A Christmas Story

The final week of World War I was no joy ride. The war ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, November 11, 1918. The order had come over the wireless from Marshall Foch to cease firing at the eleventh hour. A strange unbelievable silence occurred and then came such an uproar of relief that the noise of the hour may never again be duplicated – dancing, singing, shouting, yelling, music, church bells ringing, bands playing, horns tooting. There was no darkness that night and the celebration waxed rather than waned. The word of the cease fire spread like a current of electricity along the miles of line. Driver called it to drive; motorcycles sped down the road through the heavy mist. “The Guerre will be fini at eleven o’clock. Fini la guerre.” “What time?” “Eleven o’clock.” “What time is it now.?” That night the flares lit the skies and the rockets streaked the night. The flurry of celebration did not last long. The enemy was demoralized by the spectacle of the Americans celebrating something they had not heard. The following day, all along the miles held by the Americans, the firing continued until the eleventh hour. At one minute before eleven, a million eyes were glued to the slow creeping minute hands of a million watches as the roar of the guns trembled the earth. East of the Meuse, a man stationed at one battery stood with a handkerchief in his uplifted hand with his eyes fixed on his watch. At eleven the handkerchief fell and the guns cursed out the last shot. And so it went, a hundred, a thousand places along the line. The order to cease fire did not reach the men in the front line until the last moment, when runners sped with the order from fox hole to fox hole. And then the skyline of the hill before them was filled with the outline of dancing soldiers all the way down to the barbed wire. the German troops came with outstretched hands and grins and souvenirs to swap for cigarettes. The war was over. There would be peace for Christmas.