Today marks the 100th anniversary of when the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month brought an end to The Great War also known as The War to End All Wars and for the past 70-plus years has been known as World War I.
Veterans organizations in Cecil and Harford counties will host community events for Veterans Day on today, the same date that marks the 100th anniversary of the day the fighting in World War I ended.
Hostilities between Allied and German forces during First World War, also known as The Great War or “The War to End All Wars,” ended at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, as dictated in the terms of an armistice signed by German officials and Allied commanders.
The armistice ended more than four years of fighting between the Allies —nations such as Great Britain, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the U.S. — and the Central Powers — Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
The war concluded formally in 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The end of the fighting was observed annually on Nov. 11 as Armistice Day in the United States until it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 by Congress to honor all American veterans. Then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower commemorated the change in a proclamation issued in October 1954, stating that in the years since World War I ended that “the United States has been involved in two other great military conflicts [World War II and the Korean War] which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation.”
A copy of Eisenhower’s proclamation is included within a history of Veterans Day on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
World War I began in Europe in the summer of 1914. The U.S., which initially declared its neutrality, did not enter until the spring of 1917. The U.S. declared war on Germany after suffering several years of losses from German submarines sinking its trans-Atlantic Ocean ships, as well as the publication of the so-called Zimmerman telegram, a diplomatic notice from Germany discussing a potential alliance with Mexico against America.
Millions of Americans served in the armed forces during the war, including an estimated 1,100 men from Harford County. Notable figures included Lt. Gen. Milton A. Reckord, a regimental National Guard commander during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France in late 1918, who went on to serve in Europe during World War II and was named adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard after the war — the Bel Air Armory is named for him.
Millard E. Tydings, of Havre de Grace, commanded an Army machine gun battalion during the war. The decorated veteran served in the Maryland General Assembly and later the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. The Route 40 bridge crossing the Susquehanna River and the Havre de Grace city park overlooking the Chesapeake Bay are named for him.
Forty-five men from Harford County died while serving during World War I or in the months following the armistice. Eleven of them were from Havre de Grace, and their names were read by Mayor William T. Martin during a Havre de Grace City Council meeting Monday.
The names include Cpl. Morris L. Abbott, 24; Cpl. Joseph L. Davis, 22; Pfc. Elbert Fallon, 21; Cpl. Robert B. Frederick, 19; Sgt. James Smith P. Fyle, 28; Pvt. Robert E. Heimiller, 26; Pvt. William E. Hyland, 31; Pvt. Edward N. Keenan, 25; Pvt. Walter G. Smith, 23; Pvt. John H. Spencer, 27, and Pfc. Homer Lee Simonds, who was 32 years old, according to a list provided by the city.
They, along with the 34 other Harford County dead, were honored Saturday during the annual Harford County Veterans Resource Fair, put on by the county’s Commission on Veterans Affairs at the Bel Air Armory.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, an Army post dedicated to testing of military weapons and equipment, among multiple other missions, was founded in 1917 as the U.S. entered the war. Today, it is Harford County’s largest employer with more than 20,000 military and civilian personnel, and it has helped spur the growth of Harford County over the past century.
The Veterans Day events scheduled for today include:
Aberdeen: 11 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park at the intersection of North Rogers and North Parke streets. The event is hosted by VFW Post 10028 with support from the American Legion’s Bernard L. Tobin Post 128, both of Aberdeen, as well as the City of Aberdeen, according to Legion post Commander David Heredia Jr.
Bel Air: 3 p.m. at the Capt. H. Merle Bailey memorial in Bel Air Memorial Gardens. David Carey, a retired Maryland National Guard colonel, will be the guest speaker, according to Richard Gebhard, board president for American Legion Harford Post 39 in Bel Air. The speaker is not the same David Carey, who is a former Bel Air town commissioner and current Harford County District Court judge, according to Gebhard. Post 39 is hosting the event.
Havre de Grace: 10 a.m. at Veterans Park, in the court yard behind Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center, the flagpole will be dedicated in memory of J. Noble Mentzer, who served in two branches of the military — the Navy and the Army; was a member of the Susquehanna Hose Company, the American Legion Post 47 and Young at Heart. He was a volunteer at the HdG Decoy Museum and participated monthly at the Perry Point VA Medical Center as a mentor and friend to patients. He was truly a pillar of this community in both word and deed.
11 a.m. at Tydings Park at South Washington Street and Commerce Street, coordinated by American Legion Joseph L Davis Post 47 — the post is named for the young corporal who died in France in August 1918. The guest speaker will be Maj. Gen. Kirk F. Vollmecke, program executive officer for Intelligence, ElectronicWarfare and Sensors at APG, according to the Post 47 Facebook page.
Perryville: 11 a.m. at American Legion Susquehanna Post 135 at 300 Cherry St. Taylor, the APG senior commander, will be the guest speaker, according to post secretary Suzanne Thompson.
Port Deposit: Luncheon from 1 to 3 p.m. at Jerry Skrivanek VFW Post 8185 at 520 Susquehanna River Road, according to post customer service staffer Tammy Owens.