Blogs > Liberty and Power > Remembering Armistice Day

Nov 11, 2005 1:31 pm

Remembering Armistice Day

Here's an article I wrote last year in memory of Armistice Day. An excerpt:
Well after World War II and at the end of the Korean War, President Eisenhower signed a bill in 1954 that changed the name of the national holiday to Veterans’ Day. There were good intentions: America’s veterans of wars other than World War I deserved some recognition. Interestingly enough, however, the United States had not retracted its military reach after World War II as it now was in a perpetual state of war against Communism. Whereas after World War I, the United States brought its armed forces home, the Cold War guaranteed that the United States would henceforth have little interest in armistice, in truce, in peace.

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Mark Brady - 11/13/2005

Ken, I think I understand the difference that you and Anthony are seeking to draw between Armistice Day and Veterans Day. I suggest, however, that the historical reality doesn’t support the story you’re trying to tell. You can read Woodrow Wilson’s proclamation of Armistice Day here. He said,

“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 nation.”

It is clear that from November 1919 Armistice Day was intended as a day to acknowledge U.S. veterans of the Great War.

In October of 1954, we are told that “President Eisenhower called on all citizens to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly, and through rededication to the task of promoting an enduring peace.”

So what exactly is so different between Eisenhower’s words and Wilson’s words?

Mark Brady - 11/13/2005

I've now tracked down another reference on this topic. See Jerry Lembcke's The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York: New York University Press, 1998). Judging by the contents (available online at the Library of Congress full record for this book), it looks quite interesting. One chapter is entitled "Spat-upon veterans: the evidence (or lack thereof)" and there are other chapters that look relevant.

Mark Brady - 11/13/2005

Oops! That should read "the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Veterans Administration". Given the stance of the VFW, it would make sense to conclude that the acronym stands for Veterans FOR Foreign Wars! However, I can't plead ignorance, just haste.

Mark Brady - 11/13/2005

"Upon returning home from Vietnam, [veterans] were called "baby killers" by misguided protestors who blamed the soldiers for their participation – however unwillingly – in an unjust war."

My understanding is that this is a canard. See, e.g., Chris Clarke's
We Never Spit on Any Babykillers.

The truth is that the Veterans for Foreign Wars and the Veterans Association were the ones lambasting those returning Vietnam vets who came out against the war. In some cases they actually denied them membership or services regardless of the vets' personal views.

Kenneth R. Gregg - 11/12/2005

Armistice Day is a classical liberal vision, a cessation of fighting in preparation for peace.

Veterans Day holds an entirely different context. Why would anyone who wants an empire like the notion of armistice?

Perhaps it would make more sense to celebrate Armistice Day and teach others the true meaning of the celebration? It certainly makes a good libertarian holiday.

Just a thought.
Just Ken