It began as Armistice Day

Veterans Day established in 1954 to commemorate all those who served
By: 
NEW Media Staff

It was called The Great War, the War to End All Wars, and in the aftermath of its conclusion at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, civilized nations vowed to remember the sacrifices of those who had fought in the world war, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Beginning with a solemn ceremony at Buckingham Palace on the morning of Nov. 11, 1919, Armistice Day became an annual time of remembrance.

In the United States, which entered the war a year and a half before the Armistice and lost 116,000 soldiers, President Woodrow Wilson marked that first anniversary by praising the Allied effort to achieve the peace.

“Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men,” Wilson said in that first presidential Armistice Day message.

Commemorations of Nov. 11 were initially focused on honoring the military dead of the First World War and the return to peace. Just prior to or after World War II, many countries changed the name of the holiday, and several changed the focus to include all veterans of their armed services; a few honor their war dead, both uniformed and civilian. The United States in 1954 changed the name to Veterans Day.

In the United States, Veterans Day honors American veterans, both living and deceased. The official day of national remembrance of those killed in action is Memorial Day, which predates World War I.

President Dwight Eisenhower, who as an Army general had led U.S. forces in World War II and was elected in the waning days of the Korean War, issued the first Veterans Day proclamation in 1954 after Congress voted to change the name of the national holiday:

“Whereas it has long been our custom to commemorate Nov. 11, the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the heroes of that tragic struggle and by rededicating ourselves to the cause of peace; and

“Whereas in the intervening years the United States has been involved in two other great military conflicts, which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation; and

“Whereas the Congress passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926 (44 Stat. 1982), calling for the observance of Nov. 11 with appropriate ceremonies, and later provided in an act approved May 13, 1938 (52 Stat. 351), that the 11th of November should be a legal holiday and should be known as Armistice Day; and

“Whereas, in order to expand the significance of that commemoration and in order that a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an act approved June 1, 1954 (68 Stat. 168), changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day:

“Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, Nov. 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. I also direct the appropriate officials of the Government to arrange for the display of the flag of the United States on all public buildings on Veterans Day.”