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In World War I's Final Hours, a Terrible Toll

The last American was killed at 10:59am
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 11, 2018 1:15 PM CST
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, a photo of French WWI soldier Augustin Trebuchon hangs on a wall outside a cemetery in Vrigne-Meuse, France.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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(Newser) – Augustin Trebuchon is buried beneath a white lie. His tiny plot in Vrigne-Meuse, France is almost on the front line where the guns finally fell silent at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, after a four-year war that had already killed millions. A simple white cross says: "Died for France on Nov. 10, 1918." Not so. Like hundreds of others along the Western Front, Trebuchon was killed in combat on the morning of Nov. 11—after the pre-dawn agreement between the Allies and Germany but before the armistice took effect six hours later. The 40-year-old shepherd's death at almost literally the eleventh hour only highlighted the folly of a war that had become ever more incomprehensible to many in nations drawn into the first global conflict, the AP reports.

"Indeed, on the tombs it said 'Nov. 10, 1918,' to somewhat ease the mourning of families," says French military historian Nicolas Czubak. Trebuchon had been running to tell his comrades where they would have a meal after the armistice. Other nations also were not spared such casualties. With two minutes to go, 25-year-old Canadian Pvt. George Lawrence Price was slain by a German sniper. About 150 miles away in France, a 23-year-old American, Henry Gunther, was killed by German machine-gun fire one minute before the armistice. Historian Joseph Persico estimates that the total dead, wounded, and missing on all sides on the final day was 10,900, adding to a war toll of 14 million people, including 9 million soldiers, sailors, and airmen from 28 countries. (President Trump took heat for skipping a World War I cemetery ceremony.)


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