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What to call a potential nuclear war?

Time was when everyone spoke of eleventh day of the eleventh month. After all, that was the last day of the last war the world would ever see.

TJ Ray

No more mustard gas killing doughboys. No more bombing of cities, killing innocent people. No more ships sinking with torpedoes exploding them. That day was so grand that it took on a name: Armistice Day. Yes, Nov. 11, 1918, was a significant moment at that jubilant end of the war to end all wars. A world free of war!

Curious how we use days on a calendar to record the wow moments of life. Not too long after the first Armistice Day, so soon that some of the veterans who survived that horror were still able to wear their old uniforms, came another red-letter day, Dec. 7, 1941. And again parts of the world heard bombs going off and saw innocent civilians slaughtered. The United States had a great armada almost totally destroyed.

In the new conflagration doughboys became GI’s. And a generation of kids, particularly boys, were devoted to “playing war,” especially after the war when old helmets and other souvenirs came home from overseas. My dad worked at a shipyard near Mobile. I remember the great day we went to Brookley Field and watched a demonstration of military skills: B-17’s taking off and landing, paratroopers jumping out of C-47’s, a C-47 snatching up a glider from the ground.

On another Sunday we stood at the river dock downtown and watched a beautiful white ship go slowly by. The huge red cross on her sides left a lifelong memory. And there were blackouts many, many nights, accompanied by fears of Germans and Japanese bombing us.

But they didn’t. And the war ended. Remember, this was the war that followed the War to End All Wars. This new one was tagged World War II, thus giving us a way to keep up with such cataclysms. And soon a new armed conflict arose in Korea. Perhaps because it never ended it was not tagged WWIII.

Somewhere along the way, Armistice Day lost its luster. Celebrating the end of war itself was seen to be a futile effort, given that new versions came along, producing a new crop of veterans. And so Armistice Day became Remembrance Day and was usually on the Sunday after Nov. 11. For the eleventh day of the eleventh month a new label was used: Veterans Day.

I remember after the second world conflict seeing the little patches and ribbons on veterans, signifying to the world that they had been there, had faced the maelstrom and come home again. And the country rewarded many of them with money to buy small post-war houses. And military hospitals expanded and treated them.

But that changed.

Soon there was a war in the Middle East. No, there were several wars in the Middle East. No, no, there ARE several wars in the Middle East, and we have warriors fighting and getting maimed or killed in many of them. Probably there won’t be a day named for any of those wars. The only killing day we’ve noted in decades is 9/11. And judging by news accounts, the survivors of those “wars” will come home to a country that no longer provides every one of them the support needed to get through the traumas, physical and mental, of their combat days.

Why write about Veterans Day in December? Well, for one thing it was hardly noted last month. And, two, thinking about it set me to thinking about the next day that gets designated. Problem is there may not be a world to celebrate it. You see, back in 1945 the President of the United States made the decision to try out a new weapon.

It had the desired effects.

One, the enemy we were fighting gave up the fight. And two, a tremendous number of Americans and their Allies were reprieved from having to invade the islands of Japan and die on those beaches.

Yes, Mr. Truman closed a door to that war, but at the same time he opened a door to a new war. And now that the nuclear club has grown, the possibility of that war must lead us to consider a new name.

Will Doomsday do the trick?

T.J. Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.