On November 9th, the Kaiser abdicated; slipping across the border into the Netherlands and exiled. A German Republic was declared and peace feelers extended to the Allies. At 5:00 am, on the morning of November 11th, an armistice was signed in a railroad car parked in a French forest near the front lines. The terms of the agreement called for the cessation of fighting along the entire Western Front to begin at precisely 11:00 that morning. After over four years of bloody conflict, the Great War was finally at an end.
"At the front there was no celebration." Colonel Thomas Gowenlock served as an intelligence officer in the American 1st Division. He was on the front line that November morning and wrote of his experience: "On the morning of November 11th, I sat in my dugout in Le Gros Faux, which was again our division headquarters, talking to our Chief of Staff, Colonel John Greely, and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Peabody, our G-1. A signal corps officer entered and handed us the following message: Official Radio from Paris - 6:01 A.M., Nov. 11, 1918. Marshal Foch to the Commander-in-Chief. 1. Hostilities will be stopped on the entire front beginning at 11 o'clock, November 11th (French hour). 2. The Allied troops will not go beyond the line reached at that hour on that date until further orders.
With only a few hours to go until 11:00, the shelling was still heavy and, it grew steadily worse. It seemed that every battery in the world was trying to burn up its guns. At last eleven o'clock came - but the firing continued. The men on both sides had decided to give each other all they had with their farewell to arms. It was a very natural impulse after all their fighting, but unfortunately many fell after eleven o'clock that day. All over the world on November 11, 1918, people were celebrating, dancing in the streets, drinking champagne, hailing the armistice that meant the end of the war. But on the front there was no celebration. Many soldiers believed the Armistice was only a temporary measure and that the war would soon go on. As night came, the quietness, unearthly in its penetration, began to feed their anxieties, eat into their souls. The men sat around log fires, the first they had ever had at the front. They were trying to reassure themselves that there were no enemy batteries spying on them from the next hill and no German bombing planes approaching to blast them out of existence. They talked in low tones. They were nervous. After the long months of intense strain, of keying themselves up to the daily mortal danger, of thinking always in terms of war and the enemy, the abrupt release from it all was physical and psychological agony. Some, of a steadier temperament, began to hope they would someday return to home and the embrace of loved ones. While other, could think only of the crude little crosses that marked the graves of their comrades, brothers from boot camp. Some fell into an exhausted sleep. All were bewildered by the sudden meaninglessness of their existence as soldiers - and through their teeming memories that paraded a swiftly moving cavalcade of St. Mihiel, the Meuse-Argonne and Sedan. What was to come next? They did not know - and hardly cared. Their minds were numbed by the shock of peace.