On March 25, 1919, 20,000 men of the New York National Guard’s 27th Division owned the streets of Manhattan. Two million people turned out to see the division march five miles up Fifth Avenue after they came home from World War I.
City officials estimated Manhattan’s population grew by 500,000 as people came from upstate New York and surrounding states to see the parade. There were 10,000 policemen on duty—6,000 regular cops and 4,000 reserves—to control the crowds. Five hundred plainclothes detectives were scattered throughout the crowd to watch for trouble.
There was a special grandstand for 500 Civil War veterans and another for 1,000 Spanish-American War Soldiers. And 6,820 wounded Soldiers and Sailors who had been convalescing in New York City hospitals lined the parade route.
The parade route’s official start at Washington Square featured a massive white victory arch that featured four balloons floating above the road and white pillars lining the route. An arch at 60th Street was covered with crystal glass. Searchlights illuminated the structures at night.