ARMED FORCES DAY
The City of Torrance is one of the few cities in the nation designated by the U.S. Department of Defense to host an Armed Forces Day celebration with the Torrance Armed Forces Day Parade as a highlight. The Parade has the distinction of being the nation's longest running military parade sponsored by any city.
2016 marks the 57th Annual City of Torrance Armed Forces Day Celebration, a continuation of Torrance's longest-standing tradition of celebrating the legacy and sacrifices of the United States Armed Forces.
This rich tradition began in 1960; Mayor Al Isen, with the help of the Torrance Chamber of Commerce, organized the first parade as a tribute to friends and fellow Americans who had served in the Armed Forces. The parade has grown over the years to become one of America's most eagerly awaited demonstrations of patriotism. The Armed Forces Day Parade has drawn up to 100,000 spectators a year to watch as many as 8,000 parade participants march along the parade route from downtown Torrance to City Hall.
In its early history, the celebration began on a Friday evening with a display of military exhibits coupled with a large fireworks show behind City Hall. On Saturday, a daylong display of military hardware and parade floats, all open for public viewing, follows the parade, which has a history of recognizing military war heroes, such as U.S. General Omar Bradley. A Five Star General of the Army, Omar N. Bradley served as the Honorary Grand Marshal in 1969, and was, at the time, the highest-ranking serviceman in the nation. General Bradley commanded the largest American military force ever to serve under one field commander; a force of more than 1,300,000 troops, during the European campaign in World War II.
The Torrance Armed Forces Day Parade is led by a prologue, which includes the Torrance Mounted Posse. Following the Mounted Posse, the Honorary Grand Marshal travels the parade route in his marked vehicle then takes his place in front of the reviewing stand as the Official Reviewing Officer for the parade.
The remainder of the prologue consists of senior commanders of major military installations, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, State-elected officials, the Mayor and City Council of the City of Torrance and other city and county officials. Community leaders from the Torrance Chamber of Commerce and Torrance Jaycees and local high school marching bands complete the prologue section.
Following the prologue in the march are several Divisions, comprised mostly of military color guards, military marching bands, high school marching bands, uniformed troops, military drill teams, units from the National Guard, ROTC and military reserve, military vehicles such as tanks and armored personnel carriers, aerospace satellites and exhibits. When weather permits, military aircraft conduct flyovers of the parade route.
For over 50 years, the City of Torrance has faithfully supported the Armed Forces Day Parade despite periodic anti-war sentiments and economic hard times. In 1979, the parade was almost cancelled due to lack of funds brought about by the passage of Proposition 13 in California. However, the public outcry over canceling the event brought the community together and revived the parade, with the assistance of the Torrance Exchange Club. The Torrance Exchange Club raised funds from the community to allow the celebration to continue. In 2016, this Southern California tradition will be enjoyed once again by the community.
Many of the spectators who first viewed the parade as children in the 1960s and 1970s now bring their own children and grandchildren to the weekend's events. This experience helps instill a respect for country and demonstrates appreciation for the sacrifices the men and women of the armed forces have made to secure our freedoms.