At the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918 (11:11 a.m., November 11, 1919), following an armistice signed earlier that day between the Allied Nations and Germany, the final shots were fired in “the war to end all wars”—now referred to as World War I. Although the Treaty of Versailles officially ended the war on June 28, 1919, November 11 has traditionally been considered the date when the war really ended.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation naming November 11 “Armistice Day.” Later, on May 13, 1938, Congress passed an Act (52 Stat. 351) legally declaring Armistice Day a public holiday, to be observed on November 11 of each year.
Sadly, World War I was not the “war to end all wars.” In 1954, after the United States had lost soldiers in both World War II and the Korean War, Congress passed Pub. L. No. 83-380 (68 Stat. 168), changing “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day,” to honor the veterans of all wars. Later that year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veteran’s Day Proclamation,” (19 F.R. 6545)—an annual Presidential tradition that continues to this day. You can read President Obama’s 2013 Veterans Day Proclamation at 78 F.R. 67287.
In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill was passed in order to ensure that certain public holidays, including Veterans Day, would always be observed on a Monday (82 Stat. 250). Intended both to boost morale and promote travel over long weekends, the ill-fated, if well-intended, Uniform Holiday Bill tended to confuse more than simplify. So, in 1975 Congress passed Pub. L. No. 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the legal observance of Veterans Day to November 11 of each year. The law designating Veterans Day as a public holiday to be observed on November 11 is currently codified at 5 U.S.C. 6103.
For additional facts and statistics concerning Veterans Day, take a look at the Census Bureau’s Veterans factsheet from 2012.