WAR: World War I: Armistice Day

Historian Joe Persico gave a very moving talk on his book published by Random House, 11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour, Armistice Day, 1918, in which he describes the unnecessary carnage which took place in the three hours between the armistice agreement and the time it went into effect. One of the few people who comes out well in this story is Woodrow Wilson, a man of good will who sought peace without victory, while Clémenceau and others insisted on victory and punishing the Germans.  As he relates in Mein Kampf,  it was on hearing that Germany had been defeated, that Hitler, who was in hospital recovering from war-caused blindness, decided to enter politics. From there to deciding that Germany had been stabbed in the back by the Jews was the next step in his evolution.  Persico brings out the foolish bravado which characterized the war.  Take General Haig on the Somme, where thousands of Britons lost their lives.  It is reported that, when helmets were introduced, he exclaimed that only cowards would wear them.

All this brought back in me memories of Armistice Day. I was a small boy in Torquay. Proudly we bought fake medals and wore them on our chest as though the victory was ours.  We were well aware of the tragedy which now ended.  We had billeted in our house the wives of German officers who were in England and were interned.  These women were as human as my mother, and, despite the war, their relations were warm. At the same time, women neighbors would come to our house to lament over the deaths of young men they had known.  In her recent book about her life as Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright says that  Mars (war) and Venus (love) had a child Concordia, or, as Unamuno titled his novel, Paz en la guerra.  Will mankind learn to live in peace or will it blow itself up?  I wonder what John Bolton would answer?

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 8, 2005