100 years ago today, Allied leaders and German officials signed the Armistice that brought an end to four and a half years of fighting on the Western Front. While not a surrender, the Armistice represented a complete defeat for Germany, which had been seeking a ceasefire since its military situation had become hopeless in late September of 1918.
The German delegation, under Secretary of State and peace advocate Matthias Erzberger, arrived in a forest clearing near the north French town of Compiegne on November 8th with the intention of winning some concessions. However, as discussions took place in the private railway carriage of Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Foch, there were no negotiations. When Erzberger was told that the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, had abdicated, Erzberger was instructed by Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg to sign the armistice on the Allied’s terms.
The Armistice was signed at 5am on the morning of November 11th, and it went into effect at 11am the same day. Its terms included the removal of German troops from occupied territories, the surrender of the German’s U-boat fleet, the surrender of all German cannons, planes and machine guns, and the immediate release of all Allied prisoners.
There were 2,738 deaths during the last morning of the war. The last British soldier to die was 40-year-old George Ellison, who was shot at 9.30am on the outskirts of Mons in Belgium. He fell less than four miles from where John Parr – the first British casualty – had been killed on August 21, 1914. The two are buried in the same cemetery with their graves facing each other.
According to one corporal at the Front, German soldiers climbed out of their trenches at 11am, bowed, and walked away. Exhausted Allied soldiers could barely bring themselves to celebrate the end of 52 long months of fighting, but in the towns and cities of the victorious nations, people were dancing in the streets at the news that the war was at its end.
After the signing of the Armistice, Erzberger was branded a traitor by the Germans. Two former navy offices assassinated him while walking in the Black Forest in August 1921.
Marshal Foch’s railway carriage spend much of the next decade on display in Paris before returning to the Compiegne clearing in 1927. Adolf Hitler received the French surrender in the same carriage in June 1940. The carriage was later taken to Berlin and burnt down by retreating SS forces in 1945.
A clip from Making Sense Of The Sixties, a 6-part PBS series from 1991. William Haden, a civil rights leader in Pittsburgh, speaks with intense energy and emotion.
Tip of the hat to Geoff Edlins (@gpe) for recently sharing this.
More info on Mr. Haden in his obituary:
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During 1887 four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1884, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
More than a century after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
In 1887, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado were among the first states to approve state legal holidays. Then other states joined in to create their own state Labor Days. In response to a groundswell of support for a national holiday celebrating the nation’s workers, Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to the 53rd Congress to make Labor Day a legal holiday on the first Monday of September each year. It was approved on June 28, 1894.
From the New Haven Register:
[Yeltsin] told his fellow Russians in his entourage that if their people, who often must wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets, “there would be a revolution.”
This is what a Russian grocery store looked like at the time:
Deep Throat stamped his foot. “A conspiracy like this . . . a conspiracy investigation . . . the rope has to tighten slowly around everyone’s neck. You build convincingly from the outer edges in, you get ten times the evidence you need against the Hunts and Liddys. They feel hopelessly finished—they may not talk right away, but the grip is on them. Then you move up and do the same thing at the next level.”
― Carl Bernstein,