Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I & Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at 11 o'clock in the morning—the "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918. In the U.S., Veterans Day is subtly different from that of other 11 November observances. Instead of specifically honoring war dead, Veterans Day honors all American veterans living & dead. The official national remembrance of those killed in action is Memorial Day, originally called "Decoration Day." from the practice of holding parades featuring veterans wearing their military decorations, which originated in the years immediately following the American Civil War.
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations & Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "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 & with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us & because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace & justice in the councils of the nations…"
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades & public meetings & a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, & far reaching war in human annals & the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, &
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving & prayer & exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will & mutual understanding between nations; &
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 & inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools & churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace & to be thereafter celebrated & known as "Armistice Day."
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 & airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" & inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Later that same year, on October 8th, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the 1st "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper & widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, & the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, & which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments & agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible." They suggested that Veterans Day be celebrated in conjunction with a weekend, giving some workers a long 3-day holiday. The American public did not like moving the day from the specific November 11th date.
On September 20th, 1975, US President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations & the American people. In the United States, Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, & willingness to serve & sacrifice for the common good.