Skip to comments.In Defense of Armistice Day
Posted on 11/11/2009 4:18:03 PM PST by nickcarraway
We call it Veterans Day now, but it used to be called Armistice Day, and I cant help wondering whether weve lost something by converting a holiday originally meant to celebrate the veterans of World War I into an omnibus holiday, to honor all veterans of all wars.
When I was a kid, we celebrated Armistice Day at my elementary school, P.S. 35 in the Bronx. And it was a very special holiday. Ms. Barr, our principal, came from a family that knew General John Blackjack Pershing very well. That general was her hero and she wanted us to embrace his achievement.
Pershing was the man who led the AEF [the American Expeditionary Force] in World War I. When he arrived with his troops in France, it was reported that Pershing said, to honor Lafayette, the French officer who served under George Washingon: Lafayette, nous sommes ici! [Lafayette, "We are here!"]
Actually, it wasnt Pershing who said it but one of his officers. Pershing later called it a splendid phrase and added he was happy to be associated with it.
Ms. Barr made World War I a school project. We learned all about the war and were taught some songs America sang or marched to in that era. There was Over there over there, send the word, send the word, over there: That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming and we wont come back till its over, over there.
That was a lusty, patriotic, marching song. But then there were sentimental ballads too, like: Theres a rose that grows in No Mans Land and its wonderful to see... 'Mid the wars great curse, Stands the Red Cross nurse. Shes the rose of No Mans Land.
We learned to sing, too: Keep the home fires burning, while your hearts are yearning .
I feel sentimental about those songs and the era they celebrated, even though I wasnt there. I am a veteran of World War II. Those of us who fought in that war have warm memories of comrades with whom we served and those who have passed on. And the veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan recall their battles too with reverence for the men and women with whom they served. On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, hostilities ceased in World War I. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. It definitely wasnt. Our idealistic president, Woodrow Wilson, ultimately was crushed by the realization that his mission was failing.
It was a great soldier of World War II, President Eisenhower, who tried to establish Veterans Day as a holiday to include veterans of all wars. He met a lot of opposition. Ultimately, we were left with what we have today, a screwy compromise -- a holiday placed on the anniversary of Armistice Day that we call Veterans Day. Our veterans deserve to be honored. But, somehow, it seems unfair to take away from those who fought in World War I and their descendants a holiday that belongs to them. We have Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. We can honor veterans of all wars on those days and we can do it on November 11th too. But lets not forget the original meaning of Armistice Day. Lets not forget history.
When he proclaimed the first Armistice Day in November, 1919, President Wilson called for there to be solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the countrys service and with gratitude for the victory
Lets not tinker with a national holiday that goes back to Wilsons time. We need our history and so do our kids.
Frank Buckles, the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I.
Wow it is hard to believe there is only one WWI survivor.
When I was a kid there were three living veterans of the War Between the States. One of them lived in nearby Crestview, FL.
I noticed some recent research suggests that he was in fact the last survivor as census records proved the other two were not born when they claimed.
Wow.I amazed that Gabe Pressman is still with us.
My sister got my brother and me together last Thursday to go through a large assortment of family pictures and documents which wound up in her possesion.
There was a wonderful 1917 letter from our GG Uncle William Frederick to our GG Grandmother Magdalena from his Camp Taylor (Louisville) boot camp.
He commented that they had been instructed that week in trench works by four french officers.
He commented that they wore so many medals that they looked like they had just stepped out of a foundry.
He closed with the hope that he could get a weekend pass and travel home to Covington soon.
Amen, brother! Preach on!
I’ve always called it Armistice Day. And in February, I’ll be celebrating Washington’s Birthday, not “Presidents’ Day.”
please check this out
its done by a heavy metal band
well because pop culture will have none of it
Mr. Buckles is a reminder that veterans of World War I never received the recognition—or benefits—they deserved. When they returned from Europe, there was no GI Bill promising education benefits, health care or home loans. There were a few parades, but we never got around to building a monument to the “Doughboys” who fought on the western front, and turned the tide of the war in the allies’ favor.
And finally, when thousands of impoverished veterans camped in Washington in 1932, requesting early payment of promised service “bonuses,” they were forcibly dispersed by the U.S. Army, under the command of Douglas MacArthur.
As a student of history, I have no objection to referring to a holiday by its original name. But if we want to remember today as Armistice Day, we need to remember our shabby treatment of World War I veterans. It’s a credit to men like Frank Buckles that most never complained and went on with their lives. Now, it’s almost too late to honor the men who won the Great War.
The armistice was the “cease fire” on November 11, 1918. The treaties came later (mostly in 1919, some later).
Statue of General Pershing, Pershing Square, Los Angeles
Armistice day was not to honor WWI vets. Just another fabrication by a newspaper columnist.