Huddled in a small train carriage in Northern France, world leaders gathered on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to call a cease-fire on what people fervently believed to be the “war to end all wars.”
World War I, which cost the lives of more than 16 million people worldwide, was first commemorated on the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice. President Woodrow Wilson solidified the date by declaring Nov. 11, 1919, as the first Armistice Day.
“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 nations,” Wilson said.
Twenty years after the signing of the armistice, Congress declared Nov. 11 as an annual holiday to honor world peace, but primarily used to honor WWI veterans. On June 1, 1954, Congress officially changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day, in honor of veterans from all American wars.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the first Veterans Day Proclamation in 1954, while also creating a Veterans Day National Committee, which would oversee Veterans Day ceremonies in the future.
Nov. 11 is a significant date in the United States and across the world, as people gather together to honor Veterans Day in various ways. There will be walks, ceremonies, parades and the ringing of bells. The World War I Centennial Commission has created the Who They Were application designed to allow students to create a short narrative about what their community was like 100 years ago. The narrative can then be presented at their school or event and shared online at https://www.nhd.org/who-they-were. While the program was originally designed for the 2018 centennial celebration, the World War I Centennial Commission is encouraging people to continue the project.
President Donald J. Trump honored the centennial anniversary in 2018 by Suresnes American Cemetery on the outskirts of Paris, France, where Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States signed a cease-fire agreement at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918.
The “war to end all wars” wasn’t the last war American Soldiers fought, but Armistice Day is remembered 101 years later, as people pay tribute all across the world on the anniversary of the day the world declared enough was enough and strived for peace.