Terms Of The Armistice & Explanations

Terms Provided by John M. Holman, American Legion Post #35
Explanations Provided by John Hirtle, Production Manager, A/N

Atlantic News, Thursday, November 14, 2002

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]

With the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire by Bosnian terrorists in 1914, Europe, and the world was plunged into the horrors of the First World War. By its end, eight million men lay dead. Three empires - the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and Tsarist Russia were destroyed from within and without. Germany, once the rising power of Europe was brought to its knees, and held largely accountable for a war that had spun horribly out of control from the assasination of one man by a terrorist.

Fresh manpower from the United States and another man, President Wilson, helped to force Germany and its allies to the Peace Table. The Germans, tired of war, and facing mutinies in their own armed forces, forced the Kaiser to flee the country for neutral Holland on November 9, 1918. Two days later, the Armistice took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. In memory of that historic date, Armistice Day - now known as Veteran's Day - is observed.

Listing the somewhat arcane terms of the Armistice in 2002 is much like trying to explain the finer points of today's War on Terrorism to a young soldier of 1918. As a result we are listing the Terms of the Armistice followed with a brief explanation in italics.

The following terms were set by the Allied powers for the Armistice.

1. Effective six hours after signing.
- Owing to the communications of the day it would have taken this long to relay cease fire orders to the front.

2. Immediate clearing of Belgium, France, Alsace-Lorraine, to be concluded within 14 days. Any troops remaining in these areas to be interned or taken as prisoners of war.
- During World War I, only Belgium was completely overrun, and Holland remained free and neutral for the conflict. Alsace-Lorraine were two provinces of France taken by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Following World War One, this territory would be returned to France, and become home for the poorly conceived Maginot Line, a line of forts built to prevent another German invasion- an invasion which came in 1940, as the Germans went through Belgium again and around those fortifications. Most of the fighting during World War One was done on French soil.

3. Surrender 5000 cannon (chiefly heavy), 30,000 machine guns, 3000 trench mortars, 2000 planes.
- Cannon (artillery pieces) mortars and machine guns had been used by both sides with deadly effect, as both high explosive and gas filled shells created the no man's land of trench warfare.
By the end of the war, the Germans had better planes than the Allies, of note the Forker VII fighter. Hermann Goring, who would eventually become head of the Luftwaffe in Nazi Germany was then in command of the late Baron von Richthofen (The Red Baron) squadron. As he led his planes in for the surrender, he landed his in such a way to break the wings off; his fellow fliers followed suit, depriving the Allies of those planes.

4. Evacuation of the left bank of the Rhine, Mayence, Coblence, Cologne, occupied by the enemy to a radius of 30 kilometers deep.
- The Rhine, a major river in Germany provided a natural boundary to help pen up the Germans. Eventually, the region between France and the Rhine was seized by France for Germany's non-payment of war reparations, and became the Rhineland - and the first stop for Hitler's expanding ambitions in 1936 as Germany began the take over neighboring lands before the outbreak of World War Two.

5. On the right bank of the Rhine a neutral zone from 30 to 40 kilometers deep, evacuation within 11 days.
- An added layer of protection for France where most of the fighting had taken place. The Rhine River also forms part of the border between Alsace-Lorraine and Germany. Towns had been wiped off the map during the worst of the fighting, and even today explosives and gas shells left over from both World Wars pose a serious hazard to people living there.

6. Nothing to be removed from the territory on the left bank of the Rhine, all factories, railroads, etc. to be left intact.
- The Rhine Valley was the industrial heartland of Germany, a very valuable region, with large coal deposits and the heart of the German military-industrial complex during both World Wars.

7. Surrender of 5000 locomotives, 150,000 railway coaches, 10,000 trucks.
- Railroads of course were the chief method of transporting men and materials at the time. Some special railway cars were also fitted with large artillery pieces to move them from one part of the front to another.

8. Maintenance of enemy occupation troops through Germany.
- The Allies in Europe, while victorious, were virtually bankrupt and owed enormous sums of money to the United States. For their 'occupation' it made sense for the Germans to pay the wages of their soldiers. Unfortunately, the Germans were just as deep in debt as the Allies, and the staggering financial reparations demanded by the Allies were never completely paid.

