Monday, November 12, 2018

Today -100: November 12, 1918: We made the broom that swept the Hohenzollerns out

Woodrow Wilson addresses a joint session of Congress: “The war thus comes to an end; for, having accepted these terms of armistice, it will be impossible for the German command to renew it.”

He enumerates those terms: The armistice to last 30 days, extendable. Germany to withdraw its troops from all occupied territories (including Russia)(and Alsace-Lorraine) within 14 days, preferably without looting, please and thank you. The return to occupied countries of their prisoners and hostages. Surrender of various war materials including specified numbers of ships, u-boats, planes, machine guns, as well as non-materials including 150,000 railway cars, etc. Abandonment of the treaties forced on Romania and Russia. Etc etc etc.

Wilson: “Armed imperialism such as the men conceived who were but yesterday the masters of Germany is at an end, its illicit ambitions engulfed in black disaster. Who will now seek to revive it?” Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to, Woodrow. He admits he has no idea what form of government may take hold in Germany and that this makes things a little tricky. But, “I am confident that the nations that have learned the discipline of freedom and that have settled with self-possession to its ordered practice are now about to make conquest of the world by the sheer power of example and of friendly helpfulness.”

Allied troops continued to fight the war right up until armistice, with some new advances ordered that morning, even though the armistice was signed at 5:10 a.m. and the time of armistice was well known. A lot of people died for no particular reason before 11:00. Gen. Pershing will tell Congress a year from now that no one had informed him that the armistice was about to be signed, which is nonsense. Messages informing US units that the war would end at 11:00 failed to give any orders about what to do in the meantime, and different commanders made different decisions. Some wanted to be able to claim that their unit fired the last shots of the war.  There were 11,000 casualties on all sides on November 11th before 11:00, more than on D-Day.

Hindenburg hands over command of the German army to the revolutionary People’s Government, supposedly.

One German king (Friedrich August III of Saxony) and two grand dukes (Frederick Augustus II of Oldenburg and Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin) are out. Hesse-Darmstadt declares itself a free socialist republic.

People celebrate the end of the war. Not, the NYT thinks, quite as enthusiastically as they celebrated the false armistice news last Thursday, but still pretty fucking enthusiastically. Schools and places of work closed, mostly because no one showed up.

The kaiser is burned in effigy. Lots of burning effigies. Municipal Judge William Wadhams announces that the former Kaiser Wilhelm is a fugitive from justice and orders a bench warrant for his arrest. Soldiers and sailors in Newport News, Virginia destroy street cars, break windows, raid restaurants and set fires to, you know, celebrate. There’s a small riot in Harlem when a cop tries to arrest black soldiers & sailors engaging in similar “alcoholic patriotism.” The people who are really pissed off are the hotels, which could have made a fortune from the celebrations but for the waiters’ strike.

The Netherlands is not exactly thrilled that Willy has chosen their country as his new home, and may intern him. In a nice château.

Theodore Roosevelt celebrates by checking into Roosevelt Hospital with “lumbago.”

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