90 Years On, It's Still the War to End All Wars

Across Europe, World War I remains the defining conflict of modern times
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2008 10:07 AM CST
Two men at the cenotaph in Sydney, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008. Drawn from a population of fewer than 5 million people, 60,000 Australian soldiers died during World War I, which ended on Nov. 11, 1918.   (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
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(Newser) – Ninety years ago today the Allies and Germany signed the armistice that ended World War I, a conflict of unprecedented brutality and expense. But where today Americans celebrate Veterans Day, a commemoration of wars' survivors, in Europe the mood is "altogether more somber," historian Alexander Watson writes in the New York Times. In Britain and France especially, today—Armistice Day—is a day for the dead.

In Britain, tens of millions of citizens wear red paper poppies to commemorate the 700,000 men who died in the trenches. In France, which lost 1.4 million, mayors read out the names of the fallen while military bands play the national anthem. Ninety years on, writes Watson, Armistice Day reminds us that we still need ritual and remembrance to understand the horrors of "the war to end all wars."