This crowd marches triumphantly through downtown Detroit, carrying an effigy of the humiliated German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II.
On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 — after peace was announced — Detroit’s mayor called for a city holiday. Factories were closed and Michiganders, like others throughout the world, flooded their city centers in a mutual display of gratitude and relief.
Up until 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, when World War I, which claimed millions of lives, ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In some countries, it’s known as Remembrance Day.
President Woodrow Wilson, bowing to a strong isolationist movement among citizens and politicians alike, vowed to keep America out of the war, which began in 1914. But continued German aggression, especially submarine attacks on ships, goaded the United States into military action in 1917. After much carnage, mustard and chlorine gas attacks, and trench warfare, the Great War finally ceased and celebrations filled the streets across the globe.
As horrific as the war was, one moment serves as a reminder that soldiers, despite their rigid training, are humans first. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1914, along the Western Front, German, French, and Scottish soldiers laid down their arms in what has become known as the “Christmas Truce.” The men sang carols, exchanged gifts, and, according to some accounts, engaged in an impromptu soccer game.
Michigan Historical Review Facebook Page, November 11, 2016.
George Bulanda, “The Way It Was“, Hour Detroit:, November 4, 2016