This November 11th marks the seventieth anniversary of the end of “the war to end all wars.”
The armistice signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was
greeted with great rejoicing in Nebraska towns. The state had contributed its share to
winning World War I; seven hundred fifty one Nebraskans lost their lives in the conflict.
So anxious were Nebraskans for the war to be over, that some towns celebrated victory
before the peace was signed. Reports of negotiations between the U.S. and Germany led
citizens of York to “jump the gun.” An account published November 8, 1918 described the
“There was a great celebration in York yesterday afternoon. A report that the armistice had
been signed . . .was published in a Lincoln sheet and a copy of the paper was carried about
town and set the joy to effervescing. The whistles blew, the horns honked, the cannon
crackers cracked and there was a general hurrah.
“The Associated Press failed to confirm the report, in fact it issued a statement by Secretary
Lansing that the report was a bad mistake. However, the people would not believe that it was
not true and celebrated in fine style.
“This paper knew the true condition of affairs, but many people would not be convinced.
Some blew good money in telephoning Omaha and other points. The premature explosion
could have been avoided by seeking the correct news at the place where it is received.”
Activities on November 7th were just a warm-up for the real thing four days later. The
celebration began at 2:20 a.m., the hour the armistice was signed in Europe. The siren at the
light plant blew until sun up, signalling festivities that would last well into the night.
“Mayor Smith came down town and gave orders that no one be allowed to sleep any more
when such good news was available. The martial bands and trumpeters were out in force
going up and down the street announcing the news that the greatest war in history was at an
end. There was a great parade with a motor truck leading the way. The Troubadour band
came out and made the early morning most interesting with their patriotic selections.
“Mayor Smith announced that there would be a hot time in this old town tonight. The people
are so glad no effort is made to curtail their celebration.”
Observance of Armistice Day continued on a yearly basis, although the festivities were tame
compared to the first big blow-out. In 1954, Congress changed the name of the November 11
holiday to Veterans’ Day, in honor of all who served their country in the armed forces.