News-Miner opinion: Germany surrendered in World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, bringing to a close a global conflict that had come to be referred to, following remarks by President Woodrow Wilson upon our nation’s entry into the conflict, as “The War to End all Wars.”
The U.S. mobilized 4.3 million forces for that war. At its conclusion, 116,516 had been killed and 204,002 injured. An additional 4,500 went missing.
It would be nearly seven months from the date of Germany’s surrender to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the war.
On the opinion page of the Daily News-Miner 100 years ago — May 30, 1919 — an unsigned column appeared, reflecting on the casualties of that just-concluded war. May 30 had since the end of the Civil War been designated as Decoration Day, a day to remember the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that conflict. The day was slowly becoming referred to as Memorial Day and took on added significance with the end of the Great War, as it was also referred to at the time.
As the nation prepares to mark the now-federal holiday of Memorial Day on Monday 2019, we present here some excerpts from that Daily News-Miner column of a century ago, when its words were so fresh with the rawness of what would unfortunately later become known as not the War to End all Wars, but rather as the first of two world wars.
From the opinion page of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, May 30, 1919 — Many years ago under a special act of Congress, May 30 was designated as Memorial Day, when we assemble to call the roll of all our honored soldier dead and lay a fresh tribute of love and gratitude upon the graves of the “Blue and Gray” who laid down their lives in that great struggle.
Decoration Day means more to us this year, more to the world than ever in its history.
The peoples of the world are brot nearer together in the common cause of suffering than ever before.
As long as wild flowers bloom, the hallowed graves of our loved soldier dead who died in the late titanic struggle for world freedom and who lie buried in lonely mounds or deep trenches in France will be bright with flowers placed there in appreciation and love by the French mothers and daughters in remembrance of their supreme sacrifice.
The little old French peasant mother with tears running down her furrowed cheeks said, “My heart bleeds for the mothers of America whose boys have died in our common cause and whose bodies lie under our sod so many miles from home ...”
A year ago the world was an horrible nightmare brot on by the “Vulture of Potsdam” and his demoniacal crew. Today, the Watchman upon the battlements of time is heralding forth a new triumphal dawn and in its bow of divine promise the sons of men are glimpsing a new righteousness and peace in its rising beams.
O, heroes fallen! We pledge you our hearts’ humble gratitude and love as we bend above lowly mounds or if not that privilege we vow to live worthy of thy death to bring the world nearer that peace and love for which you died; to cherish and perpetuate the high ideals of freedom, justice and equality, and the inalienable civil rights and liberties for all mankind everywhere.