Veterans’ Day or Armistice Day as it was known formerly is celebrated on 11th day of November, to mark the anniversary when World War I was brought to an end. An Armistice was signed in the Forest of Compiegne by the Allies and the Germans in 1918 after four years of gruesome conflict.
At 1100 hrs on then Monday, the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918, an order was issued to bring all the firing to an end; the Germans signed the Armistice; and thus the antagonism of the First World War ended. The day saw the dawn of surrendering arms, blowing whistles, off the cuff parades and temporary closing down of business places. The whole world witnessed momentous merrymaking events; no wonder it was a never-before-witnessed-occasion for whole world.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued his Armistice Day decree. And as they say, the last paragraph set the tone for future observances:
“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 the nation.”
In the year 1927, Congress issued a resolution requesting President Calvin Coolidge to issue a directive, instructing all the officials to display the Flag of the United States on all government buildings on November 11 and that the day should also be observed in schools and churches. Nevertheless, it was only in 1938 that Congress passed the resolution stating that each November 11 “shall be dedicated to the cause of world peace and hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.”
For next sixteen years, the US formally observed Armistice Day, with notable ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Chief Executive or his representative placed a wreath. In many other communities, the American Legion was in charge of the observance, which included parades and religious services. It was mandatory custom for all traffic to stop at 1100 hours in tribute to the dead, followed by volleys being fired and taps being sounded.
In the World War II, there were many new veterans who had little or no association with World War I. So the Leaders of Veterans’ groups decided to try to correct the name Armistice—which literally implies truce—and change it to Veteran’s Day and commemorate November 11 as the moment in time to honor all who had fought in various American wars and not just in World War I.
Ed Rees, of Emporia had introduced a bill into the House to change the name to Veterans’ Day and it was activated by Act of Congress on May 24, 1954 . President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation and the name was changed to honor all who served the nation in wars or conflicts.
Veterans Day has been observed annually on this date since 1978, except for a brief period when it was celebrated on the fourth Monday of October.