Dakota Datebook

Armistice Day, 1918 Pt. 2

Friday, November 12, 2010

 

Yesterday we heard some of the experiences of Major Dana Wright at the end of World War I as he penned a letter from France to his brother in Mott. He told about the last morning of the war as he wrote: “The street beneath my window is filled with a mob of people, mostly Yank soldiers, some French (infantrymen*) and some civilians, … all singing, shouting and jabbering about the war being ended.” But there was some sadness, of which he wrote in following: “Our village was filled with a loss of the soldiers and civilians and to show their feelings there were mock parades. … Everyone that had a flag had it hung out…mostly French and American with a few English and Italians.”

The celebration continued through the night, and on this date, in 1918, another soldier named Joe wrote home to the Beach Advance and stated, “I can hardly write, there’s so much excitement over here. They are talking, yelling and singing so much I can’t tell one from the other.”

He describes a jubilant scene with North Dakota at the forefront. “The North Dakota band paraded half the night with an enormous crowd following, headed by the major of the town. Everyone was dancing in the streets while the band played.”

“It’s just like a regular Fourth of July over here,” he continued, “… shooting skyrockets, fire crackers and parading all over, carrying torch lights and banners with the inscription on them, “Vive la Allies.” And Joe was delighted that the streets were covered with confetti just like at home on the 4th.

Like so many others, Joe wanted to go home and he wrote, “I surely did long for this day to come and so did all the rest, the greatest day in the world’s history.

Nellie Morris, a nurse from Beach echoed those words in her letter, “The boys from the front are almost wild to get home…” and, speaking of Gen Pershing’s promise of “Heaven, Hell or Hoboken by Christmas” she wrote, “… a good many didn’t think it could be done but he has made good his boasts and December 25th will see a good many lads who have passed through Hoboken pier again.”

The War was over and it was a time of celebration, but more so it was a time to heal, to begin again. And it was a time to reflect on those that had given their lives so that we may enjoy the freedom that they protected so dearly in the War to End All Wars.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

* The original letter read “French Poilus.” As Wikipedia explains, Poilu is “a warmly informal term for a French World War I infantryman, meaning, literally, hairy one. … The image of the dogged, bearded French soldier was widely used in propaganda and war memorials.”

Sources:

Beach Advance December 12, 1918

Beach Progress December 27, 1918

Mott Pioneer Press December 26, 1918

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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