November, 1918, 100 years ago, was an election year in Nevada, but the most important news of the day had a much larger worldwide impact.
At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, World War I ended.
Known at the time as “The Great War” – the official end came when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France.
But hostilities had ceased on Nov. 11.
How did the people of Eureka County celebrate the news? The Eureka Sentinel published the story on Nov. 16 sporting a small headline that read: “European war ended Monday. Conditions of the Armistice granted to German by America and Allies make it impossible for Germany to renew fighting.”
The Sentinel does not report anything on how the people of Eureka County celebrated the news, but it is likely it took place like anywhere else, with the people in the streets and ringing of the fire house bell and mine whistles blowing much of the day.
As suddenly as the news of the end of the war came, Germany had been facing the reality of surrender for over a month.
Deserted by all her allies, her great military machine in the process of destruction by the continuing onslaught of allied armies, the military high command was beginning to accept the fact of defeat.
On Oct. 2, 1918, a German officer arrived at the Reichstag building in Berlin with a message from German Army Chief Erich Ludendorff.
It read: “The German Army is exhausted. Reserves are used up. We cannot win the war.”
For years, the captive of the Army, the Reichstag assembly is shocked by the message, but Ludendorff cannot be denied.
On Oct. 6, the Reichstag sends a message to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, via the U.S. embassy in Bern, Switzerland. “The German government requests an immediate armistice on land, on sea and in the air.”
However, after four years of war, the world can hardly bring itself to stop.
Wilson responds quickly to the German request saying there can be no discussion until the German Army pulls out of France and Belgium.
British, French and American forces are poised and ready for a huge new offensive on the western front in the Muese-Argonne.
Faced with the ultimatum from Wilson, General Ludendorff’s heart is hardened and he informs the Kaiser of his intention to keep fighting “even against the rising tide of defeat.”
But the tide of defeat is indeed rising all around, including Germany’s partner, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which is crumbling internally. German and Austrian troops are surrendering to the Allied armies by the thousands. Later, there will be a mutiny in the German Navy.
Yet, five more weeks will pass, with 250,000 American troops still shipped to France and England.
In Berlin, a civilian government decides to relieve Ludendorff of his command and seek peace talks with the Allies.
On the night of Nov. 7, a German delegation drives through the French lines under a white flag to meet with Allied representatives. They meet in a railroad car on a siding in the woods of Compiègne, 85 miles behind the front. A place that will become a shrine of French victory, and 22 years later, of German revenge.
Terms are discussed and written down. The Germans ask for time to consider the terms, but Berlin replies to accept unconditionally.
On Nov. 10, Kaiser Wilhelm II, grandson of Queen Victoria, abdicates the throne and flees to neutral Holland. He will die there June 4, 1941 at age 82.
At the railway car in Compiègne at 5:10 a.m., Nov. 11, Paris time, the armistice is signed.
The cease fire order will go into effect at 11 a.m. The news is flashed to all armies on both sides.
The armistice, rumored for days, now confirmed, will occur in six hours. French and American troops continue their push in the Meuse-Argonne region. One American regiment is ordered over the top at 10:55 a.m. They suffer multiple casualties.
At 10:59, along the 700 mile long western front, hundreds of cannon and artillery pieces open fire, hoping to claim the honor of firing the last shot.
At 11 a.m. all is stopped.
One newspaper reporter wrote about what happened at that time. He said, “Nothing happened. The war just ended.”
One soldier is seen walking quietly alone in what minutes before had been No Man’s Land.
Soldiers from both sides are told not to fraternize with each other after the fighting stops, but the orders are widely ignored.
The news reaches Washington and New York at 3 a.m. and soon people begin to appear in the streets in pajamas and overcoats. Joyous celebrations occur nationwide.
What sort of a day was it? A day like all days, filled with the events that alter and illuminate our times.
That night a final entry is made in the French Army’s Journal of Communique, “Closed, because of victory.”