National Defense Transportation Day | Third Friday in May
(Last Updated On: February 3, 2023)


National Defense Transportation Day is a United States Federal Observance Day held on the third Friday in May. Maintaining a transportation infrastructure is vital to the security of the United States.


The Defense Transportation System includes all aircraft, ships, and commercial small package services under contract to the Department of Defense. This includes all operations of U.S. military air and ocean terminals in and outside of the United States.

A significant part of the U.S. economy is the vast network of transportation infrastructure. The cost of maintaining and investing in expansion is a constant balancing act.

The first federally funded road in United States history is called National Road. Built between 1811 and 1834, it connected eastern Maryland and Pennsylvania to the western states, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The National Road terminated at the Mississippi River and brought goods from the east, allowing them to be carried north and south along the river.

The railroad pushed transportation westward from there. The first transcontinental railroad came to completion in 1869 when a rail worker drove the Golden Spike into place in the Utah territory. It would join the Union Pacific and Central Railroads.

Aviation brought an exhilarating turn to transportation in the early 20th century. With the birth of air travel, commercial and cargo flights became necessary parts of the transportation system, too. Added to ocean-going freight, airliners brought a whole new dimension to transportation.

From our bridges and interstate highways, public transportation to our waterways, and air travel, transportation is a vital part of our economy and livelihood. #DefenseTransportationDay recognizes the importance of transportation and the people who support and protect the system in this modern era.

HOW TO OBSERVE Defense Transportation Day

  • Learn more about each part of the infrastructure.
  • Celebrate the people who keep it running, the engineers, pilots, inventors, skilled workers, and safety personnel.
  • Consider the hundreds of thousands of people employed in each market and what it takes to perform their job.
  • Join events and ceremonies across the country celebrating the enormous endeavor that is transportation.
  • Use #DefenseTransportationDay to post on social media.


On May 16, 1957, Congress designated the third Friday of May each year as National Defense Transportation Day. In 1962, Congress included the whole week within which the Friday falls as National Transportation Week. A proclamation is signed each year by the current President of the United States.

  • 3500 BC: Mesopotamians invent vehicles with wheels.
  • 2000 BC: Egyptians invent the first wood ship.
  • 1620 AD: Cornelius Van Drebbel invents the first practical submarine.
  • 1769: Nicolas Joseph Cugnot invents the first vehicle.
  • 1783: French brothers Joseph Montgolfier and Étienne Montgolfier invent the first hot air balloon.
  • 1862: Etienne Lenior invents the first gas engine automobile.
  • 1903: The Wright brothers invent the airplaine.
  • 1907: Paul Cornu invents the first helicopter.
  • 1911: Selandia launches the first ship ran by diesel.
  • 1926: Robert Goddard launches the first rocket.
  • 1957: Russia launches the first man-made satellite into space.
  • 1969: Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to go to the moon on Apollo.
  • 2014: Tesla invents the first self-driving car.

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