“…I suddenly noticed that I could hear water dripping off a bush next to me. Our guns stopped—and no shells were coming on us. It seemed mysterious, queer, unbelievable. All the men knew what the silence meant, but nobody shouted or threw his hat in the air…” – Brig. Gen. Stanhope Bayne-Jones, U.S. Army medical officer recounting Armistice Day.
Let’s step back in time for a moment. Back to a time when society may have been simpler, but war was not. Where there were real front lines and you could see the face of the enemy as you took their life. For four years, men fought relentlessly and 16 million lives were lost. Anyone that survived the carnage was sure to know someone who was killed.
Four years the Germans and Allies continued to batter each other in any way possible. The fighting had made its way to France, with the Allies beginning to feel the throes of defeat while the Germans were starving and their power weakening. Both sides suffering mentally, emotionally, physically- ready for either side to give.
Then, finally- it came. A message requesting a cease-fire and an armistice, a truce. The Germans took a couple of cars and carefully made their way through the battered front line, waving a white flag as they went. From there, they boarded a train until they made it to the Forest of Compiègne, where they would board the Allied commander-in-chief’s rail car.
For three days, they attempted to negotiate the terms of the Armistice. Ultimately, the Germans had to agree to a complete disarmament and pull out of France, Belgium and Luxembourg. If they did not follow the terms, they would become instant Prisoners of War. The Germans agreed to the terms. This happened on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month. The year, 1918.
While the negotiations happened, the battle raged on with fierce intensity. Once the final agreement happened, however, it took merely minutes for the news to travel and literally everything and everyone stopped. For the first few hours, no one was sure if this was actually the end. Then, as the silence continued, slowly the celebrations began. Fireworks and champagne were even popped.
Armistice Day became celebrated throughout the world. A year later, a huge celebration was held and it became the first official observance. In 1954, the name changed to Veterans Day and honored veterans of all eras. This year, 2019, marks the 100th observance of Armistice Day.
The impact World War I and the subsequent wars – all the way to today’s – have had their unique impacts on history. The men and women who fought at that time are a breed like no other and should be remembered for all of time.
We Will Never Forget. All gave some, some gave All.