One hundred years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the armistice was signed to end the terrible conflict that has gone down in history as the First World War.
WWI was such an all-consuming and devastating war for Europe that it was called “the war to end all wars.”
France, Germany and England, lost so many young men in that war that it devastated a whole generation of their populations. Millions died in what became the first modern, technological war. The weaponry used had never before been seen. Those new weapons of war were so destructive and on such a vast scale, that it was beyond comprehension. Some of the new weapons technologies included the machine gun, the tank, the airplane and high altitude bombing.
But, the most troubling and immoral of all the new weapons was the use of chemical weapons.
Mustard gas choked the life out of those who couldn’t get their gas masks on quick enough. It burnt their skin and the linings of their lungs with terrible efficiency and it created horrifying losses on all sides. At the end of WWI, the peoples of Europe were exhausted in every way. Armistice Day has been celebrated every year since that day in November 1918 that the Surrender was signed and the guns fell silent all across the land.
The United States entered the war towards the end in 1917. American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines brought fresh troops to the endeavor, and they fought with valor and distinction against the Germans. It was during that time, for example, that the 5th and parts of the 6th Marine Regiments were given the nickname that remains with them and has been adopted by all Marines today, “Devil Dogs.”
Those Marines were fresh to the field and were outnumbered by the German forces opposing them. The Germans tried to sweep those fresh Americans away several times, but the Marines fought with such fierceness and tenacity, that the German troops began calling them “Teuffelhunden” or “Devil Dogs.”
The term was, I’m sure, intended to be a derisive remark, but it is clear that it also expressed a reluctant respect for the Marines. They had not fought anyone like those United States Marines before.
Though there are no more WWI veterans alive now, the Veterans Site encourages all of our readers to participate in one of the Veterans Day celebrations that will take place in your hometowns this November 11th. To forget our history is to forget who we are.
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The United States went to the aid of its allies in Europe in WWI and in the wars since that time. We are a nation that believes in democracy and the freedoms it promotes to all of its citizens. We believe in it enough that we have shown our willingness to suffer and to sacrifice and to fight alongside those whose freedoms are being threatened in many places, on many occasions, around the world. Our freedoms and the duties that go with them make us who we are.
We have always been willing to do what it takes to preserve and protect them, when we have been called on to do so.
Take the young ones to this Veterans Day celebrations. Armistice Day is now known as Veterans Day in our country. It honors not only those who fought in WWI, but now honors all who have fought for this country and for the freedoms it holds dear in the uniforms of our military services over the history of our country.
Teach the young the value of that service and why it is important that some among us be courageous enough to offer themselves in that service. Let them see the dignity and the respect that is shown toward those who serve in and through the various Veterans Day ceremonies that will be happening all over this great country.
If you see a veteran, say one of these two simple phrases to them: “Thank you for your service” or, “Welcome Home.”
Enjoy the holiday and remember what it is celebrating.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.