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The Last Day of World War One

by Speranza ( 70 Comments › )
Filed under France, Germany, History, UK at November 11th, 2011 - 6:00 pm

To the world he was a soldier, to me he was the world

American mother of a soldier killed in 1918

How is it that more men died on the last day of World War I when they knew that a ceasefire would go into effect in 6 hours, then died on D-Day? The American, British and French generals knew the fighting would end precisely at 11:00 A.M, yet in the final hours they flung men against an already beaten Germany. The result? Eleven thousand casualties suffered– more than during the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy. Why? Allied commanders wanted to punish the enemy to the very last moment and career officers saw a fast-fading chance for glory and promotion.

On March 21, 1918 Germany launched the  Ludendorff  Offensive   in a final attempt to gain military victory in the West (now that Russia was out of the war) and before the Americans arrived in great numbers to turn the tide,  which almost succeeded but the allies rallied and  held and then, in July at the 2nd Battle of the River Marne pushed back the Germans.  On August 8, 1918  – The Black Day of the German Army, the British launched their counter-attack at Amiens. The Germans were forced back and would never recover the initiative. They had suffered extremely high casualties in their offensives; the allied naval blockade was threatening starvation; revolution at home meant troops were fighting both the enemy and their own countrymen;  the Kaiser’s  navy was in revolt; and now American troops were arriving at the front in France at a rate of 250 – 300,000 each month and it was obvious that Germany was on the verge of collapse.   The Allies not wanting to deal with a dictator said they would not negotiate with the odious German generals (a huge mistake in my opinion because it allowed the generals to claim that the army was stabbed in the back) and insisted on a civilian government signing the armistice. That new civilian government went to Marshal Ferdinand Foch the Supreme Allied commander seeking an armistice on November 8, 1918.  Foch, embittered by the massive losses of French manhood and on a personal note the death of his own son told them he was not interested (this extended the war by three days and at least 20,00 casualties) in what they had to say. The Germans came back on November 11 and they signed an armistice in a railway car at Compiegne at 5:00 AM to go into effect at 11:00 AM which meant that the war had 6 hours to run. Instead of spreading the word to the commanders in the field and ordering them to stand down and wait until 11:00 AM when they could walk  and take over the German positions, the allied commanders (John J. Pershing for the Americans, Phillipe Petain for the French, and Douglas Haig for the British and British Commonwealth forces) kept sending their men across fields to attack the Germans.  Pershing felt that the Germans needed to be militarily beaten for all to see so they could not claim that they withdrew on their own.  Pershing wanted to go all the way to Berlin otherwise he felt we would have to fight the Germans all over again in another generation. He was prescient about that but his stubbornness cost 3,200 needless American casualties.  One American commander Major General William M. Wright of the United States 89th Division, sacrificed lives storming the town of Stenay  simply so that he and his troops could have a bath; … that lunatic decision cost something like 300 casualties according to American historian and author Joseph E. Persico.  Eight Hundred and Sixty-three British and Commonwealth soldiers died on the last day of the war although some had died of wounds sustained earlier.  The last American killed in World War I was Henry Gunther who was shot in the head at 10:58 AM – two minutes before the end of the war.  All the  casualties on November 11, 1918 – were ultimately unnecessary.

Ironically on June 22, 1940, Adolf Hitler made the French sign an armistice in the same railway car at Compiegne.

 

The Last Day of World War One is an episode in the 2008 season of the British Television  series Timewatch.

 

This photograph was taken after reaching an agreement for the armistice that ended World War I. This is Ferdinand Foch‘s own railway carriage and the location is in the forest of Compiègne. Foch is second from the right.

black and white photograph of five men in military uniforms standing side-to-side in front of a railcar. Four men are disembarking behind them.

