The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

November 8, 2013

On Armistice Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields. ~ Lt. Col. John McCrae, Canadian Army

The Great War as it was called before we began having world wars we had to number, also was called “the war to end all wars.”

At first, that moniker was an idealistic comment on the war that began on the European continent in August 1914, and which eventually embroiled many countries across the globe — including the United States.

But that idealism soon turned for derision, as people began to realize the killing of millions simply was war for the sake of war.

It was, in what came to be an almost universal view, a sad commentary on the human race that nations and leaders could not get along without killing and maiming vast millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Today, Americans relate more to the numbers 9/11 than they do to 11-11-11, which for untold millions nearly a century ago, had far more significance.

It was at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of the year 1918 the guns finally fell silent on battlefields at Ypres, in Flanders, Belleau Wood, Metz, the Marne and Verdun.

These great battles are mere pages in history texts now. All the veterans of the Great War have passed on to our nation’s cemeteries, and the memories fade, the pages of history grow distant.

Armistice Day was a pre-arranged time and date to end the First World War in Europe, send Americans back home, and allow Europeans to rebuild and repair the shattered landscapes churned by the artillery of great armies.

There were far more casualties in the Second World War than in WWI, yet the slaughter and almost casual manner in which the lives of soldiers — whether they were French, Canadian, English, German, Russian or American — were cut short, still haunts these aging memories.

Thousands of lives were snuffed out in instants for mere yards of real estate, so some general could show “progress” had been made against the enemy.

When all was quiet on the Western Front at 11 a.m., on Nov. 11, 1918, four years of death and destruction came to an end — and a fervent hope was born that mankind never again would be so foolish.

That, it turned out, was a mere pipe dream, as Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan saw to it the slaughter once again would continue in the 1930s and 1940s.

Following the Great War’s end, France had a butcher’s bill of a shocking 6.1 million casualties, with the British Empire 3.1 million — calling the end to the killing Remembrance Day.

Russia suffered a staggering 9.15 million dead, wounded and missing, and Italy 2.1 million — a total of 22 million Allied casualties.

For Germany, the cost was 7.1 million men, a ravaged economy, the seeds of the Great Depression and another long nightmare of war on the European continent scant years later. Germany and the Central Powers in all suffered 15 million in casualties.

In the United States, we were a late-comer to the killing fields, but still lost 323,000 of our finest. The end of the war became our Armistice Day, which was observed each Nov. 11 in subsequent years.

Unfortunately, the world failed to learn all the bitter lessons of the Great War. In fact, it could be said with little fear of contradiction, the Great War simply was the first crop, which soon yielded the Second World War and greater suffering — even more staggering loss of life and destruction of whole economies.

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day — a day of observance, to remember with parades and public gatherings.

On Nov. 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and Congress voted to recognize the day in honor of those who had fought across the sea.

By May 13, 1938, Armistice Day was made a federal holiday.

After lobbying efforts by veterans’ organizations, the 83rd Congress amended the 1938 act to strike the word “armistice” in favor of “veterans.” Following World War II and the Korean War, former general and then President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation on June 1, 1954, that from then on each Nov. 11, the service of all American veterans of all wars would be honored on Veterans Day.

And on Monday, America once again will pause and remember.

Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg David, Goliath at it again in Gaza Strip

    Israel has long seen itself as David, standing firm against a hostile neighborhood full of Goliaths.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • DHS must come up with future plans for NORCE, SORC facilities after they are closed

    NORCE is scheduled to close in August 2015. Currently, 15 residents remain at the facility, awaiting transfer to a private setting, and there also are 60 state employees on the NORCE payroll.

    July 24, 2014

  • Never leave a child or a pet alone in a car

    With temperatures soaring to near or above 100, parents need to know they can’t leave their children alone in a locked vehicle. In 10 minutes, a vehicle’s temperature can climb 19 degrees. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, and it only takes a few minutes before a child can become dangerously overheated, according to Safe Kids USA.

    July 23, 2014

  • Will Rogers web.jpg Will Rogers Daily Telegrams 7-24-2014

    I am beginning to believe that Mellon is the poorest Treasurer we ever had. I would like to be Treasurer. Here would be my policy, and you see if it wouldn’t be the best thing for America:
    Save nothing, have nothing in there. Then Congress and the entire nation could have nothing in view only what they made themselves.
    A Candidate.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg State of the state: Things are not as good as they could be

    Draper wants to split Cali up into six separate states — Silicon Valley, around the San Francisco Bay Area; Central California, including cities like Bakersfield; West California, including Los Angeles and its suburbs; South California, including San Diego; North California, centered on Sacramento and Jefferson, in the far northern part of the state.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Voters have decisions to make in August races

    Democrats will have two runoffs to decide. One will be choosing their party’s nominee for state superintendent. Freda Deskin will face John Cox. The winner will face Republican nominee Joy Hofmeister in the November general election.
    The other race is for the party nominee to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. Jim Rogers will face Connie Johnson. The winner will face Republican nominee U.S. Rep. James Lankford in November.

    July 22, 2014

  • Going postal

    Waukomis residents have the opportunity to have their voices heard in regard to the future of their post office.

    July 22, 2014 1 Story

  • New dorm

    Breaking ground on a new dormitory at Northern Oklahoma College Enid is another step in the evolution of the campus.

    July 20, 2014 1 Story

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg Stars in our eyes

    We caught the vision when, in May of 1961, John F. Kennedy told Congress, and the world, that the space race was no longer to be so one-sided.
    “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” he said.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • thumbs up logo.jpg Thumbs up for northwest Okla. communities, where net taxable sales figures are up

    Net taxable sales were up $1,917,774 in Enid, when compared to sales reported in July 2013. The increase amounted to a 2.6 percent increase in sales tax revenue for the city.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads