World War I veterans remember


Beth Mitchell - Contributing columnist



On Monday, November 11. 1918 the Wilmington Daily News printed a special edition. The headline was displayed in 4-inch letters and screamed “The War Is Over”. The trailer read “Armistice signed at Midnight. Hostilities cease at 5 o’clock.”

If we can dredge up a bit of our American History class we can remember the phrase, “This was the war to end all wars”.

On Tuesday, November 9, 1920 an article appeared on page three of the News Journal. The headline was “Yankee Dead Coming Home.” As printed: Nine thousand bodies of American soldiers who died or were killed in France during the war have been sent to the United States and turned over to their nearest relatives and 1,800 more await shipment at French ports. This was announced by the United States Grave Registration Service.

Over the years, November 11th was recognized by various groups as Armistice Day, but was never a national holiday. Much discussion had been held about making it a national holiday.

On Tuesday, February 1, 1927 an editorial appeared in the News Journal. There seemed to be some controversy about a second holiday in the month of November. We already had Thanksgiving as a holiday and there was concern that businesses having to close for another holiday would be financially damaged by a second holiday in the month.

Part of the concern cited the fact that Memorial Day had “just become a day of car races and other recreation and was not used to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War as had been the purpose of the holiday”.

Over the years Armistice Day was observed in Wilmington by programs in the schools as well as many of the local churches holding special commemorative services. In an article published Tuesday, November 11, 1930 Armistice Day was a day of remembrance by some of the “Buddies” recalling their remembrance of the day. I will cite portions of the article and “remembrances” by those who came back.

Twelve years ago Tuesday at 11 A.M. the World War, greatest international conflict of all time, ended as suddenly as it had started with the signing of the armistice. Terms of the Armistice were that firing on all sectors should cease at 11:00 A.M. Despite the fact that soldiers on both sides knew only a few hours and then minutes remained until hostilities should cease, they kept up the incessant firing until the order to “Cease Fire” was given.

According to veterans who were in the front-line trenches, heavy bombardment marked the Armistice morning and as the hour approached for the battles to end, the firing increased; each side seemingly attempting to get in the “last shot”. The order came according to the veteran and silence prevailed. “The silence which prevailed after all the firing ceased was nearly unbelievable”.

For the local service, the Wilmington Post of the American Legion presented a program “Etiquette of the Flag”. Local veterans gave personal stories of where they were located when the order “cease firing” was given:

A.H. Schramm – “We had crossed the Hindenburg Line and were at Verdun nearing the Argonne”.

W. P. “Gus” McDermott – “We were under orders to take Hill 42, a German machine gun fortification, and had conducted a siege of the hill for four days when the Armistice was signed”.

Dr. Robert Conard – “I was at the front on the Mozelle River and had just completed my morning rounds, when the bombardment which had been going on heavily all morning, suddenly ceased.”

Rev. Nelson Thorn – “Our regiment was marching down the road near Paris. We had donned our gas masks owing to a late gas attack launched by the Germans.”

L. L. Gray – We were in a small French village on the front line and had been in action all morning when the hostilities ceased.”

Alas, just 25 years later in the Wilmington News Journal on Tuesday, November 11, 1943 was a short article titled: “Armistice Day Finds Ohioans Busy At Work.”

Ohio, with sons and daughters scattered around the world in the United States armed forces, kept war goods production going at a fast clip today to whip a nation that conceded defeat by this country a quarter century ago. Full-shift work was the schedule for Buckeye factories.

On a personal note, wouldn’t it have been wonderful if this horrible conflagration would have been “the war to end all wars? Major conflicts have occurred over the ensuing years.

Veterans Day needs to truly be a day to honor our veterans who have fought on so many fronts to preserve our freedom here in America.

Beth Mitchell is a longtime Clinton County History Center volunteer. She writes articles for its quarterly newsletter about a variety of past Clinton Countians and genealogy subjects.

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Beth Mitchell

Contributing columnist