Rolling Thunder 2017: Motorcycle Rally in Washington DC

An Annual Memorial Day Event in the Nation's Capital

Rolling Thunder
© Rachel Cooper, licensed to, Inc.

Rolling Thunder is an annual motorcycle rally that is held in Washington, DC during the Memorial Day weekend to call for the government's recognition and protection of Prisoners of War (POWs) and those Missing in Action (MIAs). The tribute to American war heroes started out in 1988 with 2,500 participants. Now approximately 900,000 participants and spectators are involved with this annual demonstration in Washington, DC. Rolling Thunder is one of the best patriotic events held in the nation's capital and a unique experience not to be missed.

2017 Rolling Thunder Memorial Day Weekend Schedule

Friday, May 26, 2017 - Candlelight Vigil - 9:00 p.m. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC

Saturday, May 27, 2017 - Wreathlaying Ceremony – 11:00 a.m. U.S. Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC (On the Plaza). Saluting Our Troops - Henry Bacon Dr. and Constitution Ave. The Stage is just north of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC

Sunday, May 28, 2017 - Rolling Thunder (will assemble at the Pentagon Parking Lot) - 7:00 a.m. - Noon. Departure To Washington, DC - Noon. See a Map of the RouteSpeaker Program - 1:30 p.m. Musical Tribute - 3:00 p.m. The Stage is located between the Reflecting Pool and the Korean War Memorial

Tips for Attending Rolling Thunder

  • The best viewing spots are along the Arlington Memorial Bridge and Constitution Avenue.
  • Streets will be closed along the route from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking is limited. Public transportation is suggested. See a guide to using Metro. Stations nearby include Smithsonian, Metro Center, Judiciary Square, Federal Triangle and L'Enfant Plaza.
  • Bring food and water or expect to wait in line.
  • Dress appropriately and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Take some time to pay tribute to America's war heroes by visiting the monuments and memorials on the National Mall.
  • Bring your patriotic spirit and enjoy the day!

Rolling Thunder History

Rolling Thunder began as a demonstration following the era of the Vietnam War, which was a difficult time in America's history. Similar to today's political climate, our nation was divided over issues of peace and war. However, many of America's military were killed or missing in action and their remains were not being brought home to be respectfully buried and honored. In 1988, veterans of the Vietnam War rallied together with their families, fellow veterans, and veterans' advocates to organize a demonstration at the Capitol Building in Washington, DC during the Memorial Day weekend.

They announced their arrival with the roar of their Harley-Davidsons, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam named Operation Rolling Thunder. Approximately 2500 motorcycles participated in this rally, demanding that the U.S. government account for all POW/MIA's. The group became known as Rolling Thunder and each year since has held an annual "Ride for Freedom" to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Rolling Thunder Today

Rolling Thunder was incorporated as a class 501 C-4 non-profit organization and today has more than 100 chapters throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. The group is actively involved year-round in promoting legislation to increase veteran benefits and resolve the POW/MIA issue from all wars. They also provide financial support, food, clothing and other essentials to veterans, veterans' families, veterans groups, and women's' crisis centers.

For more information about Rolling Thunder, visit their website at

Planning to visit from out of town? See a complete Washington DC Travel Planning Guide with tips on the best time to visit, how long to stay, what to do, how to get around the region and more.

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