Armistice Day/Spirit and Significance of Armistice Day
SPIRIT AND SIGNIFICANCE OF ARMISTICE DAY
SUGGESTED ADDRESS FOR USE BY LEGION SPEAKER ON ARMISTICE DAY
(Prepared by the Americanism Commission of the American Legion, Indianapolis, Indiana)
As the world pauses to turn back the pages of time to a morning seven years ago to-day, we contrast the fervor of the men affected by the events of that morning with their feelings to-day. We find a zeal transplanted from warlike travail to the voluntary services and sacrifices of peacetime soldiers.
The hush of that morning hour heralded a new era, not for peace alone, but fraught with a promise of common understanding. It brings us to-day to solemn gratitude for the hour when the lessons of war foretold enjoyment of peace.
Back from the blood-ridden fields of Flanders came the vast army of men, swords unbuckled, and ready again to take up the plowshare. The teaching of the front lines had brought them an infinite learning. It taught them to carry the load of their comrade, to share crusts with him. To-day these and similar tasks claim the greater part of their untiring devotion.
The soil of France is red with the blood of hundreds of American lads who gave their lives that this understanding of one another might be attained. It is in their tender memory that their resting places have been marked by remaining comrades. Hundreds were maimed and broken there, and are to-day unfit to wage life's battle in the face of the odds laid against them by the grim bookkeeper of war. Comrades sound in body and mind took up their fight. Love of the mother country ebbed as the rigors of war passed. The men who fought for the flag in France held patriotism still dear and strove for a deeper respect for the nation. An era of mutual helpfulness was at hand. The first to recognize the opportunity were those who learned to team together in the war before that day in November checked the greatest combat known in history.
A NON-DENOMINATIONAL PRAYER FOR ARMISTICE DAY
(From the "Soldiers' and Sailors' Prayer Book," of the Jewish Welfare Board)
O God, who art full of compassion, who dwellest on high, grant perfect rest beneath the shelter of Thy divine presence in the exalted places among the Holy and pure who shine as of the brightness of the firmament to all who have bravely laid down their lives for their country. We beseech Thee, Lord of Compassion, shelter them forevermore under the cover of Thy wings, and let their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life, with the souls of righteousness who are ever with Thee.
And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. Amen.
WHEN POPPIES BLOOM AGAIN
An Armistice Day Symphony in Four Movements
I did not know my England.
I am not good at remembering dates and I have a bad habit of forgetting history. I had almost forgotten my English history, for instance, of the last thousand years. I only knew that I was disturbed and deeply troubled by what I had been hearing of England.
The rumor had gone abroad that England was going to the dogs! You may have heard it. The Communists were "boring" the English oak until her glorious foliage had begun to wither and fall; the Irish had lopped off her trigger finger; her empire was disintegrating! As for the English themselves—they had lost faith, they had forsaken God, they had forgotten their heroes, they no longer knew how to dream; they had become listless, spineless, nerveless, disunited—and so on.
And I had always looked upon England as the world's—at least the Anglo-Saxon world's—stalwart, and Rock of Gibraltar. In fearing for England, I feared for America.
To-day, I no longer doubt England, my fears have vanished, I recall again her half-forgotten history. And all I have done to be thus reassured has been to pass with her through the great recurrent ordeal. Part of what I have here recorded of that experience is sheer fantasy, I know. But behind that fantasy lies a living fact, and if it be fact, then underlying it is the truth.
My going away over to the Southwark (quaintly pronounced "Sutthuck") Cathedral to attend the memorial service for England's fallen in the World War was, I must confess, a more or less casual adventure. The London Symphony Orchestra, I had heard, was going to play Brahms's "Requiem" accompanied by 150 voices. That settled it.
I found the cathedral already crowded to the doors—more than a half hour before the service was scheduled to begin. All England seemed to be represented; every class. Fortunately, a place was found for me in one of the far corners of the ambulatory. If one had to see the music to appreciate it I would have been quite "out of luck," as we say. I sat there face-to-back of the gloomy choir stalls, in which the singers were seated and in front of which was massed the orchestra with its scores of instruments. I could catch rare glimpses, however, of intersecting arches, of soaring columns, of massive pillars, of a triforium gallery. My eyes wandered through a pointed arch and fell upon the magnificent reredos that filled the entire back of the sanctuary, containing many scores of saintly figures, who, too, seemed to be peering about from their dim niches. My mind wandered. I fancied that those of my neighbors were no doubt doing the same. What were they all thinking about?...
