Armistice Day

Yes, today is Armistice Day, November 11, 2020. It was established to commemorate the day the armistice was signed in 1918 that ended World War I. As it has morphed into what is now called Veterans Day, the original intent of establishing the holiday has been forgotten as was the desire 100 years ago to end all wars. I think I would be safe in saying that most Americans, if asked, do not know what Armistice Day is, such has our teaching of history failed and our awareness of significant historical events over the ages dimmed to the point of being extinguished.

Gerry Condon writes at Popular Resistance:

“November 11th is Armistice Day, marking the 1918 armistice that ended the First World War, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Horrified by the industrial slaughter of millions of soldiers and civilians, the people of the U.S. and the world initiated campaigns to outlaw war once and for all. In 1928 the U.S. Secretary of State and the French Foreign Minister were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for co-sponsoring the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which declared war-making illegal and called upon nations to settle their differences by peaceful means. The United Nations Charter, signed by many nations in 1945 after the end of World War II, included similar language, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”

World War I was to have been the “war to end all wars” and although turning turning Armistice Day into Veterans Day might have been born with good intentions, honoring veterans is not the same as a day dedicated to ending war. Should we honor veterans? Yes. We must honor them all day every day by taking care of them and their families, ensuring they have health care, food, housing and jobs. We should be talking to veterans. If you do not know any veterans, I will introduce you to a dozen tomorrow. No amount of marching, flag waving, parading and trumpeting should be promulgated as a substitute, for we must ask ourselves what happens to our veterans on November 12th? Or the week after? Or the next month?

That being said, Veterans for Peace has issued this statement regarding the original intent of Armistice Day :

“Veterans For Peace is calling on everyone to stand up for peace this Armistice Day. More than ever, the world faces a critical moment. Tensions are heightened around the world and the U.S. is engaged militarily in multiple countries, without an end in sight. Here at home we have seen the increasing militarization of our police forces and brutal crackdowns on dissent and people’s uprisings against state power. We must press our government to end reckless military interventions that endanger the entire world. We must build a culture of peace.”

It is fitting that veterans are calling for peace. Even General Douglas MacArthur said in his farewell address to the cadets at West Point, “the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” I would have preferred that he said “works for peace” but he was of another era. And we are of this era. Time to get to work.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Stan Snapp

Nov 11, 2020

Dick,

Thank you so much for publishing this account of the history of Armistace Day. (In your intro you wrote 2018 instead of 1918) LOL. I was born on this day in 1940, so today I turn 80! I know it is hard to believe. During my first 12 years we celebrated the Armistace on this day, as you said, “the day that was a celebration to end all wars”. When General Eisenhower was elected President he led the effort to change the name from celebrating peace to honoring those that fought. With WW II still fresh in our hearts it was quickly agreed and that was that. In my heart I have always celebrated the Peace this day while thanking those that served. We thank those that serve even though we know that only a tiny fraction of those actually were in harms way. Most that serve do so helping to keep the peace or supporting those that actually are called upon to be engaged in the conflict. Again, thank you for this posting and for reminding us that celebrating the Peace is a good thing. 

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Dick Conoboy

Nov 11, 2020

Stan,

Thanks. I always appreciate editing!  :-)  And Happy Birthday!.

