The first Veterans Day was celebrated (as “Armistice Day”) on November 11, 1919, one year after the armistice ended World War I. Below is Star-Telegram coverage of that first Armistice Day.
On the first anniversary of the armistice, the Star-Telegram reprinted the banner headline of the extra edition that had announced the end of the war. Even in the era of hot-metal typesetting by newspapers, good news traveled fast: The small print at the bottom says that on November 11, 1918 the Star-Telegram newsroom had received the Associated Press report of the armistice at 1:53 a.m. Just four minutes later the presses were running. By 2 a.m. the extra edition was for sale in front of the building.
This column lists local Armistice Day events in 1919.
On November 11, 1919 the newspaper printed the three winners of its Armistice Day letter contest. The letters contain the armistice memories of three American soldiers who came back. More than 116,000 did not come back.
On November 11, 1919, a year after the war ended, the Star-Telegram told the tale of Private Estill Wilson, one of those American soldiers who did not come back. After a battle at the Hindenburg line in France in September 1918, Estill Wilson of Leonard (Fannin County) had been listed as missing in action. A few weeks later advancing American soldiers came across a grisly tableau: In a shell hole they found Wilson’s body, still at his Chauchat light machine gun. His gun was pointed at seven or eight dead German soldiers. In his pack was found a letter from his mother: “Son, do be careful. I have worried so much about you lately.”
The fog of war: But wait! Don’t grieve for Private Wilson just yet. Davis O. Barker read this blog post and wrote to me: “There’s apparently really an interesting twist here . . . in the Texas A&M yearbook of 1924, there is an ESTILL ARNOLD “Pete” WILSON from Leonard, Texas that was a senior that year . . . in bio it shows he did serve in WWI . . . I would think the odds of two Estill A. Wilsons being from Leonard, Texas and serving in the war would be very slim . . . interesting story here somewhere.”
Sure enough. Followup research shows that Estill A. Wilson of Leonard, Texas indeed had been reported missing in action in 1918.
But in early 1919 Wilson was listed among U.S. soldiers released from German prison camps.
And the 1920 census of Leonard, Texas shows Estill A. Wilson, age twenty-four, back home and very much among the living. Turns out that Private Estill A. Wilson was one of the American soldiers who did come back! He did not die at that machine gun in that shell hole at the Hindenburg line in France in 1918.
But some American soldier—who was someone’s son/brother/father/husband—did.