This little rag-bag just ahead of me wearing the feather-duster bonnet might be a slavey? Her little red eyes were fastened on the reredos with a frown. Quite likely she was worrying over the problem of dusting off all those saints, every Friday, let us say, before tea time.... The young chap next to her was pursing his lips. He would be a draper. He was no doubt questioning the cut and color of the costumes worn by the saints in the early Victorian stained-glass window yonder.... And this pompous gentleman, occasionally elevating his brows over his thoughts, must be a banker, computing the cost—probably adding compound interest for seven hundred years—of an edifice like this. It was plain that the problem bothered him.... And the pale young man in the wheel chair. Well, he seemed to be just gazing up there among the shadowy groins, his thoughts climbing dizzy heights too, leaving the poor, pain-anchored body helplessly behind in the chair....
When suddenly the great bells in the tower began to clamor, wildly, like Poe's "Iron Bells," scattering my idle thoughts like guilty vagrants. Between whiles the air began to echo with the plaintive, scampering notes and discords of tuning instruments with an occasional mournful drone from the kettledrums. The bells gave pause and the tuning seemed suddenly to slink away through the fissures in the thick walls, as the organ thundered out a rumbling prelude that set the whole place shuddering with its vibrations. Again silence.
We could not see it coming. It struck our wandering senses with astonishment. A silence-shattering blast of music—brass, strings, reeds and drums in unison. Brahms! It swooped down and caught us all up—charwoman, draper, banker, cripple—soul and senses—from the commonplace to a common plane of higher things, of visions.
The columns sway, the dust sparkles, the arches rise and rise to dizzy heights of splendor on the vibrating wings of music. The voices of unseen choristers seem to be darting out of every niche and crevice and the nave becomes a vortex of rushing melody that carries us with it, on and on.
Then once again we are left desolate in the barren silence. Brahms's "Requiem" is over.
Requiem? Yes, we felt that. But for what? For whom? It was left for Laurence Binyon to tell us so poignantly in his poem which we found printed on the leaflet. We still remember some of the lines:
For the Fallen
"With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
...There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
"...They laughed, they sang their melodies of England,
They fell open-eyed and unafraid.
They shall not grow old, as those that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them....
We will remember them...."
Elgar had set it all to music—in a symphony that left no sigh unbreathed, no tear unshed, no glory undimmed, no hope unrealized. As it was there in the beautiful words, so was it visioned there in the music—the drums of War, the peril, the supreme sacrifice, the supernal deed, Death, beatification, balm! How that symphony orchestra played it and that choir sang it! And all England was listening, singing, weeping, remembering, carrying on and on.
The pale young man in the .wheel chair—he knew, he had been there, a clean-limbed youth—the banker, now become an old man leaning against the coping with both hands holding his face against the vision of a son and heir now somewhere in Flanders fields—the charwoman who had been a mother then—the draper whose youth had been robbed of its four most promising years in a prison camp—and two thousand others in this ancient cathedral, and twenty million more in other churches throughout England chanting:
"At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them!"
We felt ourselves envying those glorious dead "that shall never grow old," we who shall soon crumble and be forgotten.
We shall have new vistas after this hour. New chambers of our illimitable soul have been opened to Life; new monuments have been set up to keep clean and unsullied; new saints to worship, new ghosts to terrify us with awe and new phantoms to beautify our despair!
What spell is this that has come over London?
The two parlor maids busily polishing the many brasses on the door of the great mansion across the way in Palace Court pause. They seem to be waiting for something, almost anxiously. A church bell over Queens Roadway begins to strike the hour of eleven. It stops. There is the wail of the police siren that used to warn of the coming air raids.
The parlor maids rise with one accord and stand with folded hands and solemnly face the south, a little westward, like pious Mahometans slightly mistaken in their direction. The chauffeur in the driveway has stopped the engine of his car. He, too, stands at attention, hat off. The postman pauses in midstreet and lays down his leathern pouch, reverently doffing his double-peaked helmet. Even the green-grocer's boy, halfway down the street, dismounts from his bicycle delivery cart. The red bus about to pass the corner on Bayswater Road stops. Deadly quiet has fallen like a pall from the sky.
This can only happen when the poppies bloom again!
Poppies in November? In London?
Aye. London is a sea of poppies to-day! Come down Bayswater Road with me, on through Oxford Street, across Haymarket and through Trafalgar Square into Whitehall. That blur of scarlet, so reminiscent of and so much like the fresh blood from a re-opened wound, on the breast of every man, woman and child—the nursemaid and the dustman, the colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady, my lord and the humblest clerk—you could not help but remark it? Didn't I tell you that the poppies had bloomed again?
Then come with me through this waving field of a million poppies to the side of yonder Cenotaph. You who think England is failing; you who say she has forgotten; you who claim she laughs at her King and pageantry; you who worry over her lack of faith in God or herself. Draw near and see what I saw, hear what I heard, and feel what I felt—when the poppies bloomed again.
