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Issue 15: End of the War  &  the Occupation of Germany

One hundred years ago, after four years and millions of lives lost, a series of armistices brought an “end” to World War I. News of the armistice between Germany and the Allies on Nov. 11 especially resonated, as the combat on the Western Front, a major focal point of military action since 1914, ceased.

Even as celebrations occurred on Nov. 11, fighting continued in East Africa for several weeks. The Allies also occupied the Rhineland, an area of Western Germany centered on the Rhine River, until 1930, well after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

In this issue of Understanding the Great War we focus on the events leading up and immediately following the Armistice on the Western Front and their lasting significance and consequences.

“You bet we were happy yesterday morning to be awoken at 3 o’clock by whistles blowing, guns firing and every kind of noise you could think of announcing the surrender of Germany. It was sure a happy day here because we thought you were happy. I suspect you will not come right home but whenever you come back to the States come to see Ida Clara and myself. Now I want you to be sure to do that for we will just have a great time rejoicing together.”

 — A letter from Nannie Howard to her brother serving in France,
Nov. 12, 1918 - Read the full letter 

From Amiens to Armistice: The Hundred Days Offensive

Imperial War Museums

This online exhibit outlines the major factors and themes that led to German defeat during the 100 Days Offensive and the immense cost of this last stretch of the conflict. Accompanied by photos that portray Germany’s waning morale, this exhibit raises the question: if these same events had happened only a couple years earlier would Germany ever have surrendered?

Recommended Grade Levels: Middle School, High School
Format: Online article

Looking for more resources on the Hundred Days Offensive? This short article, written by James Taub of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, summarizes the Allied military strategy and key players.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive Interactive

American Battle Monuments Commission

This site animates the Meuse-Argonne Campaign on a map that viewers can use to trace military movements by date, division or location. This deep dive into the American offensive provides images of specific divisions and chronicles the campaign story through interactive encyclopedic articles.

Recommended Grade Levels: Middle School, High School, Adult Learner
Format: Online Exhibition (Requires Adobe Flash)

“He knew there was going to be peace, we knew it & he knew also that he would only do needless harm before he was put out of business. However, they kept shooting until the last minute 11 A.M. 11-11-18. The last shell he sent over, the last of the war in our sector, killed seven men. Isn’t that rotten luck?”

 — Captain Francis N. Bangs, Military Police Company,
77th Division, AEF  View a collection of his letters.

World War I: Wasted Lives on Armistice Day


Was the mere possibility of an armistice enough to let down the guard or halt an offensive? Not on the Western Front. Historians look back on that fateful morning of Nov. 11, 1918 when over 11,250 soldiers were killed or wounded hours before the final halt to the fighting.

Recommended Grade Levels: High School, Adult Learner
Format: Online Article

Click here to learn more about the Armistice ›
from the National WWI Museum and Memorial

French Armistice Celebration - Scene of street packed with people holding flags.

Who They Were

National History Day

In the fall of 1918, young Americans from communities across our nation pushed forward across the battlefields of Europe, helping to end the war. Who They Were, an activity developed by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and National History Day, guides educators and students in exploring the story of their community's World War I generation. Using a simple Activity Toolkit, students create presentations that are posted to an online map and can be shared throughout at events and commemorations at their school and community.

Recommended Grade Levels: All Levels
Format: Curriculum Toolkit

German Commander in East Africa Surrenders, This Day in History

Although the Nov. 11 Armistice halted fighting on the Western Front, the conflict continued throughout much of the world. German Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck didn’t surrender his forces in German East Africa until two weeks later. This article explores his battle strategies and how he remained the only undefeated commander for the entirety of the war.

Recommended Grade Levels: Middle School, High School, Adult Learner
Format: Online Article

'Mimic Parade' by the men of the 315th Regiment, 79th Infantry Division on November 28, 1918 - Man at head of group holding sign which says "On to Berlin"

The Occupation of Germany

MacArthur Memorial

Listen to Virginia National Guard Historian Al Barnes discuss the AEF occupation of Germany. He highlights the fears of “Germanization,” the future U.S. leaders who served during occupation and what occupation meant for the future of Europe.

Recommended Grade Levels: High School, Adult Learner
Format: Podcast (mp3)

Occupation During and After the War

1914-1918 Online

This article by Joachim Schröder and Alexander Watson studies Germany’s experiences of occupation during and after the First World War. It highlights how Germans’ experiences contributed to fuelling a sense of aggrieved injustice and a turn to extreme nationalism in the conflict’s aftermath.

Recommended Grade Levels: High School, Adult Learners
Format: Online article

The United States World War One Centennial Commission and the National WWI Museum and Memorial are dedicated to educating the public about the causes, events, and consequences of the conflict and we encourage the use of these resources to better understand the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.

Partners on this project include:

 Pritzker Military Museum and Library   National Archives   The Great War YouTube Channel   MacArthur Memorial   National History Day   American Battle Monuments Commission   Stanford History Education Group   Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Arizona   HISTORY®   AFS Intercultural Programs   Library of Congress   New York State Archives Partnership Trust / New York State Archives   Aberdeen Proving Ground   The Map as History   International Baccalaureate   College Board   Villanova University   Facing History and Ourselves   Mission du centenaire de la Première Guerre mondiale   Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H 

The Pritzker Military Museum and Library is a founding sponsor of the United States World War One Centennial Commission.