A Short History Lesson on Veterans Day

The First World War was known as “the War to end all Wars” and was a war with a large social and political impact on the world even still today. Many men fought in the war, and while the United States entered the war late, and suffered the fewest casualties of all of the participating nations, the number of casualties the U.S. suffered was about 116,000 in total, the war was still devastating.

The official end of the war date was November 11, 1918, and at the one year anniversary President Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 to be “Armistice Day.” This was the first nationwide commemoration of the First World War.

On November 11, 1920 the countries of England and France held ceremonies to commemorate the war through the laying of rest an unknown soldier. The following year, the United States did the same by relocating an unknown U.S. soldier from his grave in Europe into the current day Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. There was great ceremony around the event and the casket was placed into the tomb at exactly 11:00am on the morning of the 11th of November, 1920. President Harding requested that all flags be flown at half-mast to commemorate the day and the great loss of life of the soldiers who fought in the war.

While this played out in other countries, the people of the United States took the unknown soldier to mean both the losses we faced as a country, as well as each American’s loss and sacrifices in war. Because of this, in the years which followed, many states adopted laws declaring November 11th as a legal holiday.

On June 4, 1926 the United States Congress enacting a resolution asking the president to issue a proclamation to display the national flag on all buildings on November 11th. The resolution again named the day “Armistice Day.” On May 13, 1938 Congress enacted a new law which made the day a national holiday.

In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, a “Veterans Day” parade was held in Alabama on November 11th. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill into law officially changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

In the years which have followed, three more soldiers have been interred into the tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington D.C. They are a soldier from the Second World War, the Korean War, and one from the Vietnam War.

In 1968 a law was passed moving Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. However, many people protested because of the significance of the November 11th date, and in 1978 President Ford signed a new law which restored Veterans Day back to November 11th.

As of today, the Veterans Day National Committee has the job of coordinating all federal Veterans Day ceremonies. Each year the current President of the United States visits the tomb of the unknown soldier and places a wreath while taps is played. In addition, many states hold their own ceremonies to remember the fallen soldiers of war and the sacrifices of those who serve their country face each day. It is very popular for town and cities to have Veterans Day parades to honor those among their communities who have either lost a loved on to a war, or who have a loved on currently serving in the armed services.