November 11th, marks the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, ending the warfare in 1918.
The Great War. The War to End All Wars. World War I. (It prepared the seedbed for its sequel, World War II. We still live with a century of consequences.)
Conservative Wm. F. Buckley, Jr., called it an unnecessary war. Another called it Satanic carnage.
Stanley Weintraub, in A Stillness Heard Round the World, chronicles the celebrations that broke out on that day. Work ceased, bells rang; sirens and whistles pierced the air. Buildings were emptied and throngs filled the streets, celebrating with cowbells and drums; horns and tin pans. Singing and shouts filled the air. Newsboys shouted, “EXTRA!”
The First Lady picked up her mother and sister and drove down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the delight of the crowds. Orville Wright wrote, “We all rejoice this day…”
All this was on November 7th, the day of the famous False Truce. And it began all over again on November 11th.
“Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive.”
(The epigraph in Stanley Weintraub’s book.)
On the battlefront, when the cease-fire came, one young lieutenant wrote home of his Marines, “The poor boys, some of them just dropped and cried.”
Few, today, realize that what is now Veterans Day began as Armistice Day—a holiday of thanksgiving for the end of the brutal fighting that ravaged Europe for over four years.
In the 1960s our clueless Congress changed the date to the fourth Monday in October (part of their three-day holiday weekend project). The World War I generation would not hear of it. I remember my grandmother firmly stating that Armistice Day was November 11th, NOT the fourth Monday of October. After a decade of standing up and speaking out by those who knew the true date and meaning, Congress restored the November 11th holiday, forty years ago, in 1978.
In his day, Charles Spurgeon asked, “Why does a peaceful nation bluster and threaten for a few months, and even commence fighting, when in a short time it sighs for peace, and illuminates its streets as soon as peace is proclaimed? The immediate causes differ, but the abiding reason is the same — man is fallen, and belongs to a race of which infallible revelation declares “their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known.”
In the West, November 11th also marks the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, whose most famous words are, “I am a soldier of Christ. It is not lawful for me to fight.”