Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour
Armistice Day, 1918 World War I and Its Violent Climax
By Joseph E. Persico
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780375760457, 498pp.)
Publication Date: October 11, 2005
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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.”
JOSEPH E. PERSICO’s books include Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, which was made into a television docudrama; Piercing the Reich, on the penetration of Nazi Germany by American agents; My American Journey (as collaborator with Colin Powell); and Roosevelt’s Secret War. He lives in Guilderland, New York.
Praise for Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour
“The days preceding November 11, 1918, featured a deadly minuet involving exhausted armies conditioned to fight, yet desperate to avoid still more futile bloodshed. Joe Persico recreates this twilight struggle with heartbreaking intimacy. His pointillist portrait is at once harrowing and heroic. Written with a narrative elegance and factual command reminiscent of David McCullough or William Manchester, this is much more than a poignant account of the road to armistice. It is the single finest work I have read on the Great War.”
–RICHARD NORTON SMITH, executive director, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
“Once again Joe Persico has brought us an unforgettable moment in history. At a time when our own world is changing, Americans are increasingly understanding how we are still affected by World War I, and Persico takes us into the experience of how that war ended–the violence, sacrifice, frustration, and hope.”
“Joe Persico has done the impossible–he has written an original book on World War I. By starting with the last day, he has found a way to see the nightmare as a separate world, something that became for all the participants a totally consuming passion.”
–THOMAS FLEMING, author of The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I
“A compelling account of the dramatic final moments of World War I that not only captures the tragedy that marked the final hours of the Great War but brings to life the remarkable stories of its participants. This is a splendid book by a born storyteller and a superb historian.”
–CARLO D’ESTE, author of Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life and Patton: A Genius for War