciation.” And yes, Korean War vet Don Draper stood up.
See a “Mad Men” clip that features Pete Campbell’s Memorial Day barbecue here.
Beetle Bailey’s Serious Strip
Newspaper comic strips aren’t always the funny pages. In fact, they can be downright poignant when the time calls for it. Mort Walker’s long running Army-themed comic strip “Beetle Bailey” featured a strip that showed it’s “going to take a lot of remembering” to remember all in the military who died for our country. You can see the strip here.
Memorial Day Movies
Hundreds of war-related films have been made over the years, so it’s not difficult to fill a Memorial Day movie marathon lineup. This year, cable network Antenna TV will host a “Memorial Day Cinema Salute” featuring nine classic war movies, including “All The Young Men” (1960), “Tank Battalion” (1958), and “The Victors” (1963). And Turner Classic Movies will present a 72-hour marathon of movies about servicemen and women, including the Clint Eastwood classic, “Kelly’s Heroes” (1970) and Gary Cooper’s “Sergeant York” (1941).
Many books have been written from the perspective of soldiers, including Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” and the Kurt Vonnegut classic, “Slaughterhouse-Five.” According to NPR, Vonnegut once revealed he had a good reason for penning his satirical look at war: “My own feeling is that civilization ended in World War I, and we’re still trying to recover from that,” he said in an interview. “Much of the blame is the malarkey that artists have created to glorify war, which as we all know, is nonsense, and a good deal worse than that – romantic pictures of battle, and of the dead and men in uniform and all that. And I did not want to have that story told again.”