First of all: It’s 11/11/11. How cool is that? Second, let’s celebrate the day one of the worst wars in human history finally ended. On November 11, 1918, representatives from Germany and the Allied nations met in a railway carriage in Compiegne Forest to sign the Armistice, formally ending World War I.
Germany started calling for an end to the war in early October, when the liberal Prince Maximilian of Baden was appointed Chancellor. Germany knew their situation at the front was hopeless, and they were fairly well prepared to get kicked around pretty heavily when the peace terms were hashed out. At the last second, however, the head of the German army, Erich Ludendorff, got worked up over the Allies’ proposals for peace and demanded the war continue. He was quickly replaced by a government exhausted with fighting and fast running out of men to fill its trenches with. The whole affair irked the Allies, however, and when peace negotiations resumed in early November, they started demanding reparation payments.
Negotiations took three days, and the Armistice was finally agreed on in the pre-dawn hours of November 11. It was decided, presumably because it sounded good, that the terms would come into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time. As part of the terms, Germany had to agree to complete demilitarization. The naval blockade of Germany would also continue until the peace process was complete. The only parts Germany was able to negotiate on were the really absurd terms, which included forcing Germany to decommission more submarines than they even had. Germany registered its discomfort with the harsh terms, but they had no choice but to agree. Sadly, those terms would seriously come back and bite the Allies in the ass a mere two decades later.
Poetically, Hitler used the exact car the Armistice was signed in to receive France’s surrender on June 22, 1940. The carriage was taken to Germany and exhibited for most of the war, but as Allies entered Germany in 1945, SS officers burned it. A re-creation of the carriage can now be seen at the site of the signing in France.
While we’re on the subject of martial matters, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every last member of our armed forces for the incredibly brave work they do. They willingly put themselves in harm’s way in some of the most inhospitable parts of the world, enduring separations from their loved ones and all manner of danger and deprivations so the rest of us can sleep easily at night. It’s a rough job, and one that not many of us can do. Thank you, to every one of you.