9. In the East all troops to withdraw behind the boundaries of August 1, 1914, fixed time not given.
-Germany's conflict with Russia during World War One is often overlooked as it spawned a civil war that destroyed Tsarist Russia and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The German Army had penetrated deep into Russia during World War One due to a lack of leadership amongst the Russian military, and had also gained even more territory following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a peace treaty made independently between Germany and the new Soviet government they had helped establish in Russia.

10. Renunciation of the Treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest.
- The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a particularly harsh peace treaty dictated by Germany to the fledgling Soviet Russia in 1918. Among the terms was the loss of Russian territory from Finland to the eastern portion of the Black Sea, and monetary demands. Lenin (who had been sent back to Russia by the Germans) agreed to this mainly because the Soviets were fighting a civil war against the opposing White Russians who were backed by the Allied powers. Ironically, the success of the Communists in Russia led to a number of revolts in Germany following the war, which would be crushed- not to mention the occupation of East Germany by the Soviets after World War II.
The Treaty of Bucharest was an equally punishing peace imposed by Germany, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Turkey on Rumania which had entered the war as an ally of Russia.

11. Unconditional surrender of East Africa.
- East Africa was one of the few German colonies that was able to resist the Allies for the duration of the war. Of course, it was in a rather unimportant region of the conflict. After the war, the colony was taken over by the British until 1961. The region is now known as the the country of Tanzania.

12. Return of the property of the Belgian Bank, Russian and Rumanian gold.
- Belgian Bank property had been seized by the Germans after they had invaded that country; the Russian and Rumanian gold were taken as part of the peace treaties with those countries.

13. Return of prisoners of war without reciprocity.
- As in any war, prisoners were taken - although never on the same scale as those taken in World War Two. Allied prisoners were to be returned without harm. Captured German personnel would continue to be held by the Allies.

14. Surrender of 160 U-boats, 8 light cruisers, 6 Dreadnoughts; the rest of the fleet to be disarmed and controlled by the Allies in neutral or Allied harbors.
- Most of the German High Seas Fleet, already in a state of semi-mutiny was sent to Scapa Flow, the British Navy's chief base of operations. In a final act of defiance after most of the sailors were sent home, the remaining crews scuttled the fleet at anchor as final peace talks dragged on. A few were saved or salvaged, but most remain at the bottom of Scapa Flow.
Of the six U-Boats given to the United States, the U-111 was sent to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where it was studied, tested and dismantled. Lessons learned from it improved American submarine technology, and led to the design of the "Portsmouth Compressor" a ballast-blowing pump that was the standard on US submarines until World War II. The stripped hull of the U-111 was sunk off the Seacoast as a target.

15. Assurance of free trade through the Cattegat Sound; clearance of mine fields and occupation of all forts and batteries, through which transit could be hindered.
- Cattegat Sound is the body of water laying between Denmark and Sweden. During both world wars, German command of this vital waterway cut off easy access to Russia, as well as Finland and Sweden. To the Allies, desperate to stop the Soviets, the opening of this strait allowed them to send troops and ships to Russian ports in what would be a failed attempt to stop the Communists from staying in power.

16. The blockade remains in effect. All German ships to be captured.
- This may have been the cruelest condition of all - cut off from imports of food, coupled with poor harvests resulted in food shortages and unrest in Germany. By this point, any German ship not in a German port probably had been sunk, captured, or pressed into service by the Allies.

17. All limitations by Germany on neutral shipping to be removed.
- Germany had declared unrestricted submarine warfare on Britain, which had nearly lead to England to surrender first before the use of convoys lessened the impact of U-Boat warfare. This unrestricted submarine warfare was also one of the key reasons that the United States entered the war.

18. Armistice lasts 30 days.
- It took considerably longer than this to create the Treaty of Versailles, a two hundred page treaty that Germany was forced to sign on June 28, 1919. While President Wilson had managed to soften the harsh terms dictated on Germany by the victorious European Allies, the groundwork of resentment was laid which would lead to the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler and the Second World War.