Painting depicting the signature of the armistice in the railway carriage. Behind the table, from right to left, General Weygand, Marshal Foch (standing) and British Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss and fourth from the left, British Naval Captain, JPR Marriott Jack Marriott. In the foreground, Matthias Erzberger, general major Detlof von Winterfeldt (with helmet), Alfred von Oberndorff and Ernst Vanselow

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70 Responses to “The Last Day of World War One”
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  1. mawskrat
    1 | November 11, 2011 6:20 pm

    live from the hotel suite
    my daughter is getting married tonight
    we are gonna have a special toast for the
    veterans at the reception tonight


  2. coldwarrior
    2 | November 11, 2011 6:24 pm

    mawskrat wrote:

    live from the hotel suite
    my daughter is getting married tonight
    we are gonna have a special toast for the
    veterans at the reception tonight

    cool! congrats!


  3. mawskrat
    3 | November 11, 2011 6:24 pm

    and the hotel is half filled with Steeler
    fans in town for the game tomorrow


  4. mawskrat
    4 | November 11, 2011 6:25 pm

    @ mawskrat:
    time to go


  5. coldwarrior
    5 | November 11, 2011 6:26 pm

    why such a large artillery bombardment so late in the war up to the last tick of the clock?

    simple, no one wanted to load all those artillery shells back on a truck, then onto a train and then unload them again, then load them onto trucks or boats or whatever, then put them back in the ammo dumps back in their own countries.


  6. coldwarrior
    6 | November 11, 2011 6:27 pm

    mawskrat wrote:

    and the hotel is half filled with Steeler
    fans in town for the game tomorrow

    classy joint!

    :lol:


  7. Speranza
    7 | November 11, 2011 6:38 pm

    coldwarrior wrote:

    why such a large artillery bombardment so late in the war up to the last tick of the clock?
    simple, no one wanted to load all those artillery shells back on a truck, then onto a train and then unload them again, then load them onto trucks or boats or whatever, then put them back in the ammo dumps back in their own countries.

    So send your men across no mans land into the face of heavy machine gunfire as if it was still 1914 -17. Brilliant leadership!


  8. Speranza
    8 | November 11, 2011 6:39 pm

    Take the time out to watch the Timewatch documentary and crap like football will not seem so important.


  9. coldwarrior
    9 | November 11, 2011 6:39 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    So send your men across no mans land into the face of heavy machine gunfire as if it was still 1914 -17. Brilliant leadership!

    those officers should have been shot by their own men for that.


  10. Speranza
    10 | November 11, 2011 6:42 pm

    coldwarrior wrote:

    those officers should have been shot by their own men for that.

    It was criminal to do what they did.


  11. Speranza
    11 | November 11, 2011 6:46 pm

    3,200 American casualties and for what? Once the armistice had been signed (to go into effect in 6 hours) orders should have been given out to all soldiers to stand down and stay in the trenches.


  12. Speranza
    12 | November 11, 2011 7:08 pm

    This looks like another thread of mine that will wind up with 19 comments.


  13. huckfunn
    13 | November 11, 2011 7:16 pm

    Pershing was opposed to the Armistice and wanted to push on to Berlin. After the war, there was a group of citizens that wanted an investigation of Pershing’s orders that lead to so many American deaths in the remaining hours of the war. The investigation was halted. Pershing was unapologetic. Pershing (born in 1860) was not unlike his military predecessors like Burnside who sacrificed 10′s of thousands of troops at Fredericksburg during the civil war. The prevalent idea was that a general who was willing to take large sacrifices was a real fighter.

    Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame, is a real student of WWI and has produced at least 1 TV documentary and this article on the last day of WWI.


  14. Speranza
    14 | November 11, 2011 7:20 pm

    @ huckfunn:
    Pershing was right in his analysis however since armistice was agreed upon he should not have sacrificed American lives.


  15. Speranza
    15 | November 11, 2011 7:21 pm

    @ huckfunn:
    One day I want to tour WWI battlefields in France and Belgium.


  16. Prebanned
    16 | November 11, 2011 7:24 pm

    Is this any different than telling our soldiers they can’t shoot back until they do a risk assesment?
    Seriously, maximizing your own casualties is a muslim thing.


  17. BatGuano
    17 | November 11, 2011 7:28 pm

    @ huckfunn:
    WW1 was a 20th century war fought with 18th century tactics.


