Remembering the end of WWI, 100 years ago today
One hundred years ago today, the Armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, which ceased the hostilities on the Western Front, and that ended World War One. When the war ended, my great-grandfather Glenn Kaiser had been serving in the Army for 14 months, and had been on the front lines with the U.S. Army 32nd Division for many of the major military campaigns of the war. He was one of about 1,000 men from DeKalb County, Illinois to enlist in the service, and was one of the 4.7 million American soldiers to serve during the war. He was sent to the European front in February of 1918. This photo (right) was taken with some of his (unidentified) fellow soldiers near Haute Alsace just after they arrived in France. Glenn sent it to his mother along with this letter in June 1918. He had participated in battles in the Aisne-Marne Campaign, the Oise-Aisne Campaign, and finally the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. Like many of the soldiers on the Western Front, my great-grandfather could tell that the war was drawing to a close, but was very anxious to see it finally end. Glenn and his unit were engaged in battle until the last hours before the Armistice took effect. He and his unit had indeed been up for two nights getting into battle positions and marching through tough roads. When the guns finally fell silent at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, I’m sure that the men were relieved that the war was over, and also in that moment, relieved that they could get some sleep. He wrote to his mother on Nov. 12, the day after the Armistice took effect, to describe his relief and his commitment to making the peace last.
Below is an excerpt from the letter that Glenn sent his mother the day after the Armistice was signed. See the original letter and read the entire text here.
Nov. 12, 1918
As there have not been any pig iron shot over at us for two days I have begun to think that the war that I have prayed to end is here and I sure am glad of it, if anyone this side of New York is, but it has been more than we thought it has been. Because we all look back at the good ol USA and said there is but one way to get there and that is to let Germany know how we could fight and we did.
The Germans have a belt and on that belt it says God is with us, but we are all with him so we know he sure is and has been right with all of our boys. We are now on the Front and have been there for a long time. Last night was the first time I had seen a civilian in one month and a half. There were Frenchmen that lived here in this town when the Germans came in and when they went out they took all of the civilians with them so now they let them go and so the first thing they did was to come back and see if there was anything of the town left. Well there was because the house that I was sleeping in one of their beds. When they came I was in bed and I looked at them and they looked at me and said something but it was all right with me because I could not understand them. Well we are going to see that the Germans get out of France and stay out until we let them come back if they are all right.
This Div. will be home as soon as any of them. We are about the best Div. here. The old 32nd Div. has done more fighting than any of them and we were the first Div. on German land. Also in the first and last big drive. And I have not left the Co., not over one day at a time, so I have been here from the start to the end and still here. And glad of it and not sorry that I came over here. Tell poor boy Arn[?] that I know he would like it over here. I bet he could dig a hole to get in when the Germans shot over one or two. I know there is no man that likes it but I would give one leg to see him over here for about one week at the Front.
Well ma, the first night that there was not more shooting, no airplanes came over. There was not a think to think of, not a thing to do but sleep. And I sure was good and slept. I had been up for about three nights. Do you know I could not sleep? I went to bed at 6 o’ and then got up and was up all night. I was thinking is this war over or have I been drinking? The next night I went to sleep as soon as I got in bed. We all knew that this war was coming to an end but did not know how soon that day would come but it sure is here now, and I sure am glad it is here. You would think that the boys would start thinking of going home. Well I am willing to stay here for a year if I have to. That is how I feel about it, but we will be there as soon as we know this is all over, and I think it will be about April. That will be alright with me. I am glad that Alf did not get over here because those that just got over here will be the last to get home.
The last letter I sent to Kate, Anna, and Mrs. Lawson, I said that would be the last letter they would get from me in wartime. I don’t know if I said it in your last letter or not but we could tell that the Germans were getting poor every time we went against them. Sometimes we went up against good fighters but at the end it was kids from 18 to 16 and you could not help but to feel sorry for them but when they shot some of them big houses over, you could kill them without thinking a thing of it. More than once they made me think of home and made me wonder if I get there if they kept on shooting but let us hope that it is all over for years to come. I know it will not be with the Kaiser, he has left Germany but someone will get him before long. Well this will be all for this time. Answer soon.
Cook Glen Kaiser
Hdq Co. 127 Inf.
- Kaiser family photos, original; Kaiser Family papers, privately held by Emily (Drake) Weil, Kingston, Ill.
- Kaiser, Glenn, letters, originals, 1918-1919; Kaiser Family papers, privately held by Emily (Drake) Weil, Kingston, Ill.
Or, read more about Glenn and his family in these recent posts: