Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924; Paterson, Newell T., 1890-1977
World War, 1914-1918

Longhand Note of Former President Harry S. Truman, November 11, 1954. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

November 11, 1954, 5:30 A.M.

Thirty-six years ago today at 5:30 A.M. standard time at Verdun the operations office, Major Newell T. Paterson, Hqtrs. 129th Field Artillery 35th Division, called me at my Battery Headquarters on a bluff facing Metz and told me that at 11 A.M. French standard time the Germans would sign an Armistice; that the drive then in progress would proceed and that I would fire certain barrages in support of the 81st Infantry Division which the 129th had been supporting since the drive toward Metz had started on Nov. 7, 1918.

Major Paterson told me that I was to say nothing about the cessation of hostilities until 11 A.M. My battery fired the assigned barrages at the times specified. The last one was toward a little village called Hermeville eleven thousand meters from my position. My last shot was fired at 10:45.

When the firing ceased all along the front line it seemed not so. It was so quiet it made me feel as if I'd been suddenly deprived of my ability to hear.

The men at the guns, the Captain, the Lieutenants, the sergeants and the corporals looked at each other for some time and then a great cheer arose all along the line. We could hear the men in the infantry a thousand meters in front raising holy hell. The French battery behind our position was dancing, shouting and waving bottles of wine. That battery was made up of four six-inch Napoleon guns with no recoil mechanism. When fired with a lanyard they ran back and up an oversized carpenter's horse and then ran back into position. Celebration at the front went on for the rest of the day and far into the night. Very pistols, rockets and whatever else was handy were fired.

I went to bed about ten P.M. but the members of the French Battery insisted on marching around my cot and shaking hands. They'd shout "Vive le Capitain Americain, vive President Wilson," take another swig from their wine bottles and do it over. It was 2 A.M. before I could sleep at all.

The next day the men began to think of home, mother and sweetheart.

We moved back to the echelon and then to Le Mans and then Brest and home. It was April 9, 1919, before we embarked on the U.S.S. Zeppelin, a German boat taken over by the U.S.

We landed in N.Y. on April 20, 1919, Easter Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day and New York City gave us a great welcome.


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