  18. huckfunn
    18 | November 11, 2011 7:28 pm

    @ Speranza:
    I’d love to go there. My great uncle (my grandfather’s oldest brother) was a doctor and gas warfare specialist in WWI. He died at the age of 55 in 1933 due to the lingering effects of trench fever. Read the whole thing. That C.M.G. is a minor knighthood. In 1924 he was appointed honorary physician to the King of England.


  19. huckfunn
    19 | November 11, 2011 7:30 pm

    @ huckfunn:
    Forgot the link.


  20. BatGuano
    20 | November 11, 2011 7:37 pm

    @ BatGuano:
    PIMF. 19th century tactics


  21. huckfunn
    21 | November 11, 2011 7:43 pm

    BatGuano wrote:

    @ huckfunn:
    WW1 was a 20th century war fought with 18th century tactics.

    My favorite period of history is from about 1888 through 1920. The end of the monarchies.


  22. 22 | November 11, 2011 7:56 pm

    this seems appropriate. My friends down under at Crusader Rabbit blog, posted this a few days ago
    http://falfn.com/CrusaderRabbit/?p=9574

    which links to
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2058048/We-failed-faith-men-died-us.html

    War Memorials are being destroyed by barbarians. Very sad.


  23. 23 | November 11, 2011 8:02 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    This looks like another thread of mine that will wind up with 19 comments.

    But it’s a good post. very informative. i appreciate it.


  24. 24 | November 11, 2011 8:06 pm

    huckfunn wrote:

    @ Speranza:
    I’d love to go there. My great uncle (my grandfather’s oldest brother) was a doctor and gas warfare specialist in WWI. He died at the age of 55 in 1933 due to the lingering effects of trench fever. Read the whole thing. That C.M.G. is a minor knighthood. In 1924 he was appointed honorary physician to the King of England.

    Your great uncle had a very impressive career!


  25. yenta-fada
    25 | November 11, 2011 8:20 pm

    Kirly wrote:

    Speranza wrote:
    This looks like another thread of mine that will wind up with 19 comments.
    But it’s a good post. very informative. i appreciate it.

    I appreciate it as well. I’m not up on the history, however, respect for the sacrifices that were made is no longer a priority in current Western thinking. We’ve had war memorials vandalized here by morons who have no respect for the past or the present. They are uncivilized in a way that used to be frowned upon. It is sad.


  26. huckfunn
    26 | November 11, 2011 8:33 pm

    @ Kirly:
    Indeed he did. To the best of my knowledge he was never married and had no children. He had 2 sisters and 4 brothers. My grandfather and his twin brother had distinguished careers as missionaries and later as pastors. One of the sisters was also a doctor during WWI.


  27. Dolphin
    27 | November 11, 2011 8:46 pm

    @ Kirly:
    Me too. I didn’t know this. I love learning new (to me) history.


  28. BatGuano
    28 | November 11, 2011 9:07 pm

    @ huckfunn:
    I agree. {Twinkles!}


  29. Speranza
    29 | November 11, 2011 9:48 pm

    Kirly wrote:

    Speranza wrote:

    This looks like another thread of mine that will wind up with 19 comments.

    But it’s a good post. very informative. i appreciate it.

    That makes it somewhat worthwhile.
    too bad so many otherwise intelligent people who could contribute prefer to talk about Charles Johnson all day.


  30. Speranza
    30 | November 11, 2011 9:49 pm

    yenta-fada wrote:

    We’ve had war memorials vandalized here by morons who have no respect for the past or the present. They are uncivilized in a way that used to be frowned upon. It is sad.

    A bunch of mindless miscreants.


  31. Speranza
    31 | November 11, 2011 9:50 pm

    huckfunn wrote:

    BatGuano wrote:
    @ huckfunn:
    WW1 was a 20th century war fought with 18th century tactics.

    My favorite period of history is from about 1888 through 1920. The end of the monarchies.

    The armies of the Great War did not learn the lessons of the American Civil War.


