The 11th Hour, Of The 11th Day, Of The 11th Month

101 years ago today, the so-called "War To End All Wars" finally came to an end.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

It is, after all, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

FILED UNDER: General
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. SC_Birdflyte says:

    My British friends always post something memorable for what they call “Remembrance Sunday.” This year, one of them posted an original poem his father wrote about serving in the Royal Navy in World War II.

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  2. Joe says:

    A year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Netherlands American Cemetery outside of Maastricht. It was very moving, especially the fact that each 8,000 grave in the cemetery has been adopted and cared for by a local family since the cemetery was established, including the placement of flowers on a regular basis, especially on Dutch Memorial Day.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    It took two World Wars, but we did eventually end war, at least in Europe. And now we’re throwing it away.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Later I will raise a Scotch to all those who were wounded or killed in service to my country.

    I don’t always approve of our wars, but that’s on the voters and the pols, not on the men and women who make a daily habit of doing work that would have most of us wetting ourselves and crying for mommy. And that’s just the training.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I read a fair amount of military history. Part of the appeal is the contradiction of so many people, displaying so much bravery, dedication, and skill, doing something at heart so pointless. Let me be clear, we had to fight in WWII, but the German, Italian, and Japanese governments behaved incredibly stupidly.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Agreed. And let’s not forget the vast majority of the people who fought in WWI were conscripts.

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  7. Mister Bluster says:

    The wisest were just the poor and simple people. They knew the war to be a misfortune, whereas those who were better off, and should have been able to see more clearly what the consequences would be, were beside themselves with joy. Katczinsky said that was a result of their upbringing. It made them stupid. And what Kat said, he had thought about.
    All Quiet on the Western Front
    Erich Maria Remarque

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  8. grumpy realist says:

    A comment I remember reading is if the parties to a war can coordinate and agree enough to meet each other on a battlefield at the same place and same time, why in the heck can’t they do the same thing around a negotiating table?

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  9. Slugger says:

    I like poetry:
    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    That’s Wilfred Owen. I also like Siegfried Sassoon; “Suicide in the Trenches” is a good one.
    WW I represented an utter failure of those who have the responsibility to lead nations. Millions of Hansies, Pierres, and Tommies died crawling in mud through barb wire toward machine guns. For what? The fruits of that war were Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany.

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  10. Mister Bluster says:

    More Veterans Have Committed Suicide In A Decade Than Died In Vietnam
    Between the years of 2008 and 2017, more than 60,000 U.S. veterans have killed themselves. More than half of those deaths — which exceed the U.S. death toll of the Vietnam War — were by firearm.

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  11. grumpy realist says:
  12. Mister Bluster says:

    @grumpy realist:..why in the heck can’t they do the same thing around a negotiating table?

    Because War? What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

    With the opening of the peace talks in mid-November (1968), the battle of the tables began.
    At the outset of the negotiations, the U.S. proposed two long tables with the two sides facing each other. North Vietnam refused to recognize South Vietnam’s legitimacy since the Geneva Accord elections had been indefinitely delayed, therefore the country’s existence was in violation. North Vietnam also demanded that America acknowledge that the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese Army were separate and proposed a square table to represent the four-sided nature of the Vietnam War.
    U.S. Ambassador at Large W. Averell Harriman proposed a round table for everyone. The North acquiesced – but the South did not. South Vietnam did not want to be seen with equal power as the NLF, which it refused to recognize as anything but saboteurs sent from the North. But what is probably more important is the South’s uneasy relationship with Johnson, who had been pressing for peace. Secretly, President-elect Richard Nixon’s staff had reached out to South Vietnam, hinting that a better peace might be possible with Nixon if they could only delay negotiations. After all, Nixon had campaigned on having a secret plan to end the war, and he desperately wanted to be remembered for what would become a list of foreign policy achievements (and secret expansions of war). Nonetheless, with conventional ideas like round tables and square tables being shot down, Herring referred to the debacle thus:

    “Instead of drafting cables at night, the U.S. delegation sketched table designs, the two sides proposing at various times such inventive geometric creations as a broken parallelogram, four arcs of a circle, a flattened ellipse, and two semi-circles that touched but did not form a circle.”

    And so, after weeks of duking it out over seating arrangements, the verdict – brokered by the Soviet Union – was a round table for the two Vietnamese governments and nearby square tables for the other actors involved. The negotiations could finally begin. The problem was, they began in the last days of Johnson’s administration, and so they never really began. Nixon’s plan had won out, and the South had been able to cling to war instead of peace in hopes of a better go-around with Nixon. Ultimately, of course, this would not work. Apparently, Nixon’s secret plan for ending the war in Vietnam was to continue it while simultaneously taking it to Cambodia as well. The Vietnam War would hobble forwards for several more years.
    Source

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  13. DrDaveT says:

    ETA: Slugger beat me to it, but I’ll post the whole thing…

    Dulce et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori
    .

