On the chilly morning of November 11, 1918, German and Allied leaders gathered in a railway car in a forest near Compiegne, France. Germany had suffered stinging defeats in the Allied hundred days offensive, and the German economy was in shambles. After three days of negotiations led by France’s Ferdinand Foch, the time had come to admit defeat. Germany signed the Armistice agreement in Foch’s personal railroad carriage. The Armistice would bring an end to fighting in World War I. The Great War resulted in more than 37 million military casualties worldwide!
Terms of the Armistice included: Germany’s surrender of military weapons and hardware; the release of POWs; immediate evacuation of occupied lands in Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Alsace-Lorraine and other occupied territories; and Allies would occupy land in Germany creating a neutral zone along the Rhine River.
The Armistice was a short-term agreement intended to end fighting. After it was signed, Allies gathered in Paris to draft the more comprehensive Treaty of Versailles. That treaty required Germany to accept responsibility as the aggressor and for loss and damage suffered. It was signed the following year.
America and its Allies tallied the dead and wounded. The war to end all wars was over, but in the process, a generation of common young men distinguished themselves with uncommon heroism and valor. Soldiers like Pfc. Walter A. Shaminski who entered a cellar to set up a telephone but encountered 11 enemy soldiers. He single-handedly killed two and took nine prisoners. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Or cook Harry C. Ricket, who fed exhausted soldiers even though his kitchen was under intense bombardment. He collected water for cooking from a spring that everyone else refused to approach because of heavy shelling.
Alvey C. Martz engaged in heavy fighting after Germany launched its last drive to Paris before the Armistice. His unit was overrun and he found himself surrounded behind enemy lines – his only weapon a pistol. Despite the odds against him, he killed a large number of the enemy and made his way back to his regiment. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The Armistice brought joy, relief and mourning. Pershing’s Expeditionary Force suffered 323,000 casualties and nearly 117,000 deaths. Germany’s humiliating defeat would contribute to the rise in Nazism just 20 years later. But for now, the boys were finally coming home. To learn more about WWI, search our archives on Fold3.com!