  32. Speranza
    32 | November 11, 2011 9:51 pm

    Prebanned wrote:

    Is this any different than telling our soldiers they can’t shoot back until they do a risk assesment?
    Seriously, maximizing your own casualties is a muslim thing.

    Good points!


  33. 33 | November 11, 2011 9:56 pm

    The rogue’s gallery in ww 1 is long. It doesn’t surprise me that so many Europeans turned to nihilism after the war.


  34. BatGuano
    34 | November 11, 2011 9:58 pm

    @ Speranza:
    Indeed, they did not.


  35. Speranza
    35 | November 11, 2011 10:01 pm

    Zimriel wrote:

    The rogue’s gallery in ww 1 is long. It doesn’t surprise me that so many Europeans turned to nihilism after the war.

    Sir Douglas Haig -a butcher.


  36. mfhorn
    36 | November 11, 2011 10:06 pm

    @ Kirly:

    Yeah, those barbarians better not vandalize a war memorial where I can see it happening.


  37. Speranza
    37 | November 11, 2011 10:08 pm

    If I mentioned Charles Johnson in my introduction, the thread would be up to almost 300 comments by how.


  38. huckfunn
    38 | November 11, 2011 10:15 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    The armies of the Great War did not learn the lessons of the American Civil War.

    Yep. 19th century tactics against 20th century weapons. Further, the officer corps of the British, Russians and French were staffed with nobility and their positions of rank had little or nothing to do with merit, experience or knowledge of battlefield tactics.


  39. Speranza
    39 | November 11, 2011 10:19 pm

    huckfunn wrote:

    Speranza wrote:
    The armies of the Great War did not learn the lessons of the American Civil War.

    Yep. 19th century tactics against 20th century weapons. Further, the officer corps of the British, Russians and French were staffed with nobility and their positions of rank had little or nothing to do with merit, experience or knowledge of battlefield tactics.

    The French wore bright red pants at the beginning of the war.


  40. coldwarrior
    40 | November 11, 2011 10:20 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    @ huckfunn:
    One day I want to tour WWI battlefields in France and Belgium.

    i’ve been to most of the battlefields (ww1 and 2) in that region.

    verdun, ardennes, bastogne, somme…i had leave for a week that i had to use so i flew (military standby from berlin) to brussels and rented a car and stayed at b and b’s


  41. coldwarrior
    41 | November 11, 2011 10:21 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    If I mentioned Charles Johnson in my introduction, the thread would be up to almost 300 comments by how.

    true…

    i was away studying studying studying. my eyes hurt now so it is time for a bass ale.


  42. yenta-fada
    42 | November 11, 2011 10:24 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    If I mentioned Charles Johnson in my introduction, the thread would be up to almost 300 comments by how.

    hahaha. It is a ‘foundational’ topic. Although boobs and rock music
    would help too. :-) Also, lots of people just want to kick back Friday night. Don’t give up on us!


  43. Speranza
    43 | November 11, 2011 10:25 pm

    coldwarrior wrote:

    i’ve been to most of the battlefields (ww1 and 2) in that region.

    verdun, ardennes, bastogne, somme…i had leave for a week that i had to use so i flew (military standby from berlin) to brussels and rented a car and stayed at b and b’s

    That sounds like so much historical fun.


  44. huckfunn
    44 | November 11, 2011 10:25 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    The French wore bright red pants at the beginning of the war.

    The Zouaves died in great great style and great numbers.


  45. Speranza
    45 | November 11, 2011 10:25 pm

    @ yenta-fada:
    I took me a while to get this thread ready so I am somewhat disappointed.


  46. Speranza
    46 | November 11, 2011 10:28 pm

    huckfunn wrote:

    Speranza wrote:
    The French wore bright red pants at the beginning of the war.

    The Zouaves died in great great style and great numbers.

    The Battle of the Frontiers (August 14 -24, 1914) cost the French almost 150,000 casualties. Read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August”.


