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Rolland Woodington and the End of World War I

November 11, 2012

At 11:00 a.m. on the 11th of November (the 11th month of the year) in 1918, an armistice was signed which ended World War I. For many years after that, November 11 was celebrated as Armistice Day and then, as wars continued to pile up, became our national celebration of Veteran’s Day.

In 1918, after four hard years of war–“the war to end all wars” as it had been called–finally came to an end. On the website, “Eye Witness to History” the Armistice was described (in part) this way:

Colonel Thomas Gowenlock served as an intelligence officer in the American 1st Division. He was on the front line that morning and spoke of his experience a few years later:

On the morning of November 11 I sat in my dugout. . . . A signal corp officer entered and handed us the following message:

Official Radio from Paris – 6:01 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918
Marshall Foch to the Commander-in-Chief

1. Hostilities will be stopped on the entire front
at 11:00, November 11, (French hour).
2. The Allied troops will not go beyond the line reached at
that hour on that date until further orders.

There was great celebrating throughout France as the war came to an end.

As an aside, my genealogy buddy and cousin, Kevin, who has superior sleuthing skills, discovered that Nov. 24, 1918 had been declared “Father’s Day”–a holiday still in its infancy. As described by The Learning Channel (tlc) website:

In 1916, two years after he proclaimed May 9 as Mother’s Day, President Woodrow Wilson verbally approved Father’s Day, but he didn’t sign a proclamation for it. The closest the U.S. came to honoring fathers nationally during Wilson’s presidential tenure was a Nov. 24, 1918, letter-writing campaign between fathers on the home front and their sons deployed in Europe. The activity was suggested by Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Force in France. Since World War I ended two weeks before the letter campaign, the letters were delivered safely on both sides of the Atlantic.

Private Rolland Woodington was serving in France when World War I ended. On November 24, he wrote to his father, Furman Woodington, as part of the Father’s Day letter-writing campaign, and described a bit of his life there:

The envelope Rolland used to write his father, Furman.

Sunday, Nov 24, 1918

Dear Father,

Well Papa as this is Fathers day will write you a few lines as the Fathers were the ones that helped the most to win the war. I know you are happy that it is all over with and we will all be home very soon. I am having a very nice time over here along with my work and when the  war was going on we were all very busy although we hardly know the game is finished as our work still keeps going on. This is a wonderful country and a great many things to see and as I have got over a great deal of it in 5 months have seen quite a lot of interesting things. We had a grand time the night the war ended and the following Sunday I went to Bordeaux where there was a great deal of celebrating and everyone was very happy. I have charge of a warehouse with an ass’t and I have enough food in it to last a family a good many years. I like the work fine and all the rest of the fellows also. I haven’t seen my company since July but when I join them again I know where I will go that will be back in the good old States. A great many of the boys and girls over here lost their Fathers in this long war and I can be thankful to have mine. A person hardly realizes the horrors of the war in the States but here most every family in this country have lost someone of the family. I have seen enough to last me for some time to come. We had a very rainy day all Sunday but everyone was happy. What did you do to spend the day set aside for the Fathers? Hope you had a pleasant day and that you will spend many many more such days. I got a letter from Walter [Rolland’s brother] yesterday, glad he likes the army but I guess he will soon be out as the fellows in the States will be out much sooner. Just as soon as peace is signed the boys will come rolling back. We have some long trip ahead of us but we will know each day is getting closer to home. We don’t have hardly any sickness in our camp but we are in a fine climate. Hope this finds you all well and happy as this leaves me and that the next Fathers day we will all be together and have a good time. Have a good time Thanksgiving as we will over here. With lots of love to you all I am as ever your son,

Pri. Rolland L. Woodington

Detach 311th Supply Co.

Beginning of Rolland’s letter to his father.

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