The Day the War Ended
On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, all fighting on the Western Front came to an end. The guns and the killing stopped, after four years of the deadliest conflict in modern history. Germany had agreed to an Armistice. World War 1 was over.
Later, Germany would be forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Versailles, which would sow the seeds of another world war. But for now, there was just celebration and for the survivors, a realization of just how lucky they were to have made it through alive.
Below is a first hand account of the last day of the war, taken from the diary of Harry Frieman. Frieman was a conscript soldier in the 313th Machine Gun Company of the 79th Division, United States Army, during World War I. He was involved in hard fighting in France. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, Frieman and his unit were in a tough spot, surrounded on three sides by German forces. As he notes in his diary, if the war had not ended, there would have been few men left in his unit.
The text of his diary entries for November 11, 1918 as well as the day leading up to it are reproduced below. The idiosyncratic spelling was in the original and has been left unchanged. The complete war diary of Harry Frieman can be found here.
From the War Diary of Harry Frieman
Sun. November 10
We left this Hill 7:30 A. M. and marched to Hill ön left side of Hill 360. The trenches at this place were very crowded with dead Germans, the most we have ever seen. We had to run over them with out cars to get to our place. We stopped here over night.
(For the past few days the Huns have been retreating so fast that our boys could hardly keep up. They were nearly out of reach of our artillery all the time* in these few days)
Mon. November 11
This morning at 7.30 A. M. we started for Chaumont. Our artillery was to open a barrage from 9.30 to 10:30 A. M. and then we were supposed to go over the top. About 9 A. M. we were caught in Huns shell fire. Took our guns and amunition off the carts and started to walk. It was very foggy this morning and couldn’t see over ten yards in front of us. We were caught in a barrage and had to hide behind a slope at road. The shells were bursting all around us. We were lucky that the ground was very soft and the shells stuck there and only threw a lot of mud over us. Things quieted down a little at 10.30 A. M. At 10*30 A. M. we received orders to open A. M. G. barrage Just as we set our guns up to fire, an officer passed by and said “Boys, take your time, I have a message to stop fireing 11 A.M. We could hardly believe it until we were told to stop fireing at 11 A. M. and not to fire unless they fire. The last shot by both sides were fired exactly 11 A. M. We laid there until 1 P.M. The fog lifted about 12 noon and find how lucky we were. We were caught in a trap with Huns on three sides of us and Company A was only a few yards away from them. If the war would have kept up a few hours longer, there would not be many of us left to tell about it. That afternoon, we moved back of the Hill and took defensive positions. About 4 P. M. the Huns started to celebrate fireing all kinds of skyrockets. They kept this up all night.
The war was over. Frieman and his comrades had survived, while so many others would never come home. Lest we forget.
The photographs in this article are from the Scrapbook of Richard Thomas Crump, Company G, Third Infantry