At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — the guns on the Western Front of The Great War finally fell silent.
Exactly at 11 a.m.
Between 5 a.m. (or 5:45 or 6), when the Armistice ending the war was signed, and 11 a.m., when it officially went into effect, the slaughter that defined the four-year conflict continued.
We tried to find a definitive number of last-day casualties, but, as it appears with almost everything involving that war, not much is conclusive. (Which explains the Armistice-signing times above.) But we can tell you this: The last American soldier to be slain was Sgt. Henry Gunther, 23, of Baltimore, who was killed by German machine-gun fire at the Meuse-Argonne in France at 10:59 a.m.
At 10:59 a.m.
This was to be “The War to End All Wars.” And we all know how that turned out.
However, the blood-drenched futility should never be allowed to diminish the heroism and sacrifices of our WWI veterans. which is why, each Nov. 11, the U.S. honors their memory — and the heroism and sacrifices of all U.S. veterans.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 11, 2018, members of the local American Legion, West Hudson Marine Corps League and Veterans of Foreign Wars — along with Kearny Fire and Police members, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, political leaders and patriotic citizens — gathered at Veterans Park on Kearny Ave. for the annual Veterans Day memorial service.
This year, in addition to the traditional cannon and rifle salutes and the honor guards and the placement of a wreath, there was a reading aloud of 60 names — those of the 60 Kearny men who were killed in World War I.
The principal ceremony speaker was Mayor Alberto Santos, and we are going to quote extensively from his remarks, because they echoed our own feelings about the now-century-old legacy:
“After the end of the war on this day 100 years ago,” Santos said. “President Wilson made Nov. 11 a national day of remembrance. The scope of remembrance has had to change, however, from a day set aside to remember the dead from World War I, to a day in which we honor American veterans from all wars, as well as those who served in times of peace. That is because 100 years ago today, we only saw the end of a war and not, as was hoped for, the end all wars.
“Each generation since has been called upon to defend our freedoms and security: The attack on our country at Pearl Harbor; the threat from Communist regimes during the Cold War, when American soldiers were sent to conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and to protect the free half of Europe; with the brutal attack on our nation of Sept. 11, when we were called to defend our freedoms from terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.
“This day reminds us of the price which has been paid for the freedoms we enjoy, and the obligation we have to ensure that future generations will enjoy the same freedoms and liberty. The cherished freedoms to choose our leaders, to speak freely, to worship and assemble freely, and to be secure in our daily lives.
“We must never take that security and freedom for granted. For that reason, we will always need brave men and women to answer the call to protect us …
“Our community thanks all veterans and veterans’ organizations for their sacrifice, service and leadership. We remember all who served and in particular those who served a century ago in World War I. Our gratitude and respect for their service is steadfast; the passage of time does not dim their sacrifice or diminish our commitment.
“May God bless all our veterans and their families, and may God bless the men and women who presently serve our country.”