There, we are opposite the Treasury now and have made our way to within easy sight of the Cenotaph, piled higher than a man's head with flowers for England's heroic dead. There are thousands upon thousands of mothers in this multitude numbering more than a hundred thousand mourners. Each mother feels to-day that that Cenotaph was raised for her boy alone!
One mother just behind me in the press told me the whole of England's story. The tall "bobbies" of London's "finest" had come and stood shoulder to shoulder forming a wall with their rubber shoulder capes—for it had come on to rain—so that we could only see the bearskin busbies and the glistening swords and bayonets passing by. I had just told my young son that I thought these must be the Coldstream Guards, when the Mother of England spoke to me.
"Beggin' your pardon, sir, but they're the Grenadiers."
I thanked her.
"I should know, sir," she continued apologetically, "my son was a Grenadier—'e died one of 'em!" It was not said boastfully or regretfully; just with a gentle mixture of grief and pride. "An' the sime d'y, me 'usband was reported missin', sir—but 'e was only wounded." She didn't belittle his experience beside that of her son, but she did differentiate sharply. "A bit of lead through 'is neck it was, an' a shell splinter in 'is chest. It's bent 'im 'arf double, it 'as. If 'e was 'ere you would see for yourself, sir. But 'e 'asn't the 'eart for such things no more, sir."
The massed bands of the Brigade of Guards had begun playing Schubert's "Ave Maria," and we listened involuntarily until it was over, then she reassured me, "But I alwus come, sir, for the family like. I kin 'old back better'n they m'ybe."
Something in her voice made me turn. Tears were rolling down her weathered face, but she looked at me steadily. In the next moment she seemed to be pleading in extenuation of them: "'E was me only son—at Wipers, sir" (I reverence the way they pronounce Ypres!). "Well, I remember the day 'e kissed me good-by at Victoria, sir—'ow 'e said, 'I'll be back, mumsie—'ave a po'k pie.' 'Is larst words to 'is mother, sir—an' 'e—me bybie—" Her voice trailed off amidst the burst of brass of another Royal band which heralded the coming of the King.
The coming of the King! It struck another deep chord that saved me from joining that mother in downright tears. The King with his sons had come on foot all the way from Buckingham Palace. His majesty and their highnesses laid wreaths beside all the other flowery mementos at the foot of the Cenotaph. The mother behind me sobbed afresh, for the King for whom he had died had laid a wreath upon the tomb of her boy!
Then the bells of all the churches in London seemed to break loose from guiding hands and began to ring out riotously, madly. There was a suggestion of hysterical emotion. I was struck by their effect on the expression of a tall fellow in the front line of the crowd. He wore a monocle and stared and stared. I fancied he was living again—as were thousands of others there—one August night in Trafalgar Square. The bells of all London were ringing wildly like this and within the heart of all England wild alarums were ringing too. War! There was the thrill—fierce, sickening, exultant, resolute, all in the same breath—that comes but once. "To arms!" had clanged, clamored, jangled the bells of all London until the very air seemed to reel drunkenly. And how they flocked to the standards—several hundred thousand strong! The victory seemed so easy, so near!...
The bells of all London stopped ringing one by one.
The preliminary chimes of the Abbey fall solitary upon the silence. Big Ben and the bells near and far blend solemnly in their last strokes of the hour. There is a sharp interval. Then the cannon of the Life Guards boom. It is the signal. The Zero Hour is at hand. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
A great silence begins.
A hush—a heart throb—a sigh—a suppressed sob; a blurred picture through tears to those whose eyes remained open. Some lips trembled and moved in prayer; the jaws of others were grimly set.
London silent—here was a miracle! Roaring, rumbling, reverberating London—silent. It was awe-inspiring, terrible. This awesome interval held something of the same terrible impotence and experience of the blood-drained world waiting nearly five interminable years for the end. The words of the Psalmist recurred again and again: "Watchman, what of the night?...O Lord, will the night soon pass!" The first minute seemed eternity.
Then just before God seemed about to turn on the world and its blessed din again one of the most dramatic things I can ever know happened. A scream pierced that silence—and our hearts—like a swift, unexpected blade. It was the anguished cry of a woman—a mother. It was like the sudden breaking and tearing of some sturdy heart become parched and dry and tenacious like a drumhead from years of weeping and draining. She could not endure—poor thing!—that eternity of two minutes' silence outside, meeting the vacuum of that great stillness within her tender bosom. Her heart had broken under the strain.
