July 14, 2024

Brighton Journal

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The story of the tragic sacrifice of the last soldier to die during the First World War

The story of the tragic sacrifice of the last soldier to die during the First World War
A World War I picture shows French soldiers moving from their trenches towards an attack during the Battle of Verdun, eastern France, during World War I (AFP / David Corbett)

The Armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed at car number 2419 at 5:45 am. Monday, November 11, 1918 In Le Francport near Compiègne, France.

During World War II, when the Allied forces were at the gates of Berlin, the SS was ordered by Adolf Hitler to blow up the wagon that was being transported to Berlin, which had strong significance for the Germans. The Armistice of 1918 was signed there, and then the surrender of the French when the Nazis invaded France.

The signing of this treaty did not mean peace – which would be sealed with the celebrated Treaty of Versailles on June 28 the following year – but rather it determined an armistice between the Allies and Germany. Others were already held with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It should take effect at 11am, so it will be 11am French time on the 11th of the 11th month.

The Germans were to go to the other side of the Rhine and release the prisoners. The possibility of war reparations was contemplated and a naval blockade of Germany would be maintained. And the Allies would occupy the Rhineland and the bridgehead in the east.

A common image of soldiers in the trenches during the First World War (Halton Archive/Getty Images)

It had been two months Germany’s military situation collapsed And their forces were not in a position to withstand the onslaught of the enemy. Especially after America entered the conflict.

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President of the United States Woodrow Wilson Although he opposed German U-boats’ indiscriminate attacks on passenger and cargo ships around the British Isles, he always proclaimed his country’s neutrality in the conflict.

In May 1915 The British ship Lusitania was sunk by the Germans1,200 people died including 128 Americans. In September of that year Wilson obtained a German promise not to sink passenger ships without warning.

However, in February 1917 Germany reverted to its old offensive pattern. Additionally, secret communications were leaked that encouraged Mexico to declare war on the United States, promising to help restore the territories of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. In the same sense, Great Britain was pressuring Washington by all means at its disposal to enter the conflict.

Against this background, the agreement before the Congress, Wilson declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.. Under the command of General John Pershing, nearly two million men were sent to Europe, 1,400,000 of whom participated in the battles of Contigny, Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and St. Michael. 116,516 Americans diedAmong them was Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of Theodore Roosevelt, a fighter pilot, who was shot down on July 14, 1918.

Gunther’s death was reported by the American press

One of the registrants Henry Nicholas John Gunther. 23 years old, born June 6, 1895, the grandson of German immigrants — meaning he endured ridicule and persecution when the war broke out — he lived comfortably with his family in Baltimore and was a teller at the National Bank, where he led a quiet social life and attended Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. .

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He enlisted as a supply sergeant in Company A of the 313th Infantry Regiment of the 79th Division. Joining the army would not have been easy for him. She had a good job and got married recently. Transferred to France in July 1918, he fought in the Argonne and his division took part in the September 1918 Allied offensive.

When the Army Censor reviewed a letter he sent to the United States, there were versions that he condemned the poor condition of the troops and advised no one to enlist. He was demoted as a soldierHe was separated from his delivery function and sent to the trenches, breaking the rules for spreading criticism and negative opinions.

A series of posts were improvised with soldiers having to run from one place to another with messages as the Germans used them to cut the cables of the lines of communication. When one is required to cover the position of the regiment with the headquarters of the regiment, Gunther volunteered. He did the job for a week, and on one occasion he was wounded in the wrist by a sniper. Unexpectedly, Gunther put a bandage on the wound on his arm and turned to his comrades.

On November 11, On a very foggy morning, his division arrived at the village of Chaumont-Devant-Damvillers, twenty miles north of Verdun, near the Belgian border. There, they found a block where the Germans had installed a machine gun.

Henry Gunther Memorial (www.uswarmemorials.org)

Gunther’s friend, Sergeant Ernest Powell, ordered him to wait until 11 a.m., when the ceasefire would take effect. Don’t know why Gunther ignored him. He charged his rifle with a fixed bayonet In the direction of enemy soldiers.

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Some of his comrades felt that Gunther, suffering from his demotion, wanted to save himself from disgrace. Prove your worth.

The Germans themselves shouted to Gunther that the armistice was about to take effect, and even they stopped, gestured with their hands, and fired into the sky. But the soldier continued his march A burst of five machine-gun shells ended his life.. It was 10:59 am.

As soon as he fell to the ground, the sound of the cannons stopped. It was 11 o’clock.

All understood that he died to prove his faithfulness. General Pershing learned what had happened, He reinstated Gunther to the rank of sergeant and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for postmortem.

He was first buried in the Chaumont-devant-Damvillers cemetery and later his body was moved to the Argonne cemetery.

His remains were returned to Baltimore in 1923. and was buried in the tomb of the most holy Saviour. His tombstone, placed in 2010, reads that he was “highly decorated for his exceptional bravery and heroic deed. His death occurred one minute before the armistice”.

A total of 2,738 soldiers and 320 Americans died on the last day of the war on the Western Front.

A flagpole with an American flag was placed at the site of Gunther’s death to commemorate him. There, the last death of the First World War occurred.