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Our Veterans, Our Heroes

On June 28, 1919, World War I officially ended with the Treaty of Versailles. However, fighting had actually stopped seven months earlier when an armistice went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (Nov. 11, 1918). A year later, Pres. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, which was approved by legislation as a legal annual holiday in 1938.

Poster: "All set. The O.D. is off, but I am still a soldier. The battle of life is on - let's go!" 1918. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-7812 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-107224 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: POS - WWI - US, no. 161 (C size) [P&P] Armistice Day parade, Omaha, Neb. 1938. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USF33-T01-001299-M2 (b&w film dup. neg.); Call No.: LC-USF33- 001299-M2 [P&P]

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. But 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 in Korea, 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.

The Library's collection American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 in American Memory features interviews with WWI veterans and other American citizens on the armistice.

World War I veteran Andrew Johnson remembered how his regiment stationed in northeastern France welcomed the end of the war: "Armistice Day found us before Metz. We were waiting to storm a great walled city which would have cost us many men, as we would have to cross a level plain about two miles long."

For an historical news perspective, search for newspaper accounts of the Armistice, wars, veterans and more in Chronicling America to find articles about the armistice: for example "War is Over," published in The Washington Times on November 7, 1918; and "Armistice is Signed" in The Evening Missourian on November 11, 1918.

Putting the spotlight year-round is the Library's Veterans History Project. The project collects remembrances of veterans who served in World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War (1990-1995), or the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present), in addition to U.S. citizen civilians who actively supported war efforts. Its "Experiencing War" series highlights specific wartime events, military branches and groups and other related topics.