Armistice Ends World War I Fighting 

US #5300 was issued earlier this year to honor the centennial of the war.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (November 11, 1918), the world’s warring nations agreed to cease fighting, bringing about the end of the Great War.

When the war first began in 1914, America resolved to stay out of it. Though America offered aid and supplies to the Allies, President Woodrow Wilson vowed to remain neutral. But as the war dragged on, German hostility toward America grew worse.

By early 1917, the Germans had attacked and sunk several U.S. ships leading Congress to pass a $250 million arms appropriations bill to ready the nation for war. On April 2, 1917, President Wilson appeared before Congress to call for a declaration of war against Germany. He believed that unless the U.S. entered the war, Western civilization could be destroyed. Referring to it as a “war to end all wars,” he hoped it would result in lasting peace.

US #5300 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

The following January, Wilson addressed Congress again and delivered his now-famous 14 Points speech, outlining America’s war goals. This speech marked the first clear intention of any of the warring nations. Its goals included self-determination, open agreements, international cooperation, resolving territorial disputes, creating lasting free trade and commerce, outlawing secret treaties, and establishing an independent Poland with sea access. It also suggested the creation of a peacemaking organization, which would eventually become the League of Nations.

US #2154 was based on a sketch by Captain Harvey Dunn of U.S. troops at the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Germans launched their Spring Offensive in 1918 to some success, but the Allies fought back fiercely with their own offensives. By late September, Germany’s military commanders realized that their situation was hopeless and were unsure if they could hold the front for another 24 hours. German General Erich Ludendorff told his government to call for an immediate ceasefire and accept Wilson’s 14 Points. German officials heeded his advice and contacted President Wilson to begin negotiations. Wilson demanded that before the negotiations could take place, Germany must retreat from all occupied territories, cease submarine activities, and the Kaiser must resign.

Item #M12335 pictures the famed Uncle Sam poster and the British poster that inspired it.

In spite of his earlier request, Ludendorff declared these conditions to be unacceptable and wished to continue fighting, but the German government decided to follow through with Wilson’s demands and replaced Ludendorff. He wasn’t the only one opposed to the 14 Points – the French, British, and Italian governments believed they were vague and unrealistic. After weeks of debate, they agreed to enter into negotiations and demand reparation payments.

Item #M12334 pictures different World War I posters.

On November 7, German representatives crossed the front line, drove ten hours through the ravaged war zone to meet the Allies early the next morning. They met in Ferdinand Foch’s private train in Compiégne, France. The Allies gave the Germans a list of demands and 72 hours in which to agree. There was little negotiation – the Germans would remove all military forces from other nations while the Allies would continue their naval blockade until the peace treaty was signed. Both sides agreed to the armistice at 5:00 a.m. on November 11 and would put it into effect at 11:00 that morning. Across the front, some troops fired to the last minute, while others embraced their former foes, and others simply acknowledged each other and walked away.

Item #M11822 – Collection of five World War I stamp sheets.

Though the armistice ended the fighting, it took an additional six months to negotiate the peace treaty. On June 28, 1919, representatives from Germany and the Allied powers met in France to discuss the terms that would end the war. One of the most significant provisions required Germany to accept responsibility for the war, disarm, make significant territorial concessions, and pay large reparations to the nations they had harmed. The treaty required Germany to pay 132 billion marks (about $33 billion U.S. Dollars). Many economists at the time believed this amount was excessive and may have been among the factors leading to World War II.

Click here for more World War I stamps.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. I always love a good history lesson. And the economists who felt the reparation payments too excessive got it right. Thankfully wiser decisions were made post WW II as Germany and Japan were rebuilt and the human race has been the beneficiary.

  2. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the re-creation of the country of Poland. The country had disappeared after conflicts between Russia and Germany well before the start of WWI. The armistice gave the perfect platform for this accomplishment.

  3. Actually, one could make the opposite argument. The French, and to a lesser extent, the British, argued that unless the reparation bill was heavy, the Germans would simply use their resources to rearm and present them with a vengeful, powerful neighbor. Reparations ceased in the early 1930s, Germany suddenly found the money it claimed not to have for reparation payments, rapidly rearmed, and the French and British were faced with exactly the situation their leaders had feared in 1919.

  4. Wars are terrible things and have been occurring somewhere on this earth since man first set foot on it. As a veteran of war, I understand the cause and effect. WWI was a war to end all wars and then we had another. Mankind does not understand the true meaning of peace and all the peace marches in the world will not change the heart of man until he submits to the fact that he was not made as a supreme being and submits to one. Today is Veterans Day. Find one and thank him for keeping mankind in check.

  5. The blame was NOT totally Germany’s fault. It was a combined efforts of all the major
    participants. Serbia was blamed for the Arch Duke’s assassination when it was never proven
    that they were behind it, it was just that the assassin, Princeps, was Serbian. Austria-Hungary
    threatened war with Serbia and Russia would back Serbia and since Germany was allied
    with Austria-Hungary and saw the Russian mobilization they mobilized which then sent
    France, an ally of Russia, into mobilization and Britain sent a expeditionary force to France
    as allies of France and Russia. Had cooler heads prevailed Austria-Hungary could have
    backed off or Russia could have sent Ambassadors to Austria-Hungary to iron out
    the situation and show that Serbia was not responsible but some disaffected Serbian
    nationals. So it was the Alliance System that was MOSTLY responsible for the war, not
    just Germany.

  6. Another note, Hitler fought for Germany in this war. He was a draft dodger from
    Austria and moved to Germany, where he enlisted.

  7. This article brings back memories of my talks with my grandfather,who at age 16 joined the Canadian army and went to fight in 1914. Canada,being a British Empire country,joined the war automatically on Britain’s side. He lied about his age and returned a different person in 1918.

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