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

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: Open Forum,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. stonetools says:

    Nice elegy. Here is something a little more bitter, and painful, from a another poet who served:

    I knew a simple soldier boy
    Who grinned at life in empty joy,
    Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
    And whistled early with the lark.

    In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
    With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
    He put a bullet through his brain.
    No one spoke of him again.

    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go.

  2. Liberal Capitalist says:

    “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

    President Woodrow Wilson

    If the war to end all wars was only that.

    Here is to all our troops. May they never be needed.

  3. wr says:

    And one more:

    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 disappointed shells that dropped 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 floundering 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.

  4. george says:

    I was thinking of DULCE ET DECORUM EST too. It was an incredibly cruel and pointless war.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Damn…I just discovered that means the DMV isn’t open.

  6. Mikey says:

    Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
    Great Gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
    Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
    Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
    Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
    And beat it down before its sins grow worse.
    Spend our resentment, cannon, – yea, disburse
    Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.

    Yet, for men’s sakes whom thy vast malison
    Must wither innocent of enmity,
    Be not withdrawn, dark arm, thy spoilure done,
    Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
    But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
    May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

  7. stonetools says:

    Dark stuff, these contributions for a dark topic. Maybe we should recognise the courage of the lads (they’re usually lads) who did the fighting and dying, even for the wrong war and the wrong cause. Here’s a salute to courage in one of the few right wars:

    Tin Can Sailors

    The mighty 3rd to the north did steam,
    Chasing a ghost not to be seen

    Guard the landing your task assigned,
    Quiet the day is to be benign

    At dawn the Imperial fleet does appear,
    Surprise complete, ranging fire splashes near

    Outnumbered and out gunned, duty is clear,
    Close the range you must in spite of your fear

    Laying smoke, a jagged course you take,
    An account of yourselves you will make

    Steel your heart and make sure your eye,
    For each salvo keeps you alive

    Toe-to-toe the battle, you exchange mighty blows,
    Triumph impossible, yet into the fray you all go

    In perfect rhythm, the mad dance goes on,
    As smoke filled gunhouse loads powder and shot

    Decks strewn with the dead and dying,
    Teams repair to keep the ensign flying

    Struck and struck again, yet to point blank you steam,
    Hard to port, you cross the “T”

    “All guns to fire at the turn, torpedoes away!”
    The enemy scatters in disarray

    Too late, mortal blows you take
    To the deep, no more your enemy to rake

    One final salute their captain does render,
    For you fought to the death and did not surrender

    On this all men do still agree,
    These were the finest two hours of Taffy 3

    On October 25th, 1944, 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts of Task Force
    Taffy 3 engaged a combined force of Imperial Japanese Navy battleships and
    cruisers in a 2 hour running gun battle to protect the escort carriers and troop
    transports taking part in the Leyte Gulf landings in the Philippines. Two of the
    three destroyers and one of the escorts were sunk while sinking three
    Japanese heavy cruisers and damaged three more. Due to the fierceness of
    the attack, the Japanese fleet retired from the area thinking they had been
    attacked by a much larger force. At the outset of the battle, the commanding
    officers of these 7 ships, without orders, individually decided to attack and
    headed at flank speed to the fight all knowing they would most likely not
    survive the day. Almost 1600 did not. In a final act of respect, the commander
    of one Japanese cruiser saluted the crew of an American ship that had just
    sunk as his ship passed them floating in the water

  8. KM says:

    I was in a meeting today and told everyone before I intended to have a moment of silence at 11. I’m ashamed to admit I forgot my red poppy this morning (my grandmother would have died of shame) so I really wanted to make an effort to mark the day in some fashion the way my family always does. You’d have thought I told them the sky was orange. No one, literally no one, in my building had any idea what I was talking about. They had to google it!!! And then they went on yapping, and were offended I stayed quiet instead of gossiping.

    Everyone knows today had great sales, no one knew today was a day for a quiet minute of your time for those that gave it all. I sat in my meeting dead silent, ready to cry at the ignorance of my elders and my peers. My deepest respects go out to the veterans and especially to those who never came home. Not all of us have forgotten you – rest in peace.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
    The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
    The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
    I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
    O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
    But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

    I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
    They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
    They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
    But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
    But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
    The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
    O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

    Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
    An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
    But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

    We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

    Rudyard Kipling

  10. JohnMcC says:

    Since we have progressed past WW 1, I’ll add a (?) favorite of mine:

    From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in it’s belly til my wet fur froze.
    Six miles from earth, loosed from it’s dream of life,
    I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
    When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

    Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
    Randall Jarrell