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Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour:…
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Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World… (2004)

by Joseph Persico

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I vividly remember reading [b:The Donkeys by Alan Clarke] (the title comes from the phrase, "lions led by donkeys") many years ago that described the total incompetence of the British Expeditionary Force generals in WW I. They were completely unable to adapt to new technologies and insisted on fighting with tactics of previous wars. Joseph Persico doesn't let them off lightly either although that's not his primary mission. The Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day... refers to the time and date of the eventual Armistice. He jumps back and forth between the Armistice and the deeds that lead up to it (a process I found somewhat disconcerting at first.)

General Douglas Haig, a master at manipulating his social contacts, eventually rose to the top (slimy oil usually does) even though he failed the entrance exams to the British Staff College, usually a prerequisite for command. He also had no regard for the machine gun ("unremarkable weapon") that was to revolutionize the battlefield and kill virtually an entire male generation. (In one battle it cost the deaths of 9 men per yard gained -- and in most cases that same piece of ground was traded back within a few days.) Apparently, there is a new book out that attempts to resurrect Haig’s reputation, but I have not read it.

Lest anyone doubt the power of the cast system, Stephen Budiansky in [b:Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II|171202|Battle of Wits The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II|Stephen Budiansky|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172386125s/171202.jpg|165319] remarks on Robert Graves entrance into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers whose members were expected to have a private income in order to "play polo and hunt and keep up the social reputation of that regiment." For those odd cases in which the rules were waived (as in Graves' situation) they were always referred to as "warts." and were informed "that they could not expect to receive a medal for any feats on the battlefield." The donkeys were a major part of the caste system.

Persico uses the last minutes of the war (multiple examples of the ending of [b:All Quiet on the Western Front|355697|All Quiet on the Western Front|Erich Maria Remarque|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1285704153s/355697.jpg|2662852] - great book) as a springboard to reflect on events leading up to the last minutes of the war. Ironically, often the decision when to quit fighting was left up to individual unit commanders, and even though they knew the armistice had been signed and exactly when it was to take effect, some decided to continue fighting until the absolute last minute.

Some nifty quotes. Douglas MacArthur was an infantry officer known for his bravado and reluctance to stay in proper uniform. When asked why he adopted this behavior, he replied, “It’s the orders you disobey that make you famous.” I wonder if Harry Truman was aware of that proclivity.

Several reviewers have complained the book wasn’t kind enough to the generals nor supportive enough of the war, in general. Tough shit. Some 6500 allied soldiers died in the six hours between signing the armistice and 11:00 when it was to take effect. That’s appalling. Other reviewers complain it’s too elementary or not comprehensive, etc. Nonsense.

After reading WW I books, one is often left with a huge question mark: just what did the millions of deaths accomplish other than to set the stage for Hitler and the next big one? It was cousins fighting each other (King George, Tsar Nicholas, and Kaiser Wilhelm were all grandchildren of Queen Victoria) over diplomatic slights and tensions that had been brewing for the previous four decades leading to misperceptions and a continuing battle between those who wanted to whip up a nationalist frenzy and imperialists. One can only have wished the family might have slugged it out in the backyard somewhere rather than by killing off almost an entire generation of men.

