World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. However, an armistice (a cessation in fighting, usually considered temporary) between the Allied nations and Germany had been established seven months earlier; it 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. In 1954, after World War II and Korea, the 83rd Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. 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.
If you’re considering recognizing this day with poetry, here are a few verses of The Four Brothers, a poem Carl Sandburg wrote in 1917.
The Four Brothers
Notes for War Songs (November 1917)
Make war songs out of these;
Make chants that repeat and weave.
Make rhythms up to the ragtime chatter of the machine guns;
Make slow-booming psalms up to the boom of the big guns.
Make a marching song of swinging arms and swinging legs.
On the roads from San Antonio to Athens, from Seattle to Bagdad–
The boys and men in winding lines of khaki, the circling squares of bayonet points.
Cowpunchers, cornhuskers, shopmen, ready in khaki;
Ballplayers, lumberjacks, ironworkers, ready in khaki;
A million, ten million, singing, “I am ready.”
This the sun looks on between two seaboards,
In the land of Lincoln, in the Land of Grant and Lee.
Read the full text of Four Brothers on Bartleby’s.