NEW YORK (AP) _ Thousands of veterans, many in vintage uniform, marched up Fifth Avenue on Saturday in The Nation's Parade, marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

For World War II veteran Malcolm Smith, 73, of Tranquility, N.J., it was ``the culmination of everything I stand for as an American.''

Other Veterans Day observances across the nation ranged from the solemnity of a presidential wreath-laying at Arlington, Va., to the noisy rush of biplanes over San Francisco, where the Palace of the Legion of Honor reopened after a three-year renovation.

In New York, at least 33,000 veterans and troops took part in the parade on an overcast but mild day. Some shed tears, others tossed red, white and blue-wrapped candies into the crowd. Military vehicles ranging from a World War II-era Sherman tank to Army Jeeps went up the route.

Marchers included crewmembers from the USS Kearsarge, who are credited with rescuing Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady after he was shot down behind enemy lines in Bosnia. The World War II veterans groups included U.S. Army Rangers and survivors of the Bataan Death March.

``I really feel and appreciate the crowd enthusiasm for our unit. It made you feel a little more important,'' said Dante Mercurio of Marlboro, N.J., an Army veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor.

The parade got under way a very unmilitary 10 minutes late. A group of dignitaries marched near the head, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and developer Donald Trump, the grand marshal who donated $200,000 toward the march.

Trump said he was pleased by the turnout. ``I want them to see people care about the veterans,'' he said.

Even with the outpouring of public support and a $2.4 million budget, march Executive Director Tom Fox said the event was about $200,000 in debt.

As the parade began, bells rang at St. Patrick's Cathedral and across the nation, followed by a moment of silence.

Spectators stood five-and-six deep along the parade route. The Glenn Miller Alumni Orchestra was on one float. Artist Peter Max painted a five-panel mural for the reviewing stand, which featured depictions of the Statue of Liberty.

Flag-waver Jacqueline Catton said she came to recognize ``everyone who served in the war, and for my dad. This is a great country, the United States. I'm so proud to be an American.''

In other Veterans Day observances throughout the country:

_ President Clinton placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. ``Today, this day, our grateful nation is united to honor America's veterans'' who served in the war against Nazi Germany and Japan ``from the windswept beaches of Normandy to the craggy shores of Corregidor,'' he said.

_ More than 2,500 veterans, their families and visitors braved strong winds and rain in Charleston, W. Va., at the dedication of a state veterans memorial. Red, white and blue balloons, representing each of the 10,197 fallen West Virginia veterans, drifted in the gray sky as bagpipers played ``Amazing Grace.''

_ Spectators gathered in sub-freezing weather at Liberty Memorial to World War I veterans in Kansas City, Mo. Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, former director of Navy staff, told the gathering that the military had concentrated on the Soviet Union during most of his 35-year career, and the United States won that conflict. ``Now it's time for us to concentrate on those things that make us strong as a country,'' he said.