At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the fighting ceased. The Great War (as it was then called) had been raging for more than four years and had cost millions of lives. November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of Compiègne, the peace agreement that silenced the guns of World War I.
A lot of powerful poetry came out of the war, much of it written by soldiers in the field. Some of these authors became identified as the Trench Poets. Their verse was known for its gritty detail and lack of romantic illusions. “Above the Dreamless Dead” is a collection of 20 World War I poems illustrated by contemporary comics artists. The styles are as varied as the poems, but all help to capture the realities of combat.
“Testament of Youth” by Vera Brittain is a memoir written by a woman who volunteered as a nurse for the British Armed Forces in World War I. Her brother and fiancé both perished in the war. Brittain would go on to help lead the suffrage movement and become active in the formation of the League of Nations, the forerunner of today’s United Nations.
For a comprehensive account of the war, “NPR American Chronicles: World War I” is an audio compilation including stories from veterans, radio broadcasts, interviews with historians and more. It gives an overview of World War I and its lasting effects. R.G. Grant’s “World War I, the Definitive Visual History” strives to show the whole picture through maps, timelines and charts.
A strong anti-war movement grew in the U.S. as America entered the Great War. Though war resisters came from all walks of life, many acted out of religious faith. “Pacifists in Chains” by Duane C.S. Stolzfus tells the stories of four Christian men from a Hutterite community who refused to participate in the war, and the harsh punishments they endured in Alcatraz and Fort Leavenworth prisons.
Although November 11 did not become an official federal holiday in the United States until 1938, Congress passed a resolution in 1926 urging that the date “should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”
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