100 years ago today
K. O’Donnell military historian
Many Americans have no idea why we
celebrate Veterans Day on November 11. Those who know that the
holiday began as Armistice Day typically think of it as a day of
victory and peace.
However, for those on the ground in
Europe the last twenty-four hours before the cessation of hostilities
on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in
1918, that day was nothing less than hell on earth.
One hundred years ago this weekend,
Undoubtedly, the rumors of an
approaching armistice played a role in their decision. For several
days, men had been talking about a possible end to the war.
Unbeknownst to the men, the two sides actually signed a peace deal at
5:45 a.m. on the morning of November 11. But General Pershing chose
not to provide that information to the men fighting on the banks of
the Meuse. He merely passed along the order to cease fire at exactly
11:00 a.m. Many of the Leathernecks and soldiers on the front lines
would perish in the intervening hours.
As the Marines approached the river, a
gleaming white star shell arced across the inky sky, silhouetting
Saunders and his men, along with members of the Janson’s 49th
Company and the other Marines. Staccato fire from machine guns
obliterated the relative silence. An enemy patrol set up their Maxims
on the far bank and sprayed lead like a fire hose.
Men slid and slipped down the
embankment next to the river, shrapnel from artillery shells tore
through their ranks. One man counted 25 killed or wounded in the
space of 100 yards.
“The bridge! The bridge! This way,
come on, Marines!” Saunders and the other engineers called to the
Marines behind them.
Men dashed across the rickety
contraption. Some made it to the other side. Some, struck with
machine-gun fire on the way, fell into the water. Many others never
even got to the water; their bodies piled up on the eastern side of
However, scores had made it across when
the Germans scored a direct hit on the bridge. The men on the Western
side of the river were now trapped in enemy territory. They formed a
perimeter, dug in, and prepared to hold for as long as they could.
Staring down annihilation, the Marines
did not know the war would end within hours. What the Marines did
know is that they had leaders they trusted and followed to the end.
They had each other — a fellowship forged only in battle. This bond
kept many of the men alive.
Many Marines died there on that eastern
bank of the Meuse before the guns suddenly went silent at 11:00
K. O’Donnell is a bestselling, critically acclaimed military
historian and an expert on elite units. PatrickkODonnell.com
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Please pray for hurricane
“God is our refuge and strength, a
very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …”
— Psalm 46:1–2, ESV
While most of Florence
has moved on from the Carolinas, her destructive force is still being
felt across these two states. Entire communities are under water, and
there are reports of harrowing rescues as flooding continues. Once
the waters recede and the roads reopen, many people will return home
to find they’ve lost everything.
They need your prayers.
Please pray that God will comfort them
in their suffering, give strength to first responders, utility
workers, and volunteers, and draw many people to His Son, Jesus
Will you also pray for our Rapid
Response Team? We’ve deployed teams of chaplains to hard-hit areas
to minister in Jesus’ Name and offer emotional and spiritual care
to victims and first responders.
Thank you for your heart to reach
hurting people with the Good News of God’s love.
May God richly bless you,
President & CEO
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association