Battleship Closure Alert . . .

"Lest We Forget"

The World War I Armistice Centennial has come and gone, and a seemingly un­re­lated question comes to mind: what will life be like in the future? The Armistice Centennial and Battleship Texas give us all the opportunity to reflect on our past, better understand who we are today, and perhaps see what the future holds.

 


Celebrating Armistice

On Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, the San Jacinto College Webb Society hosted a com­mem­o­ration ceremony in honor of the WWI Armi­stice Centennial. More than 100 people braved the blustery weather to commemorate this centennial and honor the sacrifices made by all members of the military and their loved ones on the home front during this war.

As we have shared in earlier blog posts, WWI armistice happened on Nov. 11, 1918, and the countries involved in the conflict breathed a collective sigh of relief that the war was over (although we know it took some time for troops to demobilize and the various nations to implement peace terms).

This momentous occasion was per­ma­nently engraved on this nation’s memory when it was formally declared a federal holiday called Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919. We know this holiday more com­monly as “Veterans Day” today. In his address declaring the day a holiday, Woodrow Wilson remarked:

“…the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s ser­vice, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the oppor­tunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.” [1]

Remember

It was in this spirit that we gathered on Texas’ bow on Nov. 11, 2018 to Re­mem­ber. On this day, we endeavored to re­mem­ber not only the sacrifices and heroism of our veterans, but also the cir­cum­stances that led to the conflict and the far-reaching effects of the war. On solemn occasions like this, we also contemplate how far we’ve come since Nov. 11, 1918 and how we got to where we are today. What political, social, economic, and tech­no­lo­gical changes took place as a result of “The War to End All Wars?” How have these changes embedded them­selves in who we are today? How can the lessons learned from events like this inform our future?

Indeed, this exercise in remembering and thinking about past events tells us quite a bit about who we are today. Without memory, there is no identity.

Battleship View from the ship toward San Jacinto monument

Centennial

On the WWI Armistice Centennial, there was no better place in the United States to Remember and to contemplate who we are than aboard Battleship Texas, the only remaining U.S. battleship to have served in WWI. Battleship Texas is certainly an arti­fact of the age, and she remains today as a touch­stone for memory, a wit­ness and participant to the momentous events that shaped this nation and our identity. In this way, Battleship Texas is a part of each and every one of us.

After this introspection, the ceremony turned to honoring the fallen by tolling the ship’s ceremonial bell and through a 21-gun salute. Both the bells and the honor guard are traditional ways of marking someone’s passing. [2] For the Armistice Centennial, com­mem­o­ration ceremonies across the nation organized tolling of the bells on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to honor and ac­knowl­edge all service members.

Past celebrations

historic document
Menu and program for a 1932 Armistice Day ceremony held aboard Battleship TEXAS. TPWD- Battleship TEXAS Archives, 1993.4.4.

This same type of commemoration ceremony has been held for nearly 100 years on Nov. 11, and even sailors aboard Battleship Texas held Armi­stice Day com­mem­o­ration events aboard the ship when she was in service. During these events, the ship’s crew also Remembered and honored those who came be­fore. This introductory state­ment from a 1932 Armistice Day program in the Battleship Texas Archives explains why Remem­bering and honoring those who served are so closely intertwined on Veterans Day:

“High hopes were cherished that such a struggle [like World War I] would never be repeated. Lofty resolutions were made that men would never allow their sons to know the heart­ache of another such a disaster [sic]. We celebrate Armistice Day today in order to renew the vows that we made. It is a day commemorating the sacrifices of those who en­gaged in this struggle … Armistice Day is mankind’s solemn promise to the future that never again shall nations resort to this useless and stupid means of settling inter­national difficulties.” [3]

Looking toward the future

We of course know that World War I was not the last war in which the United States was involved. However, we continue to “renew the vows that we made” year after year in the hopes that the exercise of Remem­bering will push us toward a brighter future. In other words, knowing where we were yesterday, and how we got to where we are today, will ultimately influence where we go tomorrow. So, the question remains: what does tomorrow look like?


 

[1] Library of Congress, “Today in History – November 11,” accessed online on November 1, 2018, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/november-11/.

[2] Navy History and Heritage Command, “Bells of Peace,” accessed online No­vem­ber 17, 2018, https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/commemorations-toolkits/wwi-100/bells-of-peace.html.

[3] Armistice Day Program and Menu, TPWD - Battleship Texas Archives, 1993.4.4 1932.