“Peace has been declared! No more fighting!” he shouted. “C’est le finis de la guerre!”.
Without reply, I dropped the phone and turned and faced the pilots of Squadron 94. Not a sound was heard; every eye was on me but no one made a movement or drew a breath. It was one of those peculiar psychological moments when instinct tells everyone that something big is impending.
In the midst of this uncanny silence a sudden BOOM-BOOM of the Archy battery outside was heard. And then pandemonium broke loose. Shouting like mad, tumbling over one another in their excitement the daring young pilots of the Hat-in-the-Ring squadron sensing the truth darted into trunks and kitbags and drew out revolvers, German lugers that some of them had found or bought as souvenirs from French poilus, Very pistols, and shooting tools of all descriptions, and burst out of doors. There the sky over our old aerodrome was aglow and shivering with bursts of fire. Searchlights were madly cavorting across the heavens, paling to dimness the thousands of colored lights that shot up from every conceivable direction. Shrill yells pierced the darkness around us, punctuated with the fierce rat-tat-tat of machine guns that now added their noise to the clamor. Roars of laughter and hysterical whoopings came to us from the men’s quarters, beside the hangar. Pistol shots were fired in salvos, filled and emptied again and again until the weapons became too hot to hold.
At the corner of our hangar I encountered a group of my pilots rolling out tanks of gasoline. Instead of attempting the impossible task of trying to stop them, I helped them get it through the mud and struck the match myself and lighted it. A dancing ring of crazy lunatics joined hands and circled the blazing pyre, similar howling and revolving circuses surrounding several other burning tanks of good United States gasoline that would never carry fighting aeroplanes over enemy lines. …
Another pilot, this one an Ace of Squadron 27, grasped me securely by the arm and shouted incredulously, “we won’t get shot at anymore!”
Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker, Fighting the Flying Circus
7 thoughts on “November 11, 1918”
Spare a thought for those who came so close, and yet didn’t make it.
The poems of Wilfred Owen. This one is particularly poignant.
When Benjamin Britten wrote his War Requiem in honor of the reopening of Coventry Cathedral, he included several poems by Wilfred Owen in it. It’s an extraordinarily fine piece of music, if you ever get a chance to listen to a recording of it.
Boy, that 1st line had me fooled, just looked at 11/11 – not 11/11/18.
I thought Chiraq had made a statement.
SDB — Will not forget Wilfred Owen, ever. I recently read the Eddie Rickenbacker book, so I had that passage in mind.
Sandy, everything can’t be about how awful the French are!
Lex, I didn’t mean to criticize.
SDB, it is a pity that these comments cannot capture inflection of voice. I did not think you were criticizing. I did not want to let 11/11 slip by without some commemoration. There is so much one could do.
It’s difficult for us Americans to realize just how shattering WWI was to European society.
In the chapel at St-Cyr (French military academy), there was a plaque listing the names of those graduates who died in France’s wars. For the class of 1914, the inscription was very short. It said:
“The class of 1914.”
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