Every year, the state of Connecticut observes Veterans Day on November 11. This was not always the case, however. In 1968 a new federal law moved Veterans Day from November 11 to the fourth Monday in October every year. This controversial law met with mixed reactions in Connecticut and all over the country.
Veterans Day started out as “Armistice Day,” a holiday meant to celebrate the World War I armistice that took place at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. A congressional resolution gave the day its “Armistice Day” name in 1926 and it became an official national holiday in 1938.
In 1954, lawmakers changed Armistice Day to “Veterans Day,” to celebrate the contributions of veterans from World War II and Korea, as well as World War I. Veterans Day always fell on November 11, until 1968, when President Johnson signed the Uniform Holiday Bill. The act provided for federal employees and others to receive more three-day weekends by moving the celebration of Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day to designated Mondays throughout the year.
Connecticut Reacts to New Holiday Law
In Connecticut, as in much of the country, numerous groups felt outrage at what they felt was the commercialization of meaningful holidays, especially Veterans Day. By closing schools and government offices, but allowing businesses to remain open, it appeared to many that the law was more about encouraging consumer spending than remembering the sacrifices of the nation’s war veterans.
The Connecticut General Assembly voted in October of 1969 to recognize the fourth Monday of October as Veterans Day in the state. The law took effect in 1971, but met with significant opposition. While towns like New Britain and Bristol initially experimented with honoring veterans in October, other towns, like Brookfield, refused to ever move their observances from November 11.
In 1972, Torrington and Stafford Springs ignored the new law and held their Veterans Day ceremonies on its traditional day as well. That same year, more than 1,200 people marched in Hartford during a November ceremony that included four jets from the 103rd Fighter Group Tactical Command of the Connecticut Air Guard, and 11 helicopters from the Connecticut Army National Guard, flying overhead. Even towns that previously experimented with October observances, like New Britain, gave up on the idea after just one year and were back to hosting November ceremonies by 1972.
With the majority of states across the country ignoring federal October observances of Veterans Day by 1974, Congress passed a law the following year moving Veterans Day back to November 11. President Gerald Ford signed the bill in September of 1975.