Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans – Not only to remember those who died in service to our country, but to also recognize those who continue to serve today.
History of Veterans Day
Although World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, the end of hostilities of World War I occurred at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Therefore, Veterans Day (originally Armistice Day) is recognized on November 11th.
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.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “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…”
On May 13, 1938, the 11th of November was made the legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, however, in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history, and after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
October 8th that same year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which stated: “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. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”
President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
On June 28, 1968 The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975 President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97, which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major Veterans service organizations and the American people.
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11th preserves the historical significance of the date, and helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.