Sunday, 11 November 2018 11:11

100th Anniversary of Armistice Day

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Poster Commemorating 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day Poster Commemorating 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Poster Gallery

Sunday, 11 November 2018, marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the cease-fire agreement (i.e., armistice) that effectively ended World War I.

The first anniversary of this unofficial end of WWI (the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the war, was not actually signed until the following June) was recognized by President Woodrow Wilson in a message to the nation:


”A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and just set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggression of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought. 

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men. 

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.” 

WOODROW WILSON

But Armistice/Veterans Day took a few years before manifesting itself into the nation’s lexicon.  It was not until 1926 (eight years after the end of the war) that Congress adopted a resolution asking President Calvin Coolidge to issue a proclamation to recognize the significance of the 11-11 date. Then it was another 12 years (1938) before November 11 became a legal holiday “ … dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

The name change was established to broaden the parameters of the holiday.  Armistice Day was originally celebrated as recognition of the end of WWI itself, but soon grew to also honor those who had died in “The Great War.”  After WWII, though, a movement was initiated to pay homage to not only those who died in THAT war as well, but all former U.S. military personnel. 

Precipitated greatly by the efforts of WWII veteran Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Alabama, the date came to encompass recognition of ALL U.S. military veterans, both those who had died in service to their country as well as those still living.  In 1947, Weeks orchestrated the first recorded “National Veterans Day” celebration, held in Birmingham. This annual event was popularized across the nation, culminating in the official name change.

There are still some potentially confusing aspects of this holiday.  What we now (as of the official name change in 1954) commemorate as “Veterans Day” (there is no apostrophe in the official spelling; the day is “attributive” rather than “possessive” – it does not “belong” to veterans but rather is a day designated to honor them) honors ALL military veterans, living or deceased.  Thus, it should not be confused with Memorial Day (which honors military personnel who died while in service) nor Armed Forces Day (which specifically recognizes those currently serving in the U.S. military). It also coincides with holidays recognized in other countries as “Armistice Day” (which, as noted, was the original nomenclature in the United States until 1954) and “Remembrance Day,” all having been established in commemoration of the same thing: the end of the “war to end all wars.” 

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 November 2018 11:36