Thursday, November 11, 2010


Today is, of course, Veterans Day in the U.S. (and Remembrance Day in Canada). Now dedicated to the memory of all veterans, it has its roots in Armistice Day, which celebrated the effective end of World War I in 1918. This is the 92nd anniversary of the end of the war, not a particularly noteworthy anniversary as far as those things go, except for the fact that there's a good chance it will be the last one that we get to honor a living veteran of the war.

That's the thing about anniversaries. There are so many things to commemorate that common sense dictates we use some system to keep them to a manageable number. Every day is the XXth anniversary of something or other. I've been making note of a number of 70th anniversary of World War II events, recently. For example it was 70 years ago this week that the initial British campaign into Italian East Africa started. Again, the 70th anniversary of something, while a rounder number than 92, usually isn't one of the milestone markers we note. It's again noteworthy in part because we're losing so many World War II veterans these days and there will be many fewer around even for the 75th in a few years.

There are, however, some pretty noteworthy milestone anniversaries coming up in te next few years. We're nearing the centennial of the start of World War I in just 4 years which will probably bring heightened interest. We've already started seeing events marking the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War, which will definitely be in the news a lot. It's also sobering to recognize that World War II is already much further in OUR past than the Civil War was in the past for World War I participants. We sometimes think that World War I generals were backward in recognizing that warfare had changed a lot from Gettysburg -- but our modern military bears more resemblances to World War II military tech than World War I did to the Civil War, no?

We're also in the middle of the 200th anniversary of the Napoleonic Wars and on the cusp of the related 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. But 200 years seems to be the limit to how far back the popular remembrances are willing to go before disappearing for good into the history books and becoming the concern only of experts and specialists. We just passed the 250th anniversary of some key events of the Seven Years War with, so far as I know, hardly a hint of it in the popular press.

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