veterans day

Lest we forget

While not exactly a metal-related topic, this Sunday is Veterans Day. Not only is this worth mentioning on its own, but this year is a particularly noteworthy one. This is because Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I.

On November 11, 1918, at 11 o’clock in the morning, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent. They had been firing for four years straight, and over 17 million people had died.

At two minutes to eleven, opposite the South African Brigade, which represented the easternmost point reached by the British armies, a German machine gunner, after firing off a belt without pause, was seen to stand up beside his weapon, take off his helmet, bow, and then walk slowly to the rear. Suddenly, as the the watch-hands touched eleven, there came a second of expectant silence, and then a curious rippling sound which observers far behind the front likened to the noise of a light wind. It was the sound of men cheering from the Vosges to the sea.

John Buchan, historian and WWI veteran

The last man to die in World War I was actually an American, Henry N. Gunther, from Baltimore. He was killed at 10:59, less than 60 seconds before the end of the war, while charging the German trenches.

The German who shot him yelled that the armistice was about to begin and asked Gunther to go back. But Gunther kept coming and was killed.

veterans day

Soldiers of the 64th Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Force, celebrate in the trenches as the war ends

Originally, Veterans Day was called Armistice Day and celebrated the end of the Great War. The first Armistice Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919, and it kept that name until 1954. Part of the reason it was renamed as Veterans Day was to honor those who had fought in World War II as well as those in World War I.

The end and beginning of an Age

If you are interested in learning more about “the War to End All Wars,” there is a fantastic YouTube channel that goes through all four years one week at a time called, appropriately, The Great War. Similarly, Dan Carlin’s podcast Hardcore History has an excellent series on the war called “Blueprint for Armageddon.” Another good recommendation is Peter Jackson’s documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old.

Lastly, if you’d like to read more, there are three classic books on the topic written by WWI veterans:

Poilus: The WWI Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas – The title says it all.

All Quiet on the Western Front – A novel based on the experiences of soldier Erich Maria Remarque.

Storm of Steel – The memoirs of German soldier Ernst Jünger, one of the most famous memoirs of the war.

We would like to honor the sacrifices of those who have served, and wish everybody an enjoyable Veterans Day. Also, we would ask that you take some time this weekend to reflect, lest we forget.

veterans day

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