Persico has done a marvelous job of integrating individual stories with their context in the larger scheme of things. It’s very readable and And the peace barely lasted a generation before falling apart. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
It was touching to read when the soldiers on the front, Germans, Britain, US, French, declared a christmas truce. Both sides stoppped firing at each other and started giving handshakes, exchanged presents and singing christmas carrols.
  TukangRoti | May 17, 2011 |
4068 Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour Armistice Day 1918 World War I and Its Violent Climax, by Joseph E. Persico (read 5 Sep 2005) When I saw this on the library shelf there was no way I could keep from reading it, even though on Nov 25, 1985, I read Stanley Weintraub's A Stillness Heard Round the world--also about the ending of World War One. While this book concentrates on the events of Nov. 11, 1918, it tells the story of the whole war on the Western Front, usually from the viewpoint of the ordinary soldier. Persico is very critical of the fact that the Allies--and mainly the Americans--during the six hours between the signing of the armistice and 11 AM kept up aggressive attacks resulting in many unnecessary deaths. This book became more engrossing as I went along and when I was finished I concluded it was indeed a great book, possibly one of the best I've read this year. This is a great account about an unendingly dramatic and astounding war. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 17, 2007 |
I listened to the audio version of this book by Joseph Persico about the armistice that ended World War I. It offers a sad commentary on a brutal war fought over murky causes. Armistice Day, 1918, was unusual in war conclusions in that it was a scheduled event. All the combatants knew many hours in advance that hostilities were to end at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11. And yet there were casualties right up until the last minutes.
Persico portrays a war fought with modern weaponry using pathetically outdated strategies. There was a vast disconnect between generals moving markers around on maps and the soldiers being cut to ribbons by machine guns. Allied generals continued to order suicidal charges against the already beaten German lines right up until 11 a.m. on Armistice Day. Motivations ranged from resume-building to regimental pride. One officer claimed a wish to “tidy the map.” These officers had been woefully out of touch with the front lines for the duration of the war, one of history’s bloodiest and most appalling conflicts. Persico describes the exasperation those officers felt at the thought that the soldiers in the trenches didn’t share their enthusiasm for the cause: On Christmas, 1914, German, British and French troops crossed into no-man’s land to celebrate the holiday together peacefully, prompting harsh criticism from the officers. The overall picture is that of a vast failure of states to avert a catastrophic war that marked a turning point in military and social histories alike.
  TPLThing | Dec 19, 2006 |
This was the first book I read concerning WWI. It was also one of the best books I have ever read. The author's focus is really on the senselessness of war, and he usually doesn't have many nice things to say about the generals who send their troops into battle from a safe distance. It was also neat to read about one of my distant relatives that is mentioned in this book, Joyce Kilmer, the poet. Kinda slow at the beginning, but it really picks up. ( )
  RemlikReader | Nov 21, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375508252, Hardcover)

November 11, 1918. The final hours pulsate with tension as every man in the trenches hopes to escape the melancholy distinction of being the last to die in World War I. The Allied generals knew the fighting would end precisely at 11:00 A.M, yet in the final hours they flung men against an already beaten Germany. The result? Eleven thousand casualties suffered–more than during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Why? Allied commanders wanted to punish the enemy to the very last moment and career officers saw a fast-fading chance for glory and promotion.

Joseph E. Persico puts the reader in the trenches with the forgotten and the famous–among the latter, Corporal Adolf Hitler, Captain Harry Truman, and Colonels Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. Mainly, he follows ordinary soldiers’ lives, illuminating their fate as the end approaches. Persico sets the last day of the war in historic context with a gripping reprise of all that led up to it, from the 1914 assassination of the Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand, which ignited the war, to the raw racism black doughboys endured except when ordered to advance and die in the war’s last hour. Persico recounts the war’s bloody climax in a cinematic style that evokes All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Illusion, and Paths of Glory.

The pointless fighting on the last day of the war is the perfect metaphor for the four years that preceded it, years of senseless slaughter for hollow purposes. This book is sure to become the definitive history of the end of a conflict Winston Churchill called “the hardest, cruelest, and least-rewarded of all the wars that have been fought.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"November 11, 1918. The final hours pulsate with tension as every man in the trenches hopes to escape the melancholy distinction of being the last to die in World War I." "The Allied generals knew the fighting would end precisely at 11:00 A.M., yet in the final hours they flung men against an already beaten Germany. The result? Eleven thousand casualties suffered - more than during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Why? Allied commanders wanted to punish the enemy to the very last moment, and career officers saw a fast-fading chance for glory and promotion." "Joseph E. Persico puts the reader in the trenches with the forgotten and the famous - among the latter, Corporal Adolf Hitler, Captain Harry Truman, and Colonels Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. Mainly, though, he follows ordinary soldiers' lives, illuminating their fate as the end approaches." "Persico sets the last day of the war in historic context with a reprise of all that led up to it, from the 1914 assassination of the Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand, which ignited the war, to the raw racism black doughboys endured except when ordered to advance and die in the war's final hour."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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