Armistice Day

Directly related post here.


Wednesday, Nov. 11, became Armistice Day when the end of World War I was declared as the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month Nov. 11, 1918.  In the United States, in 1954, it was renamed “Veterans Day”.

My mother, in her memories of the North Dakota farm where she grew up, remembered Nov. 11, 1918.  On that day she was 9 years old: “The hired girl and I were out in the snow chasing chickens into the coop so they wouldn’t freeze when there was a great long train whistle from the Grand Rapids railroad track [about 5 miles away].  In the house there was a long, long telephone ringing to signify the end of World War I.”

One of Grandpa’s hired men apparently was killed in the war; Grandpa, 37 when the U.S. entered the war, wanted to enlist but his German ancestry was apparently a deterrent – we were at war against Germany.  Both Grandma and my Mom had and recovered from the World War I flu, which originated on a farm in Kansas, but which has always carried the name “Spanish flu”.

Such are the stories of war and peace.

Sunday we were at a family birthday party in South St. Paul, and on the yard we saw this:

Nov. 8, 2020 S. St. Paul MN

All of these placards were for named veterans which by now have been picked up by the persons who ordered them.  This was a project of my daughter, Lauri.  I didn’t count them, but I’m sure there were well over one hundred.  It’s a very neat idea.

When I saw the signs my memories went back to an early November day in London in 2001.  We were by the Westminster Abbey, and there was a yard full of small crosses, each signifying a casualty of WWI.  Below are two photos.

Westminster Abbey Grounds, London, Nov. 5, 2001

This was apparently an annual Armistice Day event (in the Commonwealth, “Remembrance Day”).  Here, a small rectangular area was devoted, possibly, to various units who had lost fellow citizens in war. It was somber and moving, and probably greatly enlarged by November 11, a week later.

At the end of our sojourn in London we were at Gatwick airport, waiting to board our flight home.  We embarked on Nov. 11.  At precisely 11 a.m. an announcement came on the airport PA, asking for 2 minutes of silence in memory.  I will never forget how complete the silence was in that immense terminal.


Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a purist about War. Sadly, humans will never abolish war for all the reasons we already know.

My allegiance is as a Veteran for Peace; but my background is a family full of military veterans, including myself and my brothers, and a Marine grandson.

Having acknowledged my own ambivalence, war is a fatal malady to which humans, alone among the species, seem addicted.


This year, the 2020 American elections, not yet ended, were like all campaigns I’ve witnessed, using war as a model, full of military references such as “battleground states”.  Worse, now we seem to be a nation divided into two tribes in which one ‘side’ must lose, as in the Civil War.  We almost reverence division and the need to kill an enemy – yes, our neighbor – whose only sin is to not agree with our side.  Mask or not?  So it seems to go.

We are victims of our own stupidity.

Most recently, statistics for Covid-19 show 130,553 new cases on Nov. 9, 10.3 million overall in the U.S., 240,000 deaths….  These are numbers you’d see for a very major long-term war, and we don’t seem to care – at least those who think they’ve “won” something or other.

We are all losers, digging an ever deeper hole for our nation.  Only we can change the conversation, one effort at a time.  This is each of our responsibility.


For this Armistice Day, 2020, a recommendation if you wish: Following is a recommendation from a friend if you wish.

The 2020 Armistice message from Emmanuel Charles McCarthy concludes with this: “This November 11th— the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Treaty of WW I by the politicians who started and perpetuated the infamous bloodbath called World War I—between 8 P.M and 9:30 P.M. the heroic Catholic Christian life of Ben Salmon will be presented by Michael Baxter, PhD and discussed with audience participation. The information needed to register to view and participate in this educational event via computer can be located here. Do consider watching and asking others to watch, especially if you are a Christian or a Catholic.”  (continued below: “The rest….”

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Jeff: If you get a chance watch “They Shall Never Grow Old”, a documentary by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings,  The Hobbit) really great technical feat that he colorized and reframed old WWI films to modern film speeds, making the soldiers look like humans we would recognize today…..the entire film screenplay is just quotation after quotation from veterans who served, mostly from the UK, but also from Australia, NZ, USA and Canada.  Its definitely on HBO, but you might be able to find it on Youtube as well.  It functions as a tribute to the vets, and at times to peace as well. Not alot of dwelling on the actual fighting, but enough.  More about the total experience.

from SAK, in England:  Do take care please Mr Bernard – I know you will!

