From Armistice to Veterans Day

November 11 is Veterans Day. Visit the National Archives website to learn more about our resources and events related to the holiday. Today’s post comes from Paige Weaver, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, World War I came to an end. In honor of this significant moment in history, we in the U.S. celebrate and remember all of the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces on November 11 as Veterans Day. This public holiday coincides with Armistice Day, which is a national holiday in many of the other countries, and once was one in the United States.  

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman created this solemn image of Uncle Sam standing amid a pile of wreaths, his hat in hand in remembrance and respect for all of the brave men who died during World War I. 11/9/1921. (National Archives Identifier 6011695).

On the first anniversary of the truce between the Allied and Central Powers ending World War I, Woodrow Wilson issued a special message on Armistice Day to commemorate the heroic soldiers who fought in the war. Congress later made November 11 a public holiday “to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'”

After World War II, Raymond Weeks, a Navy veteran from the war, organized a day of festivities on November 11, 1947, in Birmingham, Alabama, to celebrate all veterans who had served in the United States armed forces, not just those who fought in World War I. Weeks was so dedicated to the idea that he sent petitions and letters to Congress, and the President advocating for the national public holiday.

H. Rpt. 1333, Report on Changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day, March 9, 1954. (National Archives Identifier 6036772)

Inspired by Weeks’s passion and enthusiasm, Representative Ed Rees of Kansas introduced a bill to Congress to officially change November 11 from a day that only commemorated veterans from World War I to a celebration of all military veterans.

Weeks finally saw his dreams of a day dedicated to honoring all military veterans come to fruition on May 26, 1954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law designating November 11 as a day to memorialize veterans who represented and fought for the United States in any war. Just a few days later, on June 1, Congress altered the formal name of the holiday from “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day.”

Public Law 83-380, honoring veterans on the 11th day of November of each year, a day dedicated to world peace, June 1, 1954. (National Archives Identifier 5716504)

Although it was briefly changed to be celebrated on the fourth Monday of October in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act from 1971 until 1977, Veterans Day was permanently changed back to November 11 due to the historical significance of the day.  

This November 11, as you celebrate all of the brave men and women who have defended our country through their military service throughout the years, recall the historical significance of the day. 

Read the blog “Veterans’ Military Records—We’ve Got Them,” to learn more about veterans’ records at the National Archives. 

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