Since 1919, November 11 has held a special place in Americans’ hearts. That year, we celebrated Armistice Day for the first time, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I that came on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Then, in 1954, President Eisenhower renamed it Veterans Day to honor all who served.
What you might not know is many other events of note in American history also fell on a November 11. Here is a sampling of other notable November 11s:
In 1620, 41 passengers of the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact, which became the first laws and rules of the Plymouth Colony, near Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
In 1861, the Union used a balloon for the first time to observe Confederate positions along the Potomac River. “We had a fine view of the enemy’s camp-fires during the evening, and saw the rebels constructing new batteries at Freestone Point,” Thaddeus Lowe wrote in his report.
In 1865, Dr. Mary Edward Walker, already the Army’s first female surgeon, became the first and only woman to receive the Medal of Honor. President Andrew Johnson presented the medal for her work as a field doctor at the battles of Bull Run, Chickamauga, and Atlanta. She also was a Confederate prisoner of war held in Richmond, Virginia.
In 1885, George S. Patton was born in San Gabriel. He became a tank officer in World War I, went on to become one of the United States’ most tenacious, though obstinate generals during World War II, and was the subject of the Oscar-winning movie “Patton.”
In 1889, Washington became the 42nd state in the Union.
In 1909, the Navy began building the base at Pearl Harbor, which the Japanese bombed 32 years later pulling the U.S. officially into World War II.
In 1920, World War I veteran Lenah S. Higbee became the first woman awarded the Navy Cross.
In 1921, on the third Armistice Day, President Warren G. Harding dedicated the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia; although the tombstone itself wouldn’t be completed until 1932 bearing the inscription Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known but to God.”
Now, about the Jeep. Willys introduced its “Quad” model on November 11, 1940, after winning a contract over a company named Bantam, to produce the rugged vehicles as the United States ramped up for World War II. The Quad begat the MB model – Willys made 300,000 MB’s during World War II. The MB was the base design for the CJ and Wrangler series of Jeeps that ultimately became – and remain – hugely popular. Ford also made 300,000 nearly identical models know as GPWs. These vehicles were vitally important to the Allied war effort.
On November 11, 1942, Congress lowered the draft age to 18 and set the upper limit at 37 years old. Due to racism the new draft-age spectrum, however, did not include African Americans, because it could lead to mixed-race forces. A year later, a quota limited blacks drafted to their percentage of the total population, which was 10.6 percent.
Two other important events that happened on November 11: In 1966, Gemini 12 launched astronauts Buzz Aldrin and James Lovell into space; and in 2000 President Clinton, Senator Bob Dole, and actor Tom Hanks attended the groundbreaking for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. It opened with a four-day dedication in May 2004.