World War I: The Eleventh Hour History of Veteran’s Day
World War I was dubbed “The Great War” by a Canadian magazine reporter who said, “Some wars name themselves. This is the Great War.” The loss of life incurred during WWI was staggering. Every day, 6,000 soldiers were killed in battle, making WWI one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.
Although the Allied forces ultimately prevailed over the Central Powers, the victors lost more soldiers (an estimated 6 million) than the defeated Central Powers (estimated 4 million). Additionally, it is estimated that 21 million soldiers were wounded or crippled in the bloody, four-year-long battle.
The Great War Ends
The war officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. But seven months earlier, on November 11, 1918, an armistice (cease-fire) was declared and people around the world celebrated an end to the horrific battle.
Trusting the 11th Hour: Soldiers Experience Armistice Day
But as one WWI veteran so aptly pointed out, “…at the front, there was no celebration.” The battle-weary soldiers hoped and prayed for an end to the fighting, but found it difficult to trust in peace. They had seen too much bloodshed and experienced the horrors of war for too long. Their belief that the fighting had truly ended was tenuous at best.
So, rather than jubilant celebrations on November 11, 1918, WWI soldiers on the front lines suffered from paranoia, battle fatigue, and extreme emotional stress while the rest of the world heaved a collective sigh of relief.
“What was to come next? They did not know – and hardly cared. Their minds were numbed by the shock of peace. The past consumed their whole consciousness. The present did not exist and the future was inconceivable.” An Eyewitness to History
Still, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, November 11, 1918, marked a turning point for peace. It is regarded by many as the true end of WWI.
”Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.”
President Wilson declared November 11 as the first Armistice Day with the somber proclamation, “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…”
In 1938, Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday honoring the end of WWI and was officially “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'”
Veteran’s Day: A Shift in National Perspective
“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?” -George Canning
After WWII and the Korean War, the United States Congress amended the declaration of Armistice Day, officially renaming it Veteran’s Day (1938). From that point forward, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
This Veteran’s Day, the attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing honor the sacrifices made by the American heroes who have fought valiantly to preserve our nation’s freedoms. Our Maine personal injury attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of all citizens. Giving voice to neglected, injured or abused veterans is one of our most critical duties as principled, ethical and dedicated personal injury attorneys.
The entire Hardy, Wolf and Downing staff, which includes veteran Maine personal injury attorney William Hardy (who proudly served in the United States Air Force at home and in Vietnam), is dedicated to honoring the promises our country has made to serve and protect our veterans.
One way Hardy, Wolf and Downing offers unwavering support to veterans is by pledging to uphold and safeguard the rights of our nation’s heroes. We also support projects such as Maine’s Campaign for Justice which directly benefit veterans. In 2012, the organization helped 1000 Maine veterans by raising money for civil legal aid.
As we celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, we must pause to ask ourselves if we are truly upholding our promise to honor and protect the health, well being and dignity of our nation’s valiant warriors. If we fail at this vital task, then we fail to preserve the values of the great nation to which we belong.
“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!”
— Sun Tzu