Eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month…

Words that bring a chill to anyone who studies history… 9,000,000 overall war dead, 21,000,000 wounded, 117,000 Americans dead and 5,700,000 civilians estimated dead…

At 5 a.m. that morning, November 11th, 1918, Germany, out of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. The decision was made to hold the notification of the signing until 1100 to provide the symmetry that we know today.

It all started on June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

It led to trench warfare, biowarfare, with the gassing of troops on both sides, and battles across Europe and the Mediterranean, including the infamous Battle of Gallipoli, searing that name for every in the history of Australia and New Zealand, HERE.

Germany, France, Britain, and other countries lost pretty much an entire generation of young men, and scars from WWI still mar the landscape in Europe. Supposedly the war to end all wars, sadly became merely a prelude to WWII, around 20 years later.

My dad served in WWI as a rifle and pistol instructor at Camp Beauregard in Louisiana, because he was an expert with rifle and pistols prior to joining the Army. He also suffered from Influenza during the time, and that may have contributed to his early death in 1959.

The first unknowns were selected from among the British, French, and American war dead.

Following the custom inaugurated by other allied countries in World War I the Congress on March 4, 1921, approved a Resolution providing for the burial in Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater on Armistice Day 1921 of an unknown and unidentified American soldier of World War I. The Secretary of War delegated to the Quartermaster Corps the duty of selecting the Unknown Soldier and accordingly the Quartermaster General directed the Chief, American Graves Registration Service in Europe to select from among the burials of America’s Unknown Dead the bodies of four who fell in the combat area in order that one from among them could be anonymously designated as the one for burial in accordance with the provisions of the Resolution. Four bodies of Unknown Soldiers were selected, one from each of the following cemeteries Aisne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne, Somme and St. Mihiel–and brought to Chalons where they were placed in the Hotel de Ville. The fact that the bodies selected were those of Americans was determined by the location of place of death, original burial and uniforms. The utmost care was taken to see that there was no evidence of identification on the bodies selected and no indication that their identity could ever be established.

After the four bodies were arranged in the Hotel de Ville, the next step was the matter of selecting the one from among them to represent all the Unknown American Dead. This ceremony though simple was most impressive. In view of his outstanding service,  Sergeant Edward Younger, on duty with the American Forces in Germany, was given the honor of making the final selection. On Monday morning, October 24, 1921, at 10 :00 A.M. in the presence of The Quartermaster General, the Commanding General of the American Forces in Germany, the Mayor of Chalons-sur-Marne, high officers of the French Army, distinguished French citizens and eminent American and French civilians the selection was made. While a French military band played an appropriate air, Sergeant Younger slowly entered the room where the four caskets were placed. Passing between two lines formed by the officials he silently advanced to the caskets, circled them three times and placed a spray of white roses on the third casket from the left. He  then faced the body, stood at attention, and saluted. He was immediately followed by officers of the French Army who saluted in the name of the French people.

The rest of that story is HERE.

TODAY is the day to thank those veterans, and say a prayer for those currently serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. To my fellow veterans, I would propose the toast, “Absent Comrades”, for those who did not make it home.

And to the families- No one says thank you for your sacrifice. So let me say thank you to all of the significant others that hold the fort down while we go on long deployments. Thank you for putting up with all the moves. Thanks to all of the dependents who step up and do the extra chores around the house. When the veteran is deployed the budget has to be stretched. The significant other becomes the banker. Thanks to all of the families that hope for only good news. Thank you families for your service.

And to my shipmates in the P-3 all those years, and those onstation today in the P-8 and other airframes from all services…


11/11/11… — 16 Comments

  1. Thank you, faithful servants. We wouldn’t be here without your work. Few choose the sacrifice that you did.

  2. Thank you to all Veterans who sacrificed so that U.S. interests were protected. And to the families who uproot their lives to follow along. God protect and guide every one.

  3. > It all started on June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

    That’s the accepted history-book version, but the truth is that Wilhelm II had been preparing for war for years, because he was a nut and wanted the ghetto-style “respect” of his peers. His General Staff had been ready for some time; Wilhelm was simply waiting for a convenient justification.

    The assassination itself is worth reading about; it was incompetent beyond belief, with more WTFs than any reasonable person could accept. Yes, fiction has to believable and reality only has to be true, but the officially accepted sequence of events is so bizarre it beggars belief. And there was almost no actual investigation done; the killer was caught immediately and there was that “war” thing harshing everyone’s mellow.

    • While not seeking to absolve Wilhelm II for his share of the blame, I’d also suggest the French and Russians were hardly blameless in the whole affair. I’m not sure I’d go quite as far as Sean McMeekin in “The Russian Origins of the First World War” in placing primary blame on Russia, but it was a lot more multi-faceted than generally accepted. I think our post-WWII view of the world inclines us to place more than its fair share of the blame for WWI on Imperial Germany. OTOH, primary blame for US entry into WWI might fairly be given to Germany.

  4. All- Thanks for the comments. TRX/TOS- Excellent points, and it literally depends on ‘which’ version of history you read. There was a LOT of blame to go around…

    Posted from my iPhone.

  5. When I read the history of the prelude to WWI, I always have the thought, “Where the hell are the adults?” The whole affair seems like a Junior High School brawl except instead of fists, all sides armed with the deadliest weapons of the day and instead of realizing the futility of a “quick” victory, they keep at it for four years of insanity and mayhem.

    • My opinion is that they nobody expected it to be nearly as bad as it was, many of the leaders players had varying degrees of unrest that a war might help diminish, and once they’d started they became darned determined to wrest some sort of victory out of it to justify the blood that had already been spilled – and keep the unrest at home from growing. The expectations part is easy to explain: None of the leading players at the start of the war had experienced large-scale land combat with peer competitors in four decades or more. The Russo-Japanese War was limited in scope, the Crimean and Franco-Prussian wars were six and four decades earlier, and the then-recent Balkan Wars had not really involved the leading players, even if they had involved the Ottoman Empire, which entered the blood-bath later. Domestic unrest made losing a war after having suffered horrendous casualties a dangerous option for the leadership.

  6. The Tomb Guard maintains a nice website at: https://tombguard.org

    One of the young soldiers pictured on the home page did not return home. Absent comrades indeed.

    The Guard encourages Associate Memberships to help support the on-going mission of the Guards. Not only do active duty Guards “walk the mat” 24×7, but former Guards make presentations about the tomb and its history to school groups and community service organizations throughout the country.

    With 2021 coming up, they are planning for their 100th anniversary and are just a great bunch of guys to support.

  7. Brig- Thanks!

    TOS- Excellent point.

    Frank- Yep, One of my coworkers was a former Tomb Guard. He and his wife gave me a private tour. The wives know as much as the husbands, because they help them study! 🙂 And it was interesting to see the Guard rifles neatly racked, and the ‘reaction’ rifles stuck in a corner… LOL

    • V cool. Though a civilian, I stitch together their newsletter each quarter. It’s a neat group of guys and a very special culture. Got to hear their aging Chaplain last year in the Tomb Chapel talk about his time on the mat.

  8. WWI — what a disaster, at every level. As a child I’d look at the long lists of the fallen in English country churches and my various schools. Incalculable harm was done to the country.

    Respect to all serving today and their families and may those who gave their lives rest in peace and rise in glory.

  9. Hey Old NFO;

    Excellent post and good background on the reasons for WWI and the subsequent “Armistice” day that became “Veterans Day”. My Dad was a TombGuard in the early 60’s. He would tell me stories about LBJ and his antics.

  10. LSP- That it was. Britain, Germany, and France lost damn near an entire generation of men.

    Bob- Thanks.