The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day

November 11, 1918. Armistice Day. The day the Great War, the War to End All Wars, the war that was named World War I only after we realized it didn’t end all wars, only after we had to start numbering them, ended.

Beginning in September 1918 the Central Powers started to surrender, one by one. First Bulgaria, then the Ottoman Empire. Next the Austro-Hungarian army suffered a crushing defeat that effectively ended that country’s ability to continue fighting.  On October 29 the Italians capitulated, leaving only Germany.

On November 11, 1918, at 5:00 a.m. in a railroad car Germany signed an armistice. According to its terms, a cease fire would go into effect six hours later, at 11:00, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. World War I came to an end.

It wasn’t officially over until the Treaty of Versailles, which was finally negotiated and signed on June 28, 1919. The terms of that treaty were so onerous to Germany that World War II was inevitable. But for the time being, there was peace.

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