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Steve M. James

Nov 11, 2020
Another Veterans day has come. Another chance to take a moment to measure the terrible cost war, all wars. I have to wonder—-what has all the suffering really accomplished? In honor of a fallen friend as I do every Vererans Day, I am compelled to re-post my blog entry for Veterans Day as I have done for years on social media:
In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, an armistice was signed. The “war to end all wars” was over. I was standing at the checkout stand today while the lady ahead of me struggle to fill out a check to pay for her purchase. After what seemed a lifetime she handed the check the cashier who reviewed it and then handed it back saying “you need to change the date to the eleventh” . Oh, said the lady as she looked back at me apologetically. I smiled and said “no problem, today is Veterans day you know, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. That’s the way I remember it”. Both the lady and the cashier looked at me dumbfounded and the cashier asked ” what’s that, I’ve never heard that before !”. I actually felt a tear well up in me. At that moment I heard the collective sigh of thousands of young souls. Young soldiers buried throughout the world, lost to the various wars (madness) that has come to almost every generation . Had their loss, their sacrifice, their blood, their bravery and gut retching agonizing fear been lost from the collective memory of those they died for, the next generations ? I am a Veteran. I do not say that often or do I often talk about my experience in Viet Nam from 1966 to 1967. I am like thousands of others who went to war and did the not so glorious part of war called support. I did not participate in any battles, sieges, campaigns or actions. I was not physically wounded. I lived in a tent with twenty other guys and did a job ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week for three hundred and fifty five days (I circled every one on a calendar). As so aptly put in a scene from what I believe is a great antiwar movie Mr Roberts, I “sailed from boredom to tedium to apathy and back again”. It was a backward , foreign country and a war zone, and I never was not scared and lonely , except when I was drinking to much beer which was all the time that I was not working or sleeping. There was a skinny young guy from Los Angeles in the tent next to mine. His parents would occasionally send him copies of the L.A. Times and he would share them with me. A taste of Southern California, of home. I remember how great it was to read about familiar names and places. I cannot say we were close friends but friends we were. Comrades in the struggle to stay sane in a crazy world. Coming from a small mostly white and Hispanic Southern California town, Cleve became the first black American I had ever known let alone befriended. And I felt privileged that he would let me in his small circle of friends. Even in my training companies there had been few blacks and everyone seemed to self segregate themselves. Black and white alike. Many of my racial prejudices based from ignorance were erased by Cleve and his friends. About halfway through our tour of duty in the Nam, Cleve, became quite ill. He would go on sick call and the medics would send with back with a handful of aspirin to try to reduce his fever, and orders for “bed rest” which meant that he got to lay in his bunk in 110 degree heat all day. On the third day of being sent back from the hospital with aspirins and bed rest, Cleve collapsed in the middle of the company area while trying to walk to his tent. One of the few decent Officers in our outfit saw Cleve, found out what was going on from us and immediately drove Cleve back to the Hospital. We were with him when he literally ordered the intake Medics to admit Cleve or heads would roll. Two days later while laying in one of the largest Field Hospitals in Viet Nam, Cleve Jackson of Los Angeles California died of an infected bowel. In 1985 I visited Washington DC and one of the first things I did when I arrived there was to visit the Wall (The Viet Nam Memorial). I searched the list of names for Cleveland Jackson and found nothing. I went to the information booth and asked for help. Why wasn’t Cleves name in the book? How could I find his name on the Wall ? The guy at the booth was a Veteran himself and I think understood my sense of urgency. He told me in matter of fact but understanding way that because Cleve did not die of wounds received in hostile action or in combat, his name is not on the Wall. I was dumb struck and still am. So to Blogging world, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, I offer in memory of a fallen soldier the name:
Cleveland Jackson
 
 
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David Donohue

Nov 11, 2020

Thanks, Dick.  Great article, much appreciated.

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Dick Conoboy

Nov 11, 2020

 David,

Can you post it about locally?  That would help spread the word.  Thanks.

 

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David Donohue

Nov 11, 2020

Did.

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Sita Amba-Rao

Nov 11, 2020

A memorable lesson in history, thanks to Dick Conoboy.

And today in honor of the Cleveland Jacksons of all wars, thanks to Steve James for sharing his remembrance of his war friend.

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Drue Robinson

Nov 11, 2020

Thank you, Dick and Steve. 

I appreciate both the factual and the personal in your posts. 

I remember walking along the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC and witnessing those who were placing their hands on names… your story, Steve, lends a whole new poignant perspective. 

May we end all wars, in the world and within ourseleves. 

 

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Erik Thomas

Nov 11, 2020

Thank you, Dick, Steve James and Stan for your recollections.

I am also reflecting on all the Cleveland Jacksons of the world, and that their families went through so much as well as those who died directly in combat.

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Jon Humphrey

Nov 11, 2020

Thank you for this excellent article and reminder.

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Geoff Middaugh

Nov 12, 2020

Thank you Dick, and Steve James.   To Cleve.   In John Barry’s book Influenza, he goes in great detail of the final days of the war and Woodrow Wilson’s attempt, and failure, after the Armistice to create a treaty that would trully end the war and establish a peace.   A failure, nonetheless.  

 

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David A. Swanson

Nov 16, 2020

Your piece on Arimistice Day and its meaning reminded me also that when we were young the pledge of allegiance went “.. one nation, indivisible, ....” not “...one nation under god, indivisble…” Another national exercise that morphed into something else. In this case, the removal of the separation between church and state.

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Dick Conoboy

Nov 16, 2020

David,

Exactly.  Four years ago, I wrote an article entitled Anthems and Pledges - RIP? in which appeared a quote from Noam Chomsky on pledges:

“Now I know that many people think the Pledge is simply an affirmation of their respect for the flag, their love for the country, and their gratitude to the men and women who fought in America’s wars. But that’s not what it is. The Pledge is an attempt to impose conformity on the masses and compel them to click their heels and proclaim their devotion to the Fatherland. That’s not how it’s supposed to work in a democracy. In a democracy, the representatives of the state are supposed to pledge their loyalty to the people and to the laws that protect them. That’s the correct relationship between the state and the people. The Pledge turns that whole concept on its head.”

 

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