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Legacy and Remembrance

Legacy and Remembrance


Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician, wrote the most famous poem of the war after seeing poppies blooming on graves of the fallen. McCrae himself died from disease in 1918, near the end of the war.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place: and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch: be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

* * *

Inspired by McCrae’s poem, American Moina Michael began a campaign promoting the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. Her efforts led to the adoption of the poppy as a memorial symbol in the United States and in English-speaking countries overseas.

In recent years, awareness of the poppy’s significance has declined in the U.S., although it remains strong in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission has launched a national campaign to revive the poppy as a national symbol while raising funds for a new national memorial for America’s World War I generation in Washington, D.C. Learn more!

Impact of the War

World War I changed the world. It ended the era

of monarchies and set in motion the decline and fall of colonial empires. It introduced mass industrial warfare and gave rise to over a century of conflict, including a second global war that was the largest in human history.

Yet its legacy extended beyond disruption and devastation. The war saw the introduction of large scale humanitarian efforts. It led to technological innovations that had widespread peacetime benefits. Subjugated peoples around the world were emboldened to pursue self-government. International organizations arose that formed the model for similar institutions today.

The United States initially retreated from international politics shortly after the war. However, World War I represented a turning point in its relationship with the world. It emerged as the undisputed leader in economic production, and became the center of global finance.

At home, the war fundamentally changed American society. The role of government in daily life significantly expanded. Women and minority groups staked their claim to their fair share of rights and opportunities. The assimilation of millions of immigrants was greatly accelerated.

America’s participation in World War I shaped its future and influenced the course of global events. As the U.S. commemorates its World War I centennial, the war’s impact continues to be felt, from the highest levels of international politics to the countless local street corners, parks and cemeteries that host memorials bearing witness to the service and sacrifice of the America’s World War I generation.

America's Veterans & Veterans Day

The vast majority of America’s 4.7 million veterans continued to contribute to U.S. society and their communities upon returning home.

However, many struggled, due to physical wounds and psychological scars.In 1922, the New York Times reported that veteran suicides averaged two per day -- likely a very low estimate, given the reporting standards of the time.

Serving those who served

Veterans took action to address these issues. Existing groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), greatly expanded. New groups were formed, including the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the American Legion, which became the world’s largest veteran organization.The American Gold Star Mothers was the first of several groups for those who lost a family member in service.These organizations helped veterans in need, lobbied the government for better care and benefits, and took active roles in their local communities.Their work laid the foundation for America’s modern veterans community.

Veterans Day

One year after the war ended, nations around the world marked the first Armistice Day on November 11, 1919.Americans observed the holiday until after World War II, when it was renamed Veterans Day to honor the service of veterans in all conflicts.

Today, communities across the United States mark Veterans Day with ceremonies and celebrations saluting America’s veterans. (Memorial Day in May honors those who lost their lives serving the nation.)The country’s largest Veterans Day parade takes place on New York City’s Fifth Avenue -- the same route as the parades that welcomed home thousands of troops after World War I.

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