The mother heart in the crowd gave a responsive sob. There was an audible clutch in the throat of the entire multitude. A child emitted a frightened whimper.... The King's trumpeters were sounding "The Last Post."
It was over—thank God!
The King is driving away. The soldiers are marching away. The mothers are going back to their sonless homes, refreshed and respirited. Have no fear—England is going on and on, and ON!
It is noon of Armistice Day, perhaps an hour or so after the great silence. There are all sorts and conditions of men in the big Soho restaurant we enter for luncheon. There are "gentlemen" and others—meaning the same, except for the accident of birth. But to-day that great leveler, War, with some of its glamour and gruesomeness is in the air. The war that made Tommy Atkins of Whitechapel and Sir Major Somebody of Portman Square equals and brothers under their skins—lying out there in the field waiting for the stretcher bearers.
So the dustman outside cleaning the streets wears his medals to-day. So does our waiter, so does the "bobbie" of whom we inquired the way, and so does my Lord of the Big-House-Across-the-Way in Palace Court. The frozen trenches, the stern rigors of discipline, the bursting shrapnel, are only lurking memories—only the glory remained to-day. This was The Day—Der Tag—of the heroes, both alive and dead.
Cheerio! It was altogether a glad mood in which we found ourselves after that solemn vigil at the Cenotaph, but with something refined and mellow about it. The restaurant orchestra—along American jazz lines—was the deus ex machina that waked the spirit, not so much of Mars, but of Lethe. Especially when it broke into the lilt of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary,"—can you ever forget it! You could see and feel the trooping of the colors of a legion of dreams swoop down over the place....
A stubby-nosed little fellow with an encroaching baldness, sitting at the opposite table with his smaller wife, peremptorily sprang into the saddle and wheeled about face as he joined the company of horse, of which he had been sergeant, "somewhere in France"—do you recall the terrible romance of that phrase in those days!...A much older man—he was above sixty and obviously a gentleman—sitting alone; dreadfully alone here—over by the window, laid down his knife and fork, once again ready to take command of his regiment. With the coming of an officerial frown on his brow, I fancied his lips moved as though growling, "Ten-shun!" He wore no medals. But he bore, rather than wore, a Victoria Cross in that lonely look in his eyes, that shabby genteelness in his clothes. That meagerness in the carefully selected meal.... Yes, they were all here. Even the doorman was one of them who, caught by those strains, was peering through the window with something of the sharpness of Tommy's eye, musket in hand, peeping through a periscope over the top of a trench.... Further out in the street a ragged red-nosed beggar had paused—"Ole Bill," himself—and stood listening with a curious expression lighting his perplexed face....
Who could do such a trivial thing as eat under such pitiless drum fire as this!
It was inevitable that the orchestra should then play, "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile,"—which is what England can do to such perfection. At any rate, there we were all singing—not lustily, but softly, resolutely. "Facing the music," as the saying is, with a smile, a whimsical sort of smile, that told of dreams past and hinted of dreams yet to come, hyphenated with a sigh.
The song over, we turned back to our unfinished meal and the commoner tasks of the moment, become just common people—waiters, doormen, clerks, writers, vagrants and gentlemen—once again.
It is evening.
The long line still passing the Cenotaph, dropping flowers and tears, has thinned.
The gates of the abbey have been closed and the great nave is dark and faintly sweet from the tear-stained heap of flowers, covering the grave of the Unknown Soldier.
The Unknown Soldier! What emotions, what fancies, what speculations, he stirs!... Perhaps the spirit of the Unknown Soldier has gone to rest overweary from the weight of many glories laid upon his ever-tender wounds, this new Armistice Day, troubled by those tears that fell about him like the soft rain of his familiar London autumn-tide, by a thousand sighs that stirred the ancient abbey dust far above him like whispering zephyrs of his England's springtime, by the sorrow placed like myrrh, after the manner of the Egyptians, a bitter cup beside his tomb.
But come—the war—even its sorrows—are over!
This may be Armistice Night, but never that first hysterical, wild reaction, ignoring still-bleeding wounds—but another trying to imitate it to hide even our scars. The people of the solemn morning and the pensive noon have gone home and changed their clothes, their faces and their hearts. All the signs that are left of the trying day are a few scattered poppies—some of them lying face down in the roadways, crushed in the mud under many feet.
We will remember only the victory to-night. We must laugh again. We feel that we have earned it.
So come along to the Trocadero!
We plunge into the great brilliant dining-room as though it were a fountain after a sultry November day. The center of the great chamber has been cleared of tables and is reeling with dancers. Already, many of the dancers and diners who came earlier are reacting under the champagne from the ordeal of the day. Streamers of colored paper, funny hats and crowns, balloons and toy horns, shrill whistles and exploding crackers reflect the carnival spirit, always punctuated by the popping corks. And so the evening progresses with increasing hilarity, merciful oblivion. Quite every one is laughing now; some are shouting or singing. The dancing is faster; the women more beautiful....
