It was known as the Great War, and it ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, only over a century ago. Known as Armistice Day, it’s been exactly what today we overeat as Veterans Day, to honor not only those who died but people who live. We do well to recall those veterans who served, who have been wounded and who died for their country from the 102 years that have since elapsed. In particular, we ought to honor the sacrifices of people who bear the scars, physical and psychological, from their fight for the cause of freedom, liberty and justice. Here are some numbers to keep in mind. And keep in mind that behind every number is a title, someone who lived — and died — for their country.
- 53,402 Americans died in battle during World War I.
- 63,114 U.S. service members died of other causes during World War I.
- 16.5 million individuals worldwide, civilian and military, died on both sides during World War I, including 5.7 million Allied service members.
- 3,500 American casualties — injured, wounded or killed — occurred on Nov. 11, 1918, before the armistice occurred at 11 a.m.
- 291,557 Americans died in battle during World War II.
- 33,739 Americans died in battle during the Korean War.
- 47,434 died in battle during the Vietnam War. (The Vietnam Wall memorial contains 58,279 titles, including those who died later of wounds)
- 14.9 million American war veterans are still living, such as 1.2 million from Korea and 6.3 million in Vietnam but only 389,000 from World War II. America’s last known World War I veteran, Cpl. Frank Buckles, died nearly a decade ago at age 110.
Since the country’s founding, there was tension between what veterans have done for their country and the way their country has reimbursed them. In 1783, near the end of the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington attempted to calm Continental Army officers that had been frustrated with Congress for not paying and threatened revolt. Trying to see a letter, he reached for his glasses, which his troops didn’t know he wore. “Gentlemen, you will permit me to wear my spectacles, for, I have developed not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.” The tension dissolved, civilian control of the army was preserved, and the upcoming commander-in-chief’s own forfeit set the tone which correctly survives to this day.
History and Timeline
Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, living or dead, but especially supplies thanks to dwelling veterans who served their country during war or peacetime. Here are notable facts associated with the holiday’s evolution.
- World War I — famous at the time as “The Great War” — officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles in France. But fighting had stopped seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Because of this, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally thought of as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
- Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the ending of World War I.
- In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be full of solemn pride in the heroism of those who perished in the nation’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both due to the thing from which it has freed us and due to the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.
The first idea for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings — along with also a two-minute suspension of company beginning at 11 a.m.
1920 and 1930s
- On June 4, 1926, Congress officially recognized the end of World War I, and called for an Yearly observance, as it passed a resolution with those words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and…
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and…
Whereas the legislatures of all our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday…
So be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), the President of the United States is asked to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to celebrate the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other individuals.
- On May 13, 1938, Congress approves an action making Nov. 11 an yearly national holiday to be devoted to the cause of world peace and to be later celebrated and known as Armistice Day.
- Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, most states had created Nov. 11 as a legal holiday.
- Back in 1954 — after World War II had required the best mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history, and after American forces had fought in Korea — Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the 1938 act by substituting the word “Armistice” with “Veterans.”
- On June 1, 1954, with the approval of that law, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
- On Oct. 8, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation, which said of Nov. 11: [To] expand the importance of that commemoration [Armistice Day] and so that a grateful Nation might pay proper homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation… let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those that fought so valiantly, on the seas, even at the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of liberty, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.
1960s and 1970s
- On June 28, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Holiday Bill to ensure three-day evenings for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays (past Labor Day) on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day. The legislation took place in 1971.
- It was believed that these extended weekends would promote traveling in addition to recreational and cultural activities, and might stimulate industrial and commercial production.
- On Oct. 25, 1971, the first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion, as many states had not agreed with the new law and continued to celebrate the holidays in their original dates.
- By 1975, because the shift to the fourth Monday in October, most states had either continued to commemorate Nov. 11 or had reverted to the original date based on popular belief.
- On Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a legislation that returned the yearly observance of Veterans Day to its original historical date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978.
- Veterans Day continues to be observed on Nov. 11, regardless of the day of the week where it falls.
- If the Nov. 11 holiday falls on a weekend, the holiday is observed from the federal authorities on Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday) or Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday).
- Each Veterans Day and Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery holds an Yearly memorial service. The cemetery contains the graves of over 400,000 individuals, the majority of whom served in the military.
- In 1921, Congress passed legislation approving the Constitution of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, with Nov. 11 picked as the date of the service.
- Many countries honor the veterans of World War I and World War II on or near Nov. 11.
- France observes Armistice Day on Nov. 11. The blue cornflower is a sign of remembrance.
- The United Kingdom observes Remembrance Day on the second Sunday of November with parades, services and two moments of silence to honor those who lost their lives in war. The red poppy is synonymous with the day.
- Canada and Australia have Remembrance Day Nov. 11. Canada’s observance is quite similar to this at the U.S.; in Australia, the day is much more akin to our Memorial Day.
Here are some of the best quotes, inspiration and remembrances in honor of Veterans Day 2020:
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” — Abraham Lincoln
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” — President George Washington
“We will not tire, We will not falter, We will not fail.” — George W. Bush
“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”- – General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – – Maya Angelou
“Tragically, the effort to make America and the world safer and to defend freedom around the world is not without an enormous cost to this Nation in terms primarily of lost lives and those who bear the scars and the wounds of war, and their families who must bear these losses.” – – John Warner
“On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free.” – – Dan Lipinski
“There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” – – Alexander Hamilton