On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 o’clock local time, bells will ring around the world to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the “War to End All Wars,” the first Armistice Day.
In Swansboro a bell ringing ceremony will take place at the Harry C. Pugliese Jr. Pavillion at Olde Town Square as part of the Mullet Festival. The public is asked to bring their own bell, however special Bells for Peace Apps are available for smart phones, which will automatically ring. Churches are encouraged to participate with any and all bells (and bell ringers) available. There will be a program of music before the actual bell ringing.
This event is co-sponsored by the Swansboro Historical Association and the Swansboro Parks and Recreation Department under the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
This ceremony will be during the annual Mullet Festival, which was postponed due to Hurricane Florence. The Mullet Festival is ordinarily held on the second weekend of October.
The original Armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiegne, France, for the end of hostilities on the Western Front on Nov. 11, 1918, at 11 o’clock. While the peace only lasted for 36 days, it was followed by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles the following year on June 28. This holiday is currently observed by Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and many other countries. The world’s first official observance was at Buckingham Palace in London.
In the United States the previously named Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day to honor all veterans of the United States military service in 1954. Veterans Day celebrates all veterans who served their country.
Veterans Day is often confused with Memorial Day. While Veterans Day honors all who served and serve presently in military service, Memorial Day honors service men and women who paid the ultimate price and gave their lives in service of their country.
President Woodrow Wilson said, “The war (World War I) showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes (result) in peace when nations act justly and in the furtherance of the common interests of men.”
President Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation declaring Nov. 11 a national legal holiday as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace” and named it Armistice Day. In 1945 a World War II veteran, Raymond Weeks of Alabama, led a delegation to Washington to request the inclusion of all veterans, not just veterans of World War I. The holiday was expanded in 1947 to include all veterans under President Dwight Eisenhower, who renamed it Veterans Day.
In 1971 under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the holiday was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978 the holiday was returned to Nov. 11. If the date falls on Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is celebrated on the adjacent Friday or Monday, respectively.
World War I began in Europe in 1914 with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Bosnian Serb supported by a nationalist organization in Serbia. But scholars are still disputing other confusing contributing factors. This grew into a conflict involving many nations of Europe.
Japan and the United States entered in 1916. In all, 9 million died as combatants, 7 million civilians died as a direct result of war, but also genocide and the influenza epidemic of 1918. In all between 50 and 100 million people died. This Great War ended in 1918.
The bells that rang that first Armistice Day were thought to celebrate peace at last. While unfortunately the peace did not last, the Bells that ring for peace in Swansboro on Nov. 11 ring with hope. In the song, “Let There be Peace on Earth,” written by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller in 1955, the lyrics, “Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony … let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
May it be so.
Ann vonHoorn is president of the Swansboro Historical Association.