Good heavens! A thought half crosses our mind. Let's see, where were we? It seems as though we had been on a far, far journey since morning. What was it?
"Cheerio!" interrupts our nearest English neighbor; and we do. We lift our glass and drink as though to that ugly scar across his face that has caught our eye.
And the next thing we know it is 2 A.M., legal closing time, and we find ourselves on the streets of London at the mercy of the taxi Jehus. We had come back to life in the ordinary—as the chauffeur confirmed by charging us double the legal fare back to our flat in Bayswater. In that moment we both forgot all those finer things of life. We must wait until the poppies bloom again.
Armistice Day was over.
Drums, drums, and marching feet!
Drums, drums, and the busy street
Stops in its beehive mimicry
To stare at the tall flag floating free!
Drums, drums, and the old O. D.!
Drums, drums, drums, drums!
Slowly the procession comes.
The colors go to our heads like wine.
Brown guns in a slanting line,
Holsters and belts and a sword or two,
Slender cannon bright and new!
And I keep step to the drums, and you.
Drums, drums, drums, drums!
Near, near the tall flag comes!
Drums, drums, and marching feet,
And thin guns, up the clapping street;
Boys, but veterans grim and tried!
We never can show our love and pride,
Our awe and gratitude, but oh,
As we stand and clap, we hope they know!
And we thank each boy in the old O. D.
Because we know it is only he
Whose reckless courage, heady and gay,
Ever gave us an Armistice Day!
THE WAR THUS COMES TO AN END
(Address to Congress on November 11, 1918)
The war thus comes to an end; for, having accepted the terms of armistice, it will be impossible for the German command to renew it. It is not now possible to assess the consequences of this great consummation. We know only that this tragical war, whose consuming flames swept from one nation to another until all the world was on fire, is at an end and that it was the privilege of our own people to enter it at its most critical juncture in such fashion and in such force as to contribute, in a way of which we are all deeply proud, to the great result. We know, too, that the object of the war is attained; the object upon which all free men had set their hearts; and attained with a sweeping completeness which even now we do not realize. Armed imperialism such as the men conceived who were but yesterday the masters of Germany is at an end, its illicit ambition engulfed in black disaster. Who will now seek to revive it?
The arbitrary power of the military caste of Germany which once could secretly and of its own single choice disturb the peace of the world is discredited and destroyed. And more than that—much more than that—has been accomplished. The great nations which associated themselves to destroy it have now definitely united in the common purpose to set up such a peace as will satisfy the longing of the whole world for disinterested justice, embodied in settlements which are based upon something much better and more lasting than the selfish competitive interests of powerful states. There is no longer conjecture as to the objects the victors have in mind. They have a mind in the matter, not only, but a heart also. Their concerted purpose is to satisfy and protect the weak as well as to accord their just rights to the strong.
The humane temper and intention of the victorious governments have already been manifested in a very practical way. Their representatives in the Supreme War Council at Versailles have by unanimous resolution assured the peoples of the Central Empires that everything that is possible in the circumstances will be done to supply them with food and relieve the distressing want that is in so many places threatening their very lives; and steps are to be taken immediately to organize these efforts at relief in the same systematic manner that they were organized in the case of Belgium. By the use of the idle tonnage of the Central Empires it ought presently to be possible to lift the fear of utter misery from their oppressed populations and set their minds and energies free for the great and hazardous tasks of political reconstruction which now face them on every hand.
For with the fall of the ancient governments, which rested like an incubus on the peoples of the Central Empires, has come political change not merely, but revolution; and revolution which seems as yet to assume no final and ordered form, but to run from one fluid change to another, until thoughtful men are forced to ask themselves, with what governments and of what sort are we about to deal in the making of the covenants of peace? With what authority will they meet us, and with what assurance that their authority will abide and sustain securely the international arrangements into which we are about to enter? There is here matter for no small anxiety and misgiving. When peace is made, upon whose promises and engagements besides our own is it to rest?
Let us be perfectly frank with ourselves, and admit that these questions cannot be satisfactorily answered now or at once. But the moral is not that there is little hope of an early answer that will suffice. It is only that we must be patient and helpful and mindful above all of the great hope and confidence that lie at the heart of what is taking place. Excesses accomplish nothing. Unhappy Russia has furnished abundant recent proof of that. Disorder immediately defeats itself. If excesses should occur, if disorder should for a time raise its head, a sober second thought will follow and a day of constructive action, if we help and do not hinder.
