When the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28, 1919 bringing an official end to World War I, fighting had actually ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations (United States, France, England etc.) and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918 was later regarded as Veteran’s Day.
In November of 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of 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.
Nearly 20 years later, an Act approved May 13, 1938 made Nov. 11 in each year a legal holiday.
Originally Armistice Day was a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954 after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airman in the nation’s history; and after the Korean War, the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 by striking out “Armistice” and inserting in its place “Veterans.”
“In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose,” President Dwight Eisenhower said after issuing the first Veteran’s Day Proclamation.
Veteran’s Day’s observation date briefly changed on June 28, 1968 with the passing of the Uniform Holiday Bill that was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays. The four included Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day.
Due to confusion amongst the American people on the first Veteran’s Day after the new law on Oct. 25, 1971, President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-97, which returned the annual observance of Veteran’s Day to its original date.
The action was supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people and by 1978 Veteran’s Day returned to Nov. 11.
This Nov. 11 therefore marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and the 40th anniversary of the first Veteran’s Day after Public Law 94-97 went into effect.
Veteran’s Day continues to be observed on Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls.
Not only does returning it to its original date preserve the historical significance of Nov. 11, it also helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veteran’s Day; honoring the sacrifices the men and women who have served, and continue to serve have made for the United States.