Wishing you & yours a healthy time ahead cold as it may be.

from Fred:  Nice blog piece. I hadn’t thought about those living, during WW1 days, in remote rural districts. They had to rely upon those locals with the ingenuity and ability to spread the word. In Goodhue County, I recall that a large delegation of Zumbrotans hastily organized a celebration with town band and Motor Corp [the Home Guard on wheels] and marched through the streets. They then headed to Pine Island where the locals, already celebrating, followed their own town band out to greet their neighbors. Now united, both groups marched off to Mazeppa.

In the major city of Red Wing, church bells rang for an hour and workers at manufacturing plants tied down steam whistles. Young women of the Lutheran Ladies Seminary, carrying a huge American flag, led a parade down Main Street [it is shown in part on the cover of Patriot Hearts]. Elks Drum Corps led other spontaneous parades during the day. Crowds hanged and trampled effigies of Kaiser Wilhelm, then dragged them through the streets before burning them. A huge collections of combustibles where gathered at the foot of Barn Bluff and set alight. Townspeople burned “Nov 11” into the south facing side of the bluff for all to see. Now that’s a celebration.

from Annelee Woodstrom, author of “War Child, Growing Up In Adolf Hitler’s Germany” (still available on Amazon and it is excellent:)

Dick,  Your blog brought memories to me from the other side, also equally misled and eager to die for what Uncle Pepp asked. “For what?”
It was maybe February 1945 . I had been home with terrible tonsillitis, but I needed to get back to work in Regensburg,.
I stopped at Uncle Pepp’s bakery to say good by.  To this day, seventy-five years later, I can remember what Uncle Pepp said as I entered his office.
“What can I do for you?”
“Nothing, I came to say good by”
“So good by it is”
I can’t go on with this… If you want ever to use it, Uncle Pepp’s observation  is in WAR CHILD,  page 122.The fifth paragraph is Mama talking how Papa felt about the war, and then Uncle Pepp’ s feelings goes on to Page 123.I wish I would not have been so young, maybe they would have shared more with me .
Yet, they must have left something with me, because I  wrote during February 1960

(comment continued).

Here is the finish,
Papa and Uncle Pepp must have left something with me:
I wrote during February 1968  while the Vietnam  War was going on.
I was a student at Moorhead State College,  I think it was for an English class.
I remember the comment on my work when I got it back”      It is true, I am NOT making that up.
“Annelee, this is not what I ask for.  Good, B

from Jeff, again: I am very pessimistic about the next 90-120 days.  we are setting records on hospitalizations now, which was based

on people likely infected 3-5 weeks ago…when daily new infections were at 50,000 per day.
yesterday we had 140,000 new cases. Deaths will go up, but the death % may go up because healthcare resources are going
to be extremely stressed, especially in rural areas.
Time for you to review the 2nd wave of the Great Influenza back in 1919.  [from Dick: simply google the 1918 flu pandemic]

also from Jeff: Another day, another COVID-19 case record in Minnesota…— the second-highest one-day total yet after yesterday’s record 56 deaths — were reported Thursday in Minnesota. Health officials reported 292 new hospital admissions, also a single-day record.

from Jermitt: Thanks, Dick for your thoughtful message.  Thanks also to your daughter, and those who have written in response to your message. Like you and the others, I’m opposed to war or military action that requires people putting their lives at risk.  I too served four years in the army.  I was a nurse in the army and was responsible for mending those who were ill or injured.  But as you know my real calling was to be a teacher. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and your wisdom.

