The First Armistice Day
On November 11, 1918, church bells rang out across the United States and, indeed, across Canada and all of Europe. The war to end all wars was over. The Great War that came to be known as World War I ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The Treaty of Versailles wasn’t signed for another seven months. But the moment the fighting ended is generally viewed as the end of the war. The world breathed a sigh of relief. People could return to peaceful pursuits. But there was also the matter of solemnly remembering the deaths and the massive sacrifice.
On this date the following year, America was preparing to observe the very first Armistice Day, a day that is known today as Veterans’ Day. The Hope Pioneer said the American spirit was at its “high water mark” during the war, with Americans overcoming all obstacles and breaking the German spirit. American soldiers had demonstrated to the world what they could accomplish.
President Wilson told the country that the 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…"
Armistice Day wasn’t an official holiday yet, but North Dakotans did not need an official designation to prompt their remembrance of the war’s end. Over twenty-eight thousand North Dakotans had answered their country’s call and gone to war. Nearly five hundred did not come home. The day was recognized with church services, parades, and solemn presentations. The losses were still fresh.
In 1938 Congress officially designated November 11 as Armistice Day. By the 1950s, America had been through another World War and the Korean War. In 1954 Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. It became a day to recognize the sacrifices of all servicemen and women in all conflicts. In 1968 the recognition was moved to the fourth Monday of November. The change was not well received. In 1978 President Ford returned the commemoration to the original date of November 11.
Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher
Hope Pioneer. “Armistice Day.” Hope ND. 11/6/1915. Page 1.
Military.com. “The History of Veterans’ Day.” https://www.military.com/veterans-day/history-of-veterans-day.html Accessed 10/1/2019.
Honor States. “North Dakota Casualties, World War I.” https://www.honorstates.org/index.php?do=q&state=ND&war=World+War+I Accessed 10/1/2019.
North Dakota Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “Conflict: World War I.” https://www.nd.gov/veterans/heroes/conflicts/world-war-i Accessed 10/1/2019.