History of Veterans Day

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, in reality the fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11/11 at 11am). For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” Congress officially dubbed the date Armistice Day in 1926 and made it a national holiday in 1938. However, it was too much too soon as a year later, World War II began and Armistice Day was all but a cruel joke. Dr. Francis Carr Stifler, editorial secretary of the American Bible Society, suggested that it would be far more appropriate to celebrate the anniversary of the Mayflower Compact instead of Armistice Day. The Mayflower Compact, signed by 41 English colonists on the ship Mayflower on November 11, 1620, was the first written framework of government established the United States.
 
While Dr. Stifler’s proposal didn’t take hold, the sentiment of wishing to honor those who served for our country remained. On November 11, 1947, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks organized a parade in Birmingham that honored all veterans. Dubbed “National Veterans Day,” that occasion is credited as the first celebration using the term Veterans Day; in 1954 Congress finally changed the official name of the November 11 holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
 
However, the official date would go yet another change. In 1976 under the pressure from the travel industry, the federal government petitioned to shift all national holidays to Monday to allow for more three day holiday weekends. However, November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans, and Congress shifted the official holiday back to November 11 in 1978.
 
Today, Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but “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.”