from Sandy: I looked your blog and photos and writings over and it was great Dick…what memories   Thanks for sharing Hope you and family are stay safe and healthy.
from David: Here is a Veteran’s Day piece from the New York Times’ ongoing “At War” series. The author talks about why he enlisted and his discomfort with the “Thank you for your service” meme. Also, I found the comparison of soldiers with schoolteachers interesting. Opinion | A Veteran’s Search for Meaning – The New York Times
from Darleen: I find it interesting that many other Presidents did not serve in the military — only one is mentioned.  I do like Trump and will always believe that he is the best Pres and Obama one of the worst.
response from Dick: I am just going from memory, so this may be incorrect, about military veterans as President in my lifetime:  Franklin Roosevelt early contracted Polio, of course, making military service not an option, his four male children were all in the military; his Uncle Theodore Roosevelt was in military and all of his sons served; Harry Truman was a Captain in WWI; Dwight Eisenhower was of course highly distinguished military in WWII; JFK was in WWII; Jimmy Carter was a naval officer on nuclear submarines; George H.W. Busch was a military veteran; I think his son George was in the service, though it was controversial for some, and not regular military; Joe Biden’s son, Beau, served with distinction..


The rest of McCarthy’s Nov. 6 e-mail is here:

Today, around the world those who know about World War I stand appalled at the misery and destruction of life that the mindless callousness of aristocrats, politicians, religious leaders and generals of that time poured into the lives of tens of millions of human beings. It is universally perceived that this foray into industrial based human slaughter was a moral abomination.


However, Cardinal James Gibbons, the biggest of the big-time players in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy in 1917, under the auspices of some spiritual authority he erroneously thought he had from Jesus, wrote to President Woodrow Wilson after the U.S. declared war on Germany, that the Catholic Church, its priests, its religious and its lay people will henceforth be committed to maiming and killing German Catholics and Protestants in Europe: “Our people, as ever, will rise as one man to serve the nation. Our priests and consecrated women will once again, as in every former trial of our country, win by their bravery, their heroism and their service new admiration and approval…. We are all true Americans, ready to do whatever is in us to do for the preservation, the progress and triumph of our beloved country.”


Living as we do today in a time when it is apparent how easily, quickly and thoroughly the media can generate hate towards people and division among people, we can easily imagine and understand what an isolated human being, Catholic , Protestant or atheist, would encounter if in 1917 he or she resisted the call to arms by the government, by the mass media and by the institutions of what is called the government’s “trust system”, e.g. Churches, Synagogues, private and public schools, religious and secular universities, celebrities, the Knights of Columbus, Masons, the Elks, the Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, etc., which it has at its disposal to verify government propaganda as Gospel truth. With such an assault on the misinformed or uninformed media-shaped minds of the ordinary citizen who would dare say that the sinking of theLusitania was not the sinking of a passenger ship but of a ship loaded with weapons and munitions camouflaged as a passenger ship? Who would dare say going to war against a nation who would engage in such a savage act—and multitudes of other media concocted savageries besides—was morally wrong? For a Christian to stand up and say, “No,” to following Cardinal Gibbons or President Wilson would not only be foolhardy and a waste of time, it would be bringing down on oneself all the misery and even death that the government and its “trust system” institutions could muster.


However, a married Catholic Christian with a family in Denver, Colorado, by the name of Ben Salmon did just that and suffered the consequences of not “going along and getting along” with the summons to mass homicide by U.S. government leaders, by the U.S. Church leaders, by the U.S. media moguls—and by his enraged fellow Christians and citizens full of hate of the enemy.

2 replies
  1. John Bernard
    John Bernard says:

    Thank you very much for a sharing your thoughts; and very grateful for your daughter’s continuing campaign to honor all veterans on not only this day, but all days.
    As you know, I am at 20 year veteran of the Vietnam era who always feels awkward being identified as a veteran – primarily because (as far as I know) I have minimal traumatic memories of my service. On this day I honor those who have served, particularly those with lasting physical and/or mental scars.

    Lastly (and separated for a reason from other thoughts) i’d like to thank all members of the Trump extended family who have served. And feel that it’s a travesty that he appears at the Tomb of the upUnknown Soldier on this day; or any other day

  2. norman hanson
    norman hanson says:

    Thanks, Dick, very nice and, unfortunately, very true tin recognizing that attempting to settle things through war is apparently always in the human arsenal for resolving conflicts.. As is the tradition, the POTUS is going lay a wreath today to recognize the citizens who have served their country in the military services. What is not part of that tradition, is that the POTUS performing that traditional, annual and significant task, is a five-time draft dodger who has publicly characterized the service men and women that are being recognized as suckers and losers! What an arrogant insult to all of those who have served and who are serving let alone to all of those who have died in service on behalf of America!


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