  47. huckfunn
    47 | November 11, 2011 10:30 pm

    coldwarrior wrote:

    Speranza wrote:
    @ huckfunn:
    One day I want to tour WWI battlefields in France and Belgium.

    i’ve been to most of the battlefields (ww1 and 2) in that region.
    verdun, ardennes, bastogne, somme…i had leave for a week that i had to use so i flew (military standby from berlin) to brussels and rented a car and stayed at b and b’s

    I wish I’d gone to see those places when my brother and I zoomed thru Europe in 1976. We had a great time but we weren’t on the cultural tour. There was a show on the Military Channel last night about an archiealogical dig of WWI trenches in Flanders. Interesting stuff.


  48. huckfunn
    48 | November 11, 2011 10:31 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    The Battle of the Frontiers (August 14 -24, 1914) cost the French almost 150,000 casualties. Read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August”.

    Great book. Read it about 30 years ago.


  49. 49 | November 11, 2011 10:32 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    @ yenta-fada:
    I took me a while to get this thread ready so I am somewhat disappointed.

    well, for what it’s worth, i think it’s a great topic and perfectly appropriate for today, Veterans Day.

    I work at a defense contractor. today was awesome there too. everyone was dressed in their red, white, and blue. there was a flag raising ceremony, and a speech, and some other festivities. it was great. and this thread was just right for the end of my Veterans Day.


  50. coldwarrior
    50 | November 11, 2011 10:33 pm

    @ Speranza:

    it was, i went to walk on the same ground as my ‘ancestors’ did all those years ago, and, it was off season, so rooms were cheaper and the wonderful inns werent as crowded. the belgian ales and the great food was rather enjoyable.

    i even got to see nato hq.


  51. 51 | November 11, 2011 10:33 pm

    @ Speranza:
    and, i watched the entire documentary. that was a great addition.


  52. Calo
    52 | November 11, 2011 10:34 pm

    @ Speranza:
    The Timewatch utoobage is 45 minutes long. It takes some of us a while to slough through the thread when we get home LATE!


  53. coldwarrior
    53 | November 11, 2011 10:34 pm

    huckfunn wrote:

    I wish I’d gone to see those places when my brother and I zoomed thru Europe in 1976.

    i had years to kill there, so lots of traveling was done


  54. yenta-fada
    54 | November 11, 2011 10:37 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    @ yenta-fada:
    I took me a while to get this thread ready so I am somewhat disappointed.

    I know. :-(


  55. m
    55 | November 11, 2011 10:40 pm

    @ Speranza:

    Don’t be, please! It’s a holiday Friday~ you know how that goes!


  56. huckfunn
    56 | November 11, 2011 10:42 pm

    Here’s a good video for Veteran’s Day. The marble of our heroes’ headstones. Check it out.


  57. Speranza
    57 | November 11, 2011 10:43 pm

    Kirly wrote:

    @ Speranza:
    and, i watched the entire documentary. that was a great addition.

    It is one of the best documentaries I ever saw. Very poignant.


  58. Speranza
    58 | November 11, 2011 10:44 pm

    coldwarrior wrote:

    @ Speranza:
    it was, i went to walk on the same ground as my ‘ancestors’ did all those years ago, and, it was off season, so rooms were cheaper and the wonderful inns werent as crowded. the belgian ales and the great food was rather enjoyable.
    i even got to see nato hq.

    The fields are so pretty from what I’ve seen,not much hint of the blood that was shed. The cemeteries must be very moving.


  59. coldwarrior
    59 | November 11, 2011 10:45 pm

    @ Speranza:

    i was there in early february. it was dark and grey the whole time, snow and sleet, cold, very fitting.


  60. Speranza
    60 | November 11, 2011 10:48 pm

    The horrific loss of lives that the French and British armies suffered in WWI understandably made them weary and horrified to have to fight another war with Germany 21 years later. From Metropolitan France 1, 350,000 French men (most form the ages of 18 -27) were killed. These were supposed to be the future leaders of France. By 1939 she had almost barely made up the losses from the blood letting. The French population was aging too -- it was a demographic disaster. Britain and the Commonwealth had almost 1,000,000 dead soldiers/sailors.


