It was the war to end all wars; it was the Great War; in 1941, with the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, it became known as World War I.
But while World War II was, by comparison, worse than World War I, the Great War marked a change in world history and in the way the world was governed.
It ended the era of monarchies.
It also ended 20 million lives. The extensive use of toxic gases, such as chlorine, mustard gas, bromine and phosgene, has so saturated the earth that in parts of France and Belgium human habitation is impossible even to this day. The First World War destroyed lives, cities and nations, redrew the national borders of Europe and, in the end, solved very little except to prepare the ground for the Second World War. world.
One of the causes of the war was the assassination on June 28, 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. The goal of the assassination was to liberate Bosnia and Herzegovina from Austro-Hungarian rule and establish a South Slavic community (“Yugoslavian”) State. Gravilo Princip, a young Serbian nationalist, shot Ferdinand and his wife at close range as they drove through Sarajevo, the provincial capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been annexed by Austria-Hungary and Ferdinand’s uncle, Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph in 1908. .
As the National WWI Museum and Memorial pointed out, when World War I began in August 1914, few expected the conflict to last beyond Christmas. In fact, Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia on July 28, 1914 surprised most of Europe. The Archduke was not what one would consider worthy of starting a war. The Austrian declaration of war provoked a declaration of war on Austria by Russia; Germany felt compelled to declare war on Russia, which caused Germany and France to go to war. Germany decided to invade France via neutral Belgium, prompting Britain to declare it was over Germany, and within five weeks after Princip had shot Ferdinand, all of Europe was at war.
The conflict, which had already spread beyond Europe, included large movements of imperial colonies in Africa and Asia. As it progressed, other independent nations like Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, the Ottoman Empire, China, and Japan joined the fighting. The United States became officially involved in April 1917. The fall of that year saw the Allies launch an offensive against Germany along Franco-German lines, which involved over a million American troops. It was not until 1918 that the end of the war would be in sight. In October of that year, an armistice between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies ended fighting in the Middle East. A few days later, the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian Empire signed an armistice with Italy.
Germany, betrayed by Austria, was forced to request an armistice in the fall of 1918, which came into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
The armistice was recognized by the US Congress in 1926, although other nations have long celebrated it as Memorial Day or Armistice Day. However, it wasn’t until 1938 that Congress declared it a holiday, except to honor veterans of the Great War.
After World War II and the Korean War, veterans service organizations urged Congress to change the day to honor American veterans of all wars. On June 1, 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.
History.com indicates that for a while the date of Veterans Day was also changed,“and that confused everyone.”
Congress signed the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968 to ensure that a few federal holidays – including Veterans Day – would be observed on a Monday. Officials hoped it would boost travel and other family activities over a long weekend, which would boost the economy, the History website says.
For some inexplicable reason, the bill fixed Veterans Day commemorations on the fourth Monday in October.
While the first Veterans Day (without an apostrophe) was first observed under the new bill on October 25, 1971, many states were unhappy with the date change and continued to celebrate the holiday. in November.
Within a few years, it became apparent that most American citizens wanted to celebrate Veterans Day on November 11, as it was a matter of historical and patriotic significance. So on September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed another law (Public Law 94-97), which returned annual observance to its original date from 1978.
World War I was a multinational effort; it makes sense that the Allies also wanted to celebrate their veterans on 11 November. The name of the day and the types of commemorations differ however.
Canada and Australia, for example, both call November 11 “Remembrance Day.” Canada’s observance is much like that of the United States, except that many of its citizens wear red poppy flowers to honor their war dead. In Australia, the day is more akin to American Memorial Day.
Britain calls it “Remembrance Day,” too, but observes it on the Sunday closest to November 11 with parades, services and a two-minute silence in London to honor those who have lost their lives in war.