The present and all that it holds belongs to the nations and the peoples who preserve self-control and the orderly processes of their governments; the future to those who prove themselves the true friends of mankind. To conquer with arms is to make only a temporary conquest; to conquer the world by earning its esteem is to make permanent conquest. I am confident that the nations that have learned the discipline of freedom and that have settled with self-possession to its ordered practice are now about to make conquest of the world by the power of example and friendly helpfulness.
The peoples who have but just come out from under the yoke of arbitrary government and who are now coming at last into their freedom will never find the treasures of liberty they are in search for if they look for them by the light of the torch. They will find that every pathway that is stained with the blood of their own brother, leads to the wilderness, not to the seat of their hope. They are now face to face with their initial test. We must hold the light steady until they find themselves. And in the meantime, if it be possible, we must establish a peace that will justly define their place among the nations, remove all fear of their neighbors and of their former masters, and enable them to live in security and contentment when they have set their own affairs in order. I, for one, do not doubt their purpose or their capacity. There are some happy signs that they know and will choose the way of self-control and peaceful accommodation. If they do, we shall put our aid at their disposal in every way that we can. If they do not, we must await with patience and sympathy the awakening and recovery that will assuredly come at last.
ARMISTICE DAY: LEST WE FORGET
BY ALMA LUNDMAN
November Eleventh may well be remembered so long as mankind finds instruction in history. It marks one of the most stupendous achievements in human experience. On November eleventh the work of the soldier was completed and the work of the diplomat begun. There are no words that can characterize adequately the endurance, the heroism and the devotion of the millions who offered their lives and all that life contained in order that victory might be won and mankind freed from the curse of militarism and war.
The breakdown of Germany, so often confidently predicted, had to await the entry into the war of the United States, and the development of American military power. If the United States had remained aloof, the war would have ended in a draw, and a draw not altogether favorable to the allies. The scales were tottering in the balance; America leaped into one of them and weighed it to the ground. That was her service and her responsibility. America performed her service well. Her sons and daughters gave their services, their lives, their all, upon the altar of Democracy. The greatest service that we, the living, can give is far too small for so great a sacrifice. Gladly, eagerly, and willingly should we do all within our power to consecrate and commemorate those who so freely gave their last measure of devotion that the world might be safe for humanity and that Democracy might live.
Years have passed since that glorious and eventful November 11, 1918, when the armistice was signed which ended the greatest conflict in history. And in commemoration of that day we, this morning, pay our tribute and our respects to those who never returned, to those who returned crippled and maimed, and also to those who, after witnessing the horrors and cruelties of war, returned sound in mind and body to their native shores.
Let us stop for a little while to think of the sacrifices made in behalf of a better world by the men who laid down their lives and by the women and children whose suffering in that period of warfare had been endured in the earnest hope that wars might cease.
Armistice Day, then, as each succeeding November brings another anniversary, is to remind us of the supreme need of justice in the relations of men and nations, and of the duty that still belongs to us—not less than it belongs to others—to give our best thought and effort to the establishment of peace upon true foundations.
(London, Armistice Day)
The sirens wailed and moaned;
A battery intoned
Litanies loud and brief.
Abruptly then—the hush of death!
Life seemed to rob
The tomb of silence. Far around
The blossom-laden cenotaph
A nation held its breath
In gratitude and grief.
And still there was no sound,
Save for a child's unconscious laugh,
A girl's low sob.
Then our hands, groping, met,
Dearest; our eyes grew wet;
And our own silence, in that vaster one,
Was like the secret shrine
In our loved home
Wherein we share love's holy bread and wine.
Then suddenly our silence seemed to shine
And grow into a sun
Burning within the universal dome.
MESSAGE OF MARSHAL FERDINAND FOCH TO THE AMERICAN LEGION, NOVEMBER 11, 1921
It is out of sacrifice and suffering that the greatest things in life grow.
No man ever gave up part of himself in a great cause but that his sacrifice was rewarded a hundredfold in moral and spiritual blessings.
Our hearts pour out in sympathy to-day to the mothers, wives, fathers, sisters, brothers, of those brave soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War. Our prayers go up in unison for those men and at the same time we worship their memory.
Armistice Day, the 11th of November, should be made sacred throughout the entire civilized world. It is the day when we think of the noble sacrifice made by the hero dead, of the brilliant records of duty performed left on the field of battle by those wounded, of the spirit of patriotism and bravery shown by those who, fortunately, escaped shot and shell.
On this day let us think only of the great cause for which the Allies fought—a splendid cause, one that led to victory and peace. And in thinking of the great cause for which we fought, let us think also of a bond of eternal peace, so that the people of the world may work and rebuild and find happiness in industrial pursuits, with no thoughts of future conflicts.
