It was 100 years ago on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice which ended the fighting of World War I. Even though the official end of the war occurred when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, November 11, 1918, was considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and became known as Armistice Day.
The United States Congress officially recognized November 11, 1918 as the end of the war in 1926. Then in 1938, it became an official holiday to honor veterans of World War I. Following World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the commemoration on June 1, 1954 by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” so the day would honor American veterans of all wars.
The Uniform Holidays Bill changed the date of the official national holiday to the fourth Monday of October and went into effect in 1971. This date was not acceptable to the public and veteran organizations who lobbied against the change and in 1975, Veterans Day returned to November 11 which maintained the historical significance of the date.
World War I was a multinational effort and our allies also wanted to celebrate on November 11. The name of the day and the types of commemorations differ, however. Great Britain, Canada and Australia call November 11 “Remembrance Day.” Canada’s observance is like our own. In Australia, the day is more like our Memorial Day. Great Britain observes it on the Sunday closest to November 11 with parades, services and two minutes of silence in London to honor those who lost their lives in war.
Regardless of country, many people wear red poppy flowers to honor their war dead on November 11. Poppies are the flowers which grow wild in many fields in northern France and Belgium. This is where some of the deadliest battles of World I happened, including on the Flanders battlefields which was immortalized by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in his poem “In Flanders Fields”.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, tho poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
As you enjoy the Veterans Day holiday events, look for the red poppies being worn on the right at eleven o’clock then reflect on the many who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month…100 Years Ago