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Rolling Thunder

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Motorcycles

Rolling Thunder
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Official Site: rollingthunder1.com
Wikipedia: Rolling Thunder (organization)

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An annual motorcycle ride to Washington, D.C. the day before Memorial Day to commemorate United States military veterans.

History

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Rolling Thunder (organization) page on 30 May 2017, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Rolling Thunder is a United States advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIA) service members of all U.S. wars. The group's first demonstration was in 1988. It was incorporated in 1995, and has more than 90 chapters throughout the US, as well as overseas.

Their main annual event occurs on the Sunday before Memorial Day, in which members make a slow ride on a dedicated, closed off, pre-set route, called Run to the Wall in Washington D.C., referring to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, also called the Ride for Freedom, which leaves the Pentagon parking lot at noon, crosses the Memorial Bridge, and ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. During the Rolling Thunder weekend, members and supporters spend time at the Thunder Alley (the official vendor site for the event), visit significant areas of Washington D.C., particularly the numerous memorials, and hear speeches given by members, supporters, military officials and politicians.

In 1987 Rolling Thunder made its first ride to the Vietnam War Memorial.

Ray Manzo, a former United States Marine Corps corporal, U.S. Army Sergeant Major John Holland (Ret.), Marine First Sergeant Walt Sides (Ret.) and Sergeant Ted Sampley (Ret.) are the four men that are credited with starting Rolling Thunder.

In 1987, Manzo visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., talked with fellow veterans, and first learned that American servicemen had been abandoned in Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War. This was counter to his Marine Corps training to leave no man behind, and he became consumed with the idea that he must do something to bring attention to this issue. Manzo attended a POW/MIA vigil sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club when the idea came to him to host a motorcycle rally in the nation's capital to show the country and the world that U.S. prisoners of war and missing in action (POW/MIA) still mattered to their fellow servicemen and the country for which they sacrificed their freedom. (citation needed)

Manzo drafted a letter for a call to action and began mailing it to motorcycling publications. He enlisted fellow veterans from the Washington D.C. area to help him through the red tape of requirements. Sgt. Major John Holland was experienced in government legislation and included 1st Sgt. Walt Sides, and Washington activist Sgt. Ted Sampley also joined them. These were the founders of Rolling Thunder. Ted Sampley's colleague, Bob Schmitt, coined the phrase "Rolling Thunder". While staring at the Memorial Bridge and envisioning Manzo's dream, he said, "It will be like the sound of rolling thunder coming across the bridge."

On Memorial Day 1988, Cpl. Manzo recruited 2,500 men and women to attend Rolling Thunder I.

Rolling Thunder Run to the Wall is a motorcycle rally sponsored by the Rolling Thunder organization. It officially begins when motorcycles and riders silently wait in the Pentagon's parking lot, and at noon, all the engines are ignited at once in a huge thunderous rumble.

Beginning in 1987 and continuing through the present, Rolling Thunder has conducted the Run to the Wall on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend to show their continued support for the efforts to find lost service men and women of past conflicts. In May 2001 the estimated number of motorcycles involved in this rally was 200,000. The event drew an estimated 350,000 motorcyclists in May 2008.


Multimedia

28 May 2017 (3:18PM)
'Rolling Thunder' - an Annual Memorial Day Tribute
VOA News
Bystanders lined the National Mall in Washington Sunday to witness the spectacle of "Rolling Thunder" - an annual Memorial Day Weekend motorcycle parade in honor of American prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Download 'Rolling Thunder' - an Annual Memorial Day Tribute - 23.3MB - 0:53


DateMedia or Collection Name & DetailsFiles
30 May 2004Thousands of US Veterans Join Memorial Day 'Rolling Thunder'
Paula Wolfson for Voice of America News

Article Page
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Article Index

DateArticleAuthor/Source
25 May 2003Motorcyclists Honor US Military Personnel Missing in Action Stephanie Ho
30 May 2004Thousands of US Veterans Join Memorial Day 'Rolling Thunder' Paula Wolfson
27 May 2005Rolling Thunder Ride Gains Popularity Stuart Cohen
29 May 2005>"Rolling Thunder" Honors American War Veterans Voice of America
28 May 2006'Rolling Thunder' Bikers Enter Washington for Memorial DayVOA News
30 May 2010POW Issues at Forefront of Rolling Thunder Biker Rally in DC Anya Ardayeva, VOA News
24 May 2012Bikers Rally to Remember the Fallen Adam Phillips, VOA News
27 May 2012Bikers Roar Through Washington to Honor VeteransVOA Breaking News
28 May 2016Trump to Speak at Annual Motorcycle Rally in DC Smita Nordwall, VOA News
29 May 2016Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally Ken Bredemeier, VOA News




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