2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War.
By its end WWI, or “The Great War”, was the largest and deadliest war in history. From July 1914-November 1918 dozens of countries on multiple fronts fought around the clock. It was the advent of many different modern war technologies, such as planes, tanks, and machine guns, helping make it one of the most horrifying conflicts in history. The use of deadly gasses in WWI was deemed so horrifying the Geneva Convention banned the use in 1925; a rule still in place today.
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month “The War to End All Wars” was over. Over 65,000,000 were dead, with millions more wounded and displaced.
An arm of the American Red Cross was based out of Birmingham, Alabama. Many local people who could not serve in the military, including many women, worked to provide relief services for those serving.
Many of the applications for service in the Red Cross demonstrate a desire to serve their country as their reason for volunteering. Samford Special Collection has many of these applications, including one from Howard College Alumna, Frances Youngblood.
WWI and the Armistice were turning points in World History, ushering in the modern era. The maps across Europe and Asia had changed drastically. This was the end of Kingdoms in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire.
In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration as Armistice Day.
On November 11th, 1921 a WWI soldier was buried at Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. To this day the tomb is guarded day and night by the Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment with an eternal flame burning so that we may never forget.
In 1926 Congress passed a resolution officially making November 11th Armistice Day. In 1938 it was designated a federal holiday. In 1945 WWII veteran, and native of Birmingham, Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand this day to celebrate all veterans. In 1947 he led the first national celebration from his home state of Alabama. He is now known as “The Father of Veterans Day.”
In 1954 Congress amended the federal holiday Armistice Day to Veterans Day, which is how Americans have celebrated it since.
- Photo. First News of Peace! Confetti thrown by happy crowds, Liberty sings, Flags waved, Nov-11-1918. By Library Company of Philadelphia - https://www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/12795375585/. No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41583352
- Causey, Donna. Did you know the father of Veterans Day was from Birmingham, Alabama? Parade starts on November 11th at 1:30. Alabama Pioneers. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.alabamapioneers.com/did-you-know-the-father-of-veterans-day-raymond-weeks-was-from-birmingham-alabama/
- History.com Editors. World War I. HISTORY A&E Television Networks. Last modified August 28, 2018. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/world-war-i-history#section_15
- The Changing of the Guard. Arlington National Cemetery. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Changing-of-the-Guard
- SC 829 Bledsoe-Kelly Collection Scrapbook Shelf, WWI Era Picture Post Card Scrapbook. Samford University Special Collection.
- SC 5806 Red Cross Birmingham Canteen Service Records. Samford University Special Collection.
- SCAV 2603 General Headquarters American Expeditionary Forces, Report of the Meuse-Argonne Battle, March 24, 1919. Samford University Special Collection