Wait Just a Minute

Exactly at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, people across Europe suddenly stopped shooting guns at each other. Up until that moment, they were killing and taking bullets, falling and screaming, moaning and dying. Then they stopped, on schedule. It wasn’t that they’d gotten tired or come to their senses. Both before and after 11 o’clock they were simply following orders. The Armistice agreement that ended World War I had set 11 o’clock as quitting time. Henry Nicholas John Gunther had been born in Baltimore, Maryland, to parents who had immigrated from Germany. In September 1917 he had been drafted to help kill Germans. When he had written home from Europe to describe how horrible the war was and to encourage others to avoid being drafted, he had been demoted (and his letter censored). He had told his buddies he would prove himself. At 5:00 a.m. on 11/11/1918 the Armistice was signed. As the deadline of 11:00 a.m. approached, Henry got up, against orders, and bravely charged with his bayonet toward two German machine guns. The Germans were aware of the Armistice and tried to wave him off. He kept approaching and shooting. When he got close, a short burst of machine gun fire ended his life at 10:59 a.m. Henry was the last of the 11,000 men to be killed or wounded between the signing of the Armistice and its taking effect. Henry Gunther was given his rank back, but not his life.

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