In keeping with yesterday’s comments about the armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the US Army Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin helps us remember 96 years ago.
1918, no cell phones, no internet, no computers, none of the communication conveniences we enjoy today, so how did they transmit the orders?
On November 12, 1918, newspapers ran an Associated Press story explaining how the military leadership for the different countries communicated the cease-fire.
Allied Troops Are Given Strict Orders
Informed of Armistice —Communication With Enemy Forbidden—Must Be Ready For Eventualities
With the American Forces in France. Monday, Nov. 11
Orders announcing that the armistice between the Allied powers and Germany had been signed and given directions as to the future conduct of Allied soldiers along the line were sent to every corps this morning. They were transmitted to the units in the front ranks.
The orders follow:
1—You are informed that hostilities will cease along the whole front at 11 o’clock a. m., November 11, 1918, Paris time.
2—No allied troops will pass the line reached by them at that hour and date until further orders.
3—Division commanders will immediately sketch the location of their front line. This sketch will be returned to headquarters by the courier bearing these orders.
4—All communication with the enemy, both before and after the termination of hostilities, is absolutely forbidden. In case of violation of this order severest disciplinary measures will be immediately taken. Any officer offending will be sent to headquarters under guard.
5—Every emphasis will be laid on the fact that the arrangement is an armistice only and not a peace.
6—There must not be the slightest relaxation of vigilance. Troops must be prepared at any moment for further operations.
7—Special steps will be taken by all commanders to insure strictest discipline and that all troops be held in readiness fully prepared for any eventuality.
8—Division and brigade commanders will personally communicate these orders to all organizations.
Signal corps wires, telephones and runners were used in carrying the orders. So well did the big machine work that even patrol commanders had received the orders well in advance of the hour.
Apparently the Germans also had been equally diligent in getting the orders to their front line. Notwithstanding the hard fighting they did Sunday to hold back the Americans, the Germans were able to bring the firing to an abrupt end at the scheduled hour.
The staff and field officers of the American army were disposed early in the day to approach the hour of 11 with lessened activity. The day began with less firing and doubtless the fighting would have ended according to plan had there not been a sharp resumption on the part of the German batteries. The Americans looked upon this as wantonly useless. It was then that orders were sent to the battery commanders for increased fire.
Although there was no reason for it German ruthlessness was still rampant Sunday, stirring the American artillery in the region of Dun-sur-Meuse and Mousay to greater activity. Six hundred aged men and women and children were in Mousay when the Germans attacked it with gas. There was only a small detachment of American troops there and the town no longer was of strategic value. However, it was made the direct target of shells filled with phosgene. The enemy hurled them into the town until every street reeked with gas.
Not contented with this, the Germans again drenched the place with gas last night, even while they were evacuating Stenay, a few miles to the north. Prompt work by the Americans saved most of the civilians from serious consequences.
Poorly-clad and showing plain evidence of malnutrition the inhabitants crowded about the Americans, kissing their hands and hailing them as deliverers. They declared they had had no meat for six weeks. They virtually had been prisoners for four years and were overwhelmed with joy when they learned that an armistice was probable.
The little children between 6 and 10 years spoke German alternately with French. It was the first time they had seen Americans and they showed plainly their amazement.
The US Army Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin rests against a background of a newspaper from 1918.