God helping, peace will reign throughout the world.
LEST WE FORGET
(Armistice Day, 1926)
The cold rain falls on Dun-sur-Meuse to-night,
My brothers of the Marne, do you fare well,
Where by the ford, or on some wind-swept height,
You lie among the hamlets where you fell?
Do you sleep well these wet November nights,
Where there is never any brushwood blaze,
To cast within the dugout wavering lights,
And warm the chill of these benumbing days?
Romagne sous Montfaucon! The little towns
That scatter from the Somme to the Moselle,
Some silent sentry on their high-backed downs,
Harks still to every far white church's bell—
The humble little church of misty hills,
Set where the white roads cross, with ruined fane,
Where, through the window gaps with war-scarred sills,
A battered Christ looked out into the rain—
Silent, all silent to the passer-by,
Those lonely mounds, or rows of crosses white,
Beyond the need of bitter words they lie,
But are they silent to their friends to-night?
Can we stand whole before a crackling fire—
We, who have gone in peace year after year
Singing and jesting, working again for hire—
Deaf to the message they would have us hear?
Not while the red of poppies in the wheat,
Not while a silver bugle on the breeze,
Not while the smell of leather in the heat,
Bring us anew in spirit overseas.
Still shall we hear the voice that fell behind,
Where eddying smoke fell like a mountain wraith,
And in the din, that left us deaf and blind,
We sensed the muttered message clear—"Keep Faith."
To every man a different meaning, yet—
Faith to the thing that set him, at his best,
Something above the blood and dirt and wet,
Something apart, may God forget the rest!
The cold rain falls in France, ah send anew
The spirit that once flamed so high and bright,
When, by your graves, we bade you brave adieu,
When Taps blew so much more than just "Good Night."
MARSHAL FOCH'S ARMISTICE DAY MESSAGE TO AMERICA, 1926
"It is a great wave of idealism and fraternity which, in 1917, brought the American soldiers from all the corners of the wide American continent to fight on French soil. This wave of brotherhood must not be permitted to withdraw or to dry up. Idealism and brotherhood must remain as the link which welds America to France forever...."
Thus spoke Foch in his metallic and abrupt tone of voice. I had been to see him because we were once again drawing near to the date of the 11th of November, which is his own special date, and I wanted to ask him if, on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the armistice, he had no message for the people of France or for the people of America, who made the victory of France possible.
I had gone to seek him as far as the building, at the back of the Invalides, where his office is situated. It is a poor, dull and low building. On a little door an old poster had been pasted upon which this faded inscription can be read: "Military Allied Committee—General Staff of Marshal Foch." I had mounted a dark and chilly staircase and waited in a dimly lighted hall, in the company of an orderly officer. Finally, I had been conducted into a very simple room where a man in civilian clothes was seated behind the most ordinary of desks. Thus I found myself in the presence of the conqueror of Germany; I was in the presence of Foch.
He has retained that same slim and vigorous silhouette which was his during his journey in America in 1921, but his gestures are less abrupt. He still has the same grave and slow tone of voice which Americans have heard, but maybe it has grown somewhat feebler. Anyhow, his memory has remained prodigious: not a single instant, during the hour I remained with him, did I notice any relaxation in it. He remembers everything without any hesitation, and recollects all the names, all the facts and all the dates.
As soon as I had explained the purpose of my visit to him he leaned slightly back in his armchair, lit his pipe, and said:
"America! She knows all I feel for her. She knows that my affection equals my admiration.... I thought I had understood her well during the war, because I had seen her soldiers fight beside our own. But I understood her even better during peace when I crossed the ocean to visit her and when, during six weeks, I traveled across her vast territory. The cheers which rang along my way, I scarcely heard them then. My mind was elsewhere. I was ever recurring to this same idea:
"Four years ago men went away from here. They made the same great voyage which I have just accomplished to go and fight on the edge of a ditch of the Meuse or the Marne. It was because an idea great as the world had inspired them; it was because an immense wave of idealism and fraternity had brought them from all corners of their vast continent to fight on our soil. And then I said to myself that this wave should not be allowed to withdraw, nor to dry up. I said to myself that, at all costs, idealism and brotherhood must remain the link which joins America and France forever!"
I ventured to say:
"People should understand one another, sir, and one must know how to command—"
"Wait a bit" said Foch, using his own familiar form of speech, "wait. I did not command as much as is generally believed. I am not even certain of having commanded at all. I brought my own ideas to prevail upon those who surrounded me, which is a very different thing.
