Members of the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” displaying their Croix de Guerre in 1919, awarded for gallantry in action during World War I. Image credit: National Archives
We at Just Security would like to take a moment to write a few words about Veterans Day. Usually, when a major holiday occurs in the US, we put on our history hats and do a little bit of research into the origins of the day, trying to pull out some historical themes and ideas we can reflect on during our celebrations. Veterans Day is no different.
Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day is a day “set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime.” We celebrate it on November 11 in honor of the armistice with Germany at the end of World War I: It went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Importantly, we celebrate Veterans Day on the day the fighting stopped, not when the war was formally and legally concluded (the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until seven months later).
We are a site that focuses largely on the legal and policy questions at the heart of today’s pressing national security concerns. These are questions that are of enormous importance to the lives of those who serve, their families, and those whose lives are impacted by conflict. So today, we’re taking time to remember and reflect on not just important legal and policy questions, but also those whose lives and work are often so significantly affected by them.
With that in mind, you can find the text of the Act of Congress first establishing Armistice Day as a national holiday below.
Making the 11th day of November in each year a legal holiday.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the 11th day of November in each year, a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day, is hereby made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and in the same manner as the 1st day of January, the 22d day of February, the 30th day of May, the 4th day of July, the first Monday of September, and Christmas Day are now made by law public holidays.
Approved, May 13, 1938.