This past Saturday, November 11th, was a beautiful autumn day to walk through Arlington National Cemetery. The eleventh day of the eleventh month is a reminder of Armistice Day (November 11, 1918), when World War I ended at the eleventh hour.
On June 4, 1926, Congress called for an observance of Armistice Day (44 Stat. 1982), and a legal holiday of the same name became law on May 13, 1938 (52 Stat. 351). Under President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration, the holiday became known as Veterans Day on June 1, 1954 (68 Stat. 168).
Eisenhower was a former military general during World War II who led the D-Day offensive on June 6th, 1944. On October 8, 1954, he issued a proclamation calling for the recognition of the first official Veterans Day.
Personal narratives from veterans who experienced D-Day are available through the Veterans History Project. Declassified maps and other analyses of the terrain are available through the Geography and Map Division.
Though Eisenhower is not among them, many prominent military figures were laid to rest in Arlington. On December 14, 1944, the grades of General of the Army and Fleet Admiral (for the Navy) were established by an act of Congress (78 Stat. 802). According to the legislation “[t]he number of officers holding the grade of General of the Army on active duty shall not exceed four,” as they would rank above all other army officers. Known as “Five Star Officers,” Eisenhower, as a General of the Army, became one of the first of nine. Five of these officers are buried in Arlington.
In Eisenhower’s Order of the Day, delivered in England on the eve of D-Day, he proclaimed, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you…[t]he free men of the world are marching together to Victory!”
On a calm, autumn day in Arlington, reflection on liberty and justice for all is time well spent.
Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.