"Look here; on July 24, 1918—a few days after the Americans had made at Château-Thierry the admirable stand which prevented the Germans from crossing the Marne—I summoned the three commanders-in-chief of the three Allied armies to my headquarters at Bonbon: Pershing, Petain and Haig. The Belgians were also represented at the meeting.
"When every one was seated around the table, I read a document which I had previously prepared and I stated the urgency of taking the offensive, according to an alternative movement, of which I indicated the rhythm: viz., the British would begin, then the French would continue, then the Americans would take their turn. When I had finished, I asked if any one had any remark to make to me. They each had one:
"'The British army' said Haig, 'no longer exists; how can you expect it to go forward?'
"'The French army,' said Petain, 'is exhausted; how can you demand yet another such effort of it?'
"'The American army' said Pershing, 'is not yet ready; how can you think of throwing it into the conflict?'
"I could easily have replied by giving a formal and categorical command, but that is not my way of acting. I know only too well that one obeys badly if one has to obey unwillingly. I preferred to take the tone of an adviser rather than that of a chief. I preferred to convince each one of them that my plan was perfectly possible and feasible.
"To Haig I said that I would place a French army under his command, the army of Debeney, which could but flatter and stimulate him.
"To Pershing I declared that I knew very well that the young American army, full of ardor and vigor, was only too anxious to cover itself with glory.
"To the Belgians I promised to let them have both British and French troops, who would be placed under the command of King Albert; and, as they raised the objection that the King did not possess a staff officer's license, I replied: 'All right; I will send him a French licensed chief officer of the general staff—General Degoutte.'
"Thus each of them, finally, through pride or logic or persuasian, or perhaps merely because he was placed face to face with his responsibilities, rallied of his own free will to my ideas. And everything went far better than if I had simply imposed my authority."
The marshal drew a whiff from his pipe, and, continuing to let his reminiscences fall, one by one, he pursued:
"I have known far more difficult hours than that. For instance, those of November, 1914, when I prevented the Allies from abandoning Ypres. At that time I did not possess any document conferring the high command on me. Then I was not a commander-in-chief of the French army; I was only a simple general. In the conferences which I had with him, French said:
"'I am a field marshal and am alone responsible toward England for the fate of the British army. I am of the opinion that that army should retreat!' To which I replied:
"I have no orders to give to you; I only take the liberty of tendering my advice to you, and I am just thinking of the fate of your army, which is very dear to me. If it retreats it is lost, for the retreat will turn into a disaster. No one can prevent you from commanding, but only just think of your responsibility.' On his side the King of the Belgians, during the conversations I had with him, said to me:
"'The constitution holds me responsible to my people for what remains of my army. I cannot sacrifice it.' To which I replied:
"'Sire, just think of your responsibility and be certain that you will sacrifice your army if you attempt to retreat.' I left two documents drawn up in haste on the corner of the table with both of them which were conceived in almost identical terms:
"We shall remain on the spot.... We shall defend the lines we hold."
"These were not orders; they were counsels. I merely persuaded the King of the Belgians and the English marshal so well that the advice given was good that they issued orders in consequence. And I really believe that I, who had no right to command at that time, commanded then. Only I had discovered the right way of commanding...."
"Yes, but you know, sir," said I, smiling, "that there are some people in the world who maintain that you have not discovered the right way of negotiating. They reproach you with that Armistice which you signed, eight years ago, in the forest of Compiègne. They even say that you reproach it to yourself. If there had been no Armistice, they say, the next Allied drive would have reached the Rhine."
"Nonsense!" cut in Foch sharply. "Did we not reach the Rhine without fighting? Listen here, and mind my words: What is an armistice? An armistice is a suspension of hostilities, the purpose of which is to discuss peace by placing the countries that have consented to the armistice in a situation which will permit them to enforce that peace.
"Did the armistice which I signed on November 11, 1918, fulfill this purpose? Yes, since on the 28th of June, after seven months of negotiations, Germany accepted all the conditions of the Allies.
"I said to M. Clemenceau, on the 11th of November, 1918, at 9 o'clock in the morning, when I brought him the document which had just been signed in the forest of Compiègne:
"'Here is my armistice; you can now make any peace you wish, I am able to enforce it.' If peace has not been a very good one, is it my fault? I did my job; it was up to the heads of the government to do theirs."
Foch arose, and emphasizing each one of his words, as if to be sure of summing up the interview thoroughly, he said:
"To command is nothing. To negotiate is nothing. What is necessary is to understand those with whom one has to deal and to make one's self thoroughly understood by them. To understand each other well is the whole secret of life!"
And Foch evidently meant also that it was the secret of the life of nations the same as that of individuals, the secret of peace and of war, the secret of commerce and of friendship.
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