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Let Us Not Forget


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World War I Armistice

 

 

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November 11, 1918

On this day in 1918, fighting on the Western Front of the First World War came to an end with an armistice agreement between Germany and the Allied Powers. The conflict had begun four years earlier, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Ferdinand’s death, at the hands of Bosnian nationalist Gavrilo Princip, ignited long-simmering tensions among the powerful nations wrestling for dominance in Europe. By the late summer of 1914, the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire were facing off against more than a dozen Allied nations, including Russia, Britain, and France.

While the war became a truly global conflict (the U.S. entered the war in April 1917), the Western Front, particularly Belgium and France, saw the most brutal fighting, as entrenched armies suffered staggering losses for little territory gained. The guns fell silent on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918, and a formal agreement ending the war was signed the following year. In all, more than 9 million soldiers and 5 to 10 million civilians had lost their lives. In 1921, to honor the brave sacrifices of the armed forces, the first Armistice Day was observed in several nations. In the United States, this annual commemoration continued until 1954, when the holiday was officially changed to Veterans Day, honoring members of the U.S. military who have fought in every American war.

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