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  14. CSK says:

    I think of my late father, who, among other things, carried an injured comrade across a minefield.

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  15. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    A comment I remember reading is if the parties to a war can coordinate and agree enough to meet each other on a battlefield at the same place and same time, why in the heck can’t they do the same thing around a negotiating table?

    I don’t think anyone coordinates with the enemy on where the battle will take place. Rather you know the likely routes for a land invasion, taking terrain and other factors into account (like rivers to cross, transportation, etc.), and station troops where you think the enemy will invade.

    You also try to determine the objective, as the US did with the Japanese at Midway. Or you figure out the position and trajectory of enemy forces, as GB did during the Battle of Britain.

    If you guess wrong, or fall for misinformation or deception, you leave parts of your border undefended and the enemy just waltzes in; or you leave your flank vulnerable to attack.

    WWI in particular was not planned to be the way it was. All sides believed they’d win the war in weeks. I think if they had known what a mess of a meat grinder it would turn out to be, they’d have rushed to the negotiating table.

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  16. sam says:

    The ending of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain:

    Ah, this young blood, with its knapsacks and bayonets, its mud-befouled boots and clothing! We look at it, our humanistic-æsthetic eye pictures it among scenes far other than these: we see these youths watering horses on a sunny arm of the sea; roving with the beloved one along the strand, the lover’s lips to the ear of the yielding bride; in happiest rivalry bending the bow. Alas, no, here they lie, their noses in fiery filth. They are glad to be here—albeit with boundless anguish, with unspeakable sickness for home; and this, of itself, is a noble and a shaming thing—but no good reason for bringing them to such a pass.

    There is our friend, there is Hans Castorp! We recognize him at a distance, by the little beard he assumed while sitting at the “bad” Russian table. Like all the others, he is wet through and glowing. He is running, his feet heavy with mould, the bayonet swinging in his hand. Look! He treads on the hand of a fallen comrade; with his hobnailed boot he treads the hand deep into the slimy, branch-strewn ground. But it is he. What, singing? As one sings, unaware, staring stark ahead, yes, thus he spends his hurrying breath, to sing half soundlessly:

    “And loving words I’ve carven
    Upon its branches fair—”

    He stumbles, No, he has flung himself down, a hell-hound is coming howling, a huge explosive shell, a disgusting sugar-loaf from the infernal regions. He lies with his face in the cool mire, legs sprawled out, feet twisted, heels turned down. The product of a perverted science, laden with death, slopes earthward thirty paces in front of him and buries its nose in the ground; explodes inside there, with hideous expense of power, and raises up a fountain high as a house, of mud, fire, iron, molten metal, scattered fragments of humanity. Where it fell, two youths had lain, friends who in their need flung themselves down together—now they are scattered, commingled and gone.

    Shame of our shadow-safety! Away! No more!—But our friend? Was he hit? He
    thought so, for the moment. A great clod of earth struck him on the shin, it hurt, but he smiles at it. Up he gets, and staggers on, limping on his earth-bound feet, all unconsciously singing:

    “Its waving branches whiispered
    A message in my ear—”

    and thus, in the tumult, in the rain, in the dusk, vanishes out of our sight. Farewell, honest Hans Castorp, farewell, Life’s delicate child! Your tale is told. We have told it to the end, and it was neither short nor long, but hermetic. We have told it for its own sake, not for yours, for you were simple. But after all, it was your story, it befell you, you must have more in you than we thought; we will not disclaim the pedagogic weakness we conceived for you in the telling; which could even lead us to press a finger delicately to our eyes at the thought that we shall see you no more, hear you no more for ever.

    Farewell—and if thou livest or diest! Thy prospects are poor. The desperate dance, in which thy fortunes are caught up, will last yet many a sinful year; we should not care to set a high stake on thy life by the time it ends. We even confess that it is without great concern we leave the question open. Adventures of the flesh and in the spirit, while enhancing thy simplicity, granted thee to know in the spirit what in the flesh thou scarcely couldst have done. Moments there were, when out of death, and the rebellion of the flesh, there came to thee, as thou tookest stock of thyself, a dream of love. Out of this universal feast of death, out of this extremity of fever, kindling the rain-washed evening sky to a fiery glow, may it be that Love one day shall mount?

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