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World War I Armistice Signed: November 11, 1918 – 100th Anniversary

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!

The Armistice would take effect six hours later, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, in the 11th month. The delay allowed time for the news to travel along the Western Front.

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!

 

97 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this little bit of history. We should never forget!

  2. I really appreciate this article because it causes me to remember & be thankful. It blessed me.

    My mother Leona was born in 1912. When WWI ended, she was 6 1/2 years old. Her mother had her run with the news and tell the neighbors. She ran to a widow to tell her that the war was over and her son was coming home–what a wonderful childhood memory!

  3. These commemorations have a way of developing into what look more like elaborate celebrations as layer on layer of officials, retired brass and whatever spare royals happen to be hanging around get added, like the proverbial cherry on top, to the cake. As a veteran of the 11th ACR, Xuan Loc, 1967-68, I believe the appropriate way to commemorate the dead is to honour and help the family members they left behind. Widows and orphans though have never been high on the invitation list to these events. Until the message that comes with the poppies is ‘don’t ever do this again’. they are just another floral arrangement.

    • True enough….and your final sentence illustrates the conundrum about Remembrance Day/Armistice Day or the disingenuous ‘veteran’s day in the USA.

      That is: some people DO see the poppy as a “never again’ statement and remember the Somme while others see it as a call to arms. In the USA, some still cling to the remembrance of the ‘war to end all wars’ while others wave the flag and try to out-patriot each other. (flying the American flag has become imbued with militarism, and ‘support our troops’ has become a slogan glossing over why they are being deployed)

      Now what?

  4. My grandfather was a WWI veteran and was in the Argonne offensive and the Ypres offensive as well. He was in several skirmishes Bacarrat, Nancy, Avocourt. He fought with the 37th Division “Buckeyes”. As a civilian he was a peaceful man and kind and a loving grandfather. You would never know he saw the horrors of war. He was glad to be an American. He never talked about the war. He was wounded twice. He never bragged. He always smiled and loved his family, especially his grandchildren. He loved life. I believe he was glad he survived a terrible event in history. He was a deeply humble man. I wish more people could be like him.

  5. My Father fought in the First World War. He served in the Royal Artillery and was on the Somme. He had several narrow escapes and witnessed colleagues killed around him. I often wonder if he suffered PTSD, as he suffered a ‘nervous breakdown’ and was a victim of depressive illness for his whole life.

    My Mother’s elder brother also was enlisted and unfortunately was killed at the tender age of 18. His name was Alfred and that is one of my middle names.

    Such a terrible waste of all those hundreds of thousands of young lives! And the sad part is that we didn’t learn from it in time to prevent the next war.