To celebrate Veterans Day, we will take a look at some major events in American military history that occurred this week throughout our past.
But first, let’s take a look at the history of Veterans Day itself.
On Nov. 11, 1954, 66 years ago, the first official Veterans Day was celebrated in the United States, following a proclamation issued by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The roots of the holiday, however, stem much deeper in American history.
On Nov. 11, 1918, 102 years ago, World War I ended, bringing the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen to a close.
The war would not officially end until world delegates met to draft the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919. However, Germany and the Allied powers reached an agreement to call a ceasefire, bringing the fighting to an end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The Great War, as it was called before World War II, claimed the lives of nine million soldiers and wounded 21 million more. Amidst the destruction, five million civilians were killed by the crossfire or from starvation, not to mention the approximate 500 million people who died worldwide from the Spanish Flu, which spread on account of the war.
To celebrate the end of “the war to end all wars” and bid adieu to four years of widespread devastation, nations of the world rejoiced with the celebration of Armistice Day, a holiday celebrated on Nov. 11 in both the U.S. and abroad as a way to promote world peace. Veterans were honored and lost soldiers were mourned, no matter what nation they hailed from.
World peace was short-lived, however, as the exact same nations went marching into battle less than 20 years later in the larger conflict we know today as World War II. The celebration of Armistice Day was revoked, as it was no longer applicable to the world in the 1940s.
In 1954, the United States was still at war, not in Europe as in World War I or World War II but rather in Korea. President Eisenhower believed that instead of celebrating world peace, which did not seem possible in Cold War-era America, the nation should instead honor those who fought in all military conflicts. Today, the U.S. celebrates Veterans Day as a way to commemorate and honor the sacrifices made by our brave soldiers from World War I and every war since.
On Nov. 11, 1921, 99 years ago, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated in Arlington, Va.
Anyone who has ever visited Arlington National Cemetery just outside of our nation’s capital can attest to the fact that it is a site to behold. The monument was first built to bury an American soldier who died in World War I. He was unidentifiable, but military officials made it a point to bestow upon him the nation’s highest military honors, even burying him on top of two inches of French soil – the same soil he laid upon when taking his last breath.
The tomb itself was completed in 1932 with the inscription, “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known but to God.” The World War I soldier was joined by the remnants of other soldiers who lost their lives in the following wars of the 20th century. Recent technology in DNA, however, has allowed scientists to identify the Vietnam War soldier and properly send him to his family in St. Louis, MO.