Veterans’ Tales by Vassar Bushmills
November 11th is both a celebration of America’s Veterans and a commemoration of the Anniversary of the ending of World War I, once called Armistice Day, when the Germans, (the bad guys) formally surrendered to England and France (the good guys) in a railroad car at Compiegne, near Paris, ending the shooting.
The Versailles Treaty, in 1919, would finalize the details, which while called the War to End Wars, would only create new hatreds so that 20 years later, most of the same cast had built up enough strength to do it all over again, killing over 60 million that next time compared to the paltry 17 million lost in World War I.
I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere about laying down our lives for a our European friends, as France is filled with crosses where we laid down our lives twice, 1918 and 1944-1945. Only once was itr for the French, and that was in World War I.
America changed the name of the November 11 commemoration from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954, since by that time and two more wars, the term “armistice” had a hollow ring to it for Americans. And for 64 years now, instead, we celebrate our living Veterans (that’s you) every November 11th, and Memorial Day for all our war dead, (including soldiers of the Confederacy), which used to be on May 30th. It was also called Decoration Day, so that families could go lay wreaths at the cemetery after church, which was always such a poignant sight in rural communities. In 1971 it was changed to the last Monday in May so that labor unions, then federal workers, could get a paid day off and head to the beach for a 3-day binge instead of going to church and laying wreaths. Those were simpler times, and many of you may not even know they even existed, but I have fond memories of attending a church on Memorial Day Sunday for several years in Kentucky, and sitting in Bachelors Corners commiserating with the old vets.
In a manner of speaking, we celebrate Veterans Day here at Veterans Tales every week, for the stories we tell here are a celebration of America’s most exclusive fraternity of brothers and sisters known to mankind. We haven’t even begun to explore the great things veterans can do to save America.
But today I want to make a few comments about that first Armistice Day, 1918.
First, “The Star Spangled Banner” at sporting events:
The same song Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand for was first played at a sporting event in Boston, in September, 1918, at the opening game of the World Series. It was to honor our troops in France. It then became a standard opening song all over the country, for college, then high school sports as well.
It was never proclaimed to be “The National Anthem” by Congress until 1931, which will give you some idea how far ahead of the government the people have always been in knowing what’s good for themselves especially in passing things onto our children.
Secondly, America in World War I:
America has not always chosen its wars wisely.
My generation will go to its grave debating the wisdom of the government policy that got us into Vietnam in the first place. I still think containing Communism is a good policy, but that sending a bunch of Harvard professors in to plan it wasn’t, and that we should have fought to win it, which we easily could have done, but chose not to, cynically cheapening the loss of many thousands of America’s treasure, while emboldening to the dangerous position they and their progeny now hold in our government today.
We largely agreed that the Jane Fonda wing of American society were traitors then, and still are today. In other words I’ll only debate the Vietnam War with people who love America, and not those who never did.
Those of you who were in Afghanistan after 911, or Iraq after 2003, will have the same set of arguments facing you in the coming years, about why didn’t Bush do this, or why did Obama do that? Some of those answers are only now becoming visible, since our new president has forced a lot of those players to declare their true intentions, after playing a two-faced game the French turned into an art form centuries ago.
Today there are gold star mothers out there who hate the military and the mission, all because their son enlisted over her objections, and may have cost her a seat at the weekly coffee klatch in Pomona, then her son went off and got himself killed, so threw her husband out on top of that.
Some people you can’t argue with; some, you don’t even want to get near.
But World War I was different.
Warfare was different then, and America had never fought in that kind of war before; trench warfare, where wave after wave of men were gunned down for no apparent good purpose.
European officers often did things like this out of vanity, a trait I’m thankful American officers never picked up wholesale from our English forbearers. A serious reading of the English side of the American Revolution will reveal the English commanders’ vanity and political differences with their superiors more than made up for our shortages in men and materiel. Arrogance, and bureaucratic indifference in being able to get the right parts for replacement cannon and muskets (much worse than our own Continental Congress, if that’s any consolation) more than compensated for our shortage in gun powder[…]