The First World War (World War I, “The Great War”, “The war to end all wars”) lasted from July 1914 until November 1918. Ultimately, carried on by more than 70 million military personnel in two opposing alliances with repeating rifles, machine guns, artillery, poison gas, tanks, war ships, and planes – millions perished. It is one of the largest and deadliest conflicts in history. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died. Another 20 million were wounded.
Bells worldwide were rung on November 11, 1918 to celebrate and recognize the ending of WW I, “The war to end all wars” and to commemorate that peaceful pledge, bells were rung on each November 11th for over 35 years.
Legislation making November 11th an official holiday passed in 1938, declaring, “It shall be a day dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day”
On June 1, 1954, the 1938 Act was amended, striking the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Bell ringing has been now largely forgotten.
Military personnel pay a horrific price for war. They have to place their jobs, studies, families and dreams on hold. Some don’t return alive. Far too many return with broken bodies, damaged minds and busted spirits. In modern war, non-combatant casualties have increased until civilian injuries and deaths, now exceed military casualties.
Originally, November 11 symbolized the desire of peoples around the world to hold to a peaceful future and away from war. Many people still subscribe to that sentiment.
In recent years, Veterans For Peace Chapters across the country have tried to restore the Armistice to Veterans Day by tolling bells at the 11th hour. For several years, in Albuquerque, The Donald & Sally-Alice Thompson Chapter of Veterans For Peace has been asked by the United Veterans Council of New Mexico to ring a bell eleven times at 11 am, on the 11th day of the 11th month at the Veterans Day ceremony at the NM Veterans Memorial. The big bell on wheels weighs over 200 pounds and is provided by the UNM Alumni Lettermen’s Association.
The ringing of a bell is an appropriate way to honor all military and civilian victims of war, to recognize veterans and active military service members, and to acknowledge the human spirit’s eternal longing for peace.
This year will mark the 100th Anniversary of that first Armistice Day. To help make this year’s commemoration special, our chapter of Veterans For Peace is asking all churches across New Mexico to educate their congregations on the original meaning of Armistice Day and for churches with bells to toll those bells 11 times at 11 am on Veterans Day, Sunday November 11th, 2018.