  61. Speranza
    61 | November 11, 2011 10:50 pm

    coldwarrior wrote:

    @ Speranza:
    i was there in early february. it was dark and grey the whole time, snow and sleet, cold, very fitting.

    A friend of mine once followed the route of Kampfgruppe Peiper during the Battle of the Bulge. He visited the site of the Malmedy Massacre.


  62. huckfunn
    62 | November 11, 2011 10:55 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    The horrific loss of lives that the French and British armies suffered in WWI understandably made them weary and horrified to have to fight another war with Germany 21 years later. From Metropolitan France 1, 350,000 French men (most form the ages of 18 -27) were killed. These were supposed to be the future leaders of France. By 1939 she had almost barely made up the losses from the blood letting. The French population was aging too – it was a demographic disaster. Britain and the Commonwealth had almost 1,000,000 dead soldiers/sailors.

    Unbelievable carnage.


  63. coldwarrior
    63 | November 11, 2011 10:57 pm

    @ Speranza:

    the 28th infantry division (now pa national guard) received the brunt of the first days at the bulge. the unit patch is a red keystone, the germans renamed it ‘the bloody bucket’. it is still refered that way today.

    The Rundstedt offensive was launched in Belgium on 16 December along the entire Division front. The 28th fought in place using all available personnel and threw off the enemy timetable before withdrawing to Neufchâteau on 22 December for reorganization, as its units had been badly mauled.


  64. Speranza
    64 | November 11, 2011 11:12 pm

    coldwarrior wrote:

    @ Speranza:
    the 28th infantry division (now pa national guard) received the brunt of the first days at the bulge. the unit patch is a red keystone, the germans renamed it ‘the bloody bucket’. it is still refered that way today.

    The Rundstedt offensive was launched in Belgium on 16 December along the entire Division front. The 28th fought in place using all available personnel and threw off the enemy timetable before withdrawing to Neufchâteau on 22 December for reorganization, as its units had been badly mauled.

    Eddie Slovik the only American executed for desertion since the Civil War, was a member of the 28th infantry division.


  65. Speranza
    65 | November 11, 2011 11:12 pm

    huckfunn wrote:

    Speranza wrote:
    The horrific loss of lives that the French and British armies suffered in WWI understandably made them weary and horrified to have to fight another war with Germany 21 years later. From Metropolitan France 1, 350,000 French men (most from the ages of 18 -27) were killed. These were supposed to be the future leaders of France. By 1939 she had almost barely made up the losses from the blood letting. The French population was aging too – it was a demographic disaster. Britain and the Commonwealth had almost 1,000,000 dead soldiers/sailors.

    Unbelievable carnage.

    The lost generation they were called.


  66. coldwarrior
    66 | November 11, 2011 11:15 pm

    @ Speranza:

    i am surprised he was the only one shot for that.


  67. Speranza
    67 | November 12, 2011 6:57 am

    coldwarrior wrote:

    @ Speranza:
    i am surprised he was the only one shot for that.

    They wanted to make an example. It was not Eisenhower’s finest hour.


  68. 68 | November 12, 2011 10:37 am

    Speranza wrote:

    Zimriel wrote:
    The rogue’s gallery in ww 1 is long. It doesn’t surprise me that so many Europeans turned to nihilism after the war.

    Sir Douglas Haig -a butcher.

    That he was.

    mfhorn wrote:

    @ Kirly:
    Yeah, those barbarians better not vandalize a war memorial where I can see it happening.

    Same here. And I am 58 years old and a woman of small stature. But I can pick up whatever heavy object is around and crack the perp over the head.


  69. 70 | November 12, 2011 7:05 pm

    Speranza wrote:

    huckfunn wrote:
    Speranza wrote:
    The French wore bright red pants at the beginning of the war.
    The Zouaves died in great great style and great numbers.

    The Battle of the Frontiers (August 14 -24, 1914) cost the French almost 150,000 casualties. Read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August”.

    really good book


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