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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

The man who fired the last round


centurion

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I have seen in a number of sources that one American battery was still firing after the armistice cease fire - the commander having a watch that was slow. I have recently seen an unsubstantiated account that the battery commander was one Harry S Truman and his watch wasn't slow but he had promised that one of his guns would be the last one to fire and had even had a special lanyard made for him to pull. Now given the date this could of course be a sort of very long range Republican slur but I doubt that. Does anyone know if there is any truth in the story? HST was in the artillery. [The buck stops here but not the shell!].

Could be a bit rough on the soldaten on the other end.

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The man obviously has a thing about having the last shot. I've also read the same about Truman and was led to believe it was factual,

Jon

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I have seen in a number of sources that one American battery was still firing after the armistice cease fire - the commander having a watch that was slow. I have recently seen an unsubstantiated account that the battery commander was one Harry S Truman and his watch wasn't slow but he had promised that one of his guns would be the last one to fire and had even had a special lanyard made for him to pull. Now given the date this could of course be a sort of very long range Republican slur but I doubt that. Does anyone know if there is any truth in the story? HST was in the artillery. [The buck stops here but not the shell!].

Could be a bit rough on the soldaten on the other end.

Haven't read that but have read Capt. Truman wrote home that he was very impressed at the speed with which the French battery next to his switched its narrow gauge railway from hauling rounds of ammunition to hauling cases of wine. All night long the French gunners kept him awake with drunken shouts of 'Vive la capitaine d'artillerie americaine'. Cheers, Bil

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I think it's a myth. The Truman Library website says his command, Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 35th Infantry Division, fired its last round at 10:45 AM on November 11, 1918.

"Well, they would, wouldn't they?"

With apologies to Mandy Rice-Davies, whom British Pals of a certain age may remember.

Not everything that appears in official records, even contemporary ones, can be taken as absolutely true. tI is hardly likely that any official account would claim to have done something which was, at best, a disobedience of the order to cease fire and, at worst, might be regarded as a war crime.

Ron

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"Well, they would, wouldn't they?"

The burden of proof is on those who claim that the Truman anecdote is true, not on those who are skeptical of it.

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The US historian Joseph Persico would tend to support the Mandy Rice D school of thought - see transcript of part of interview with CNN

NISSEN: Nine million. The story of the last few thousand of those lost is one of the most appalling of this or any war. Historian Joseph Persico has written a detailed account of the great war's last today.

PERSICO: The armistice is signed 5:00 on the morning of November 11. It is agreed that it will take force at 11:00 that morning. And what happens during those six hours? Senseless killing.

NISSEN: Some allied officers, determined to take every last shot at the enemy, deliberately withheld news of the armistice from their men. Those offices officers included this young American artillery captain.

PERSICO: Harry S. Truman does not tell his men for that very reason. He's afraid that they will just unwind, and they still have got a job to do until 11:00.

NISSEN: Other ambitious generals, eager for a last shot at personal glory, ordered their troops to fight their way into terribly they could have walked into peacefully just hours later.

At dawn on the 11th, American General Charles Summerall ordered the 5th Army Corps to cross the Miers (ph) River under heavy German fire. The cost, 1,000 Doughboys wounded, 120 killed on the last morning of the war.

At 10:00 a.m., only an hour before the war's end, the all-black 92nd Infantry Division was ordered to leave a wooded area they held and make a full frontal assault on the Germans.

PERSICO: They're going to attack into machine gunfire and the reaction among these men was absolute horror.

NISSEN: The cost, 190 casualties. All along the western front, allied troops were ordered to keep fighting a war they'd already won.

PERSICO: The loss of life on this last day was inexplicable and indefensible. There are 10, 900 casualties; 2,700 men die on the last day of the war.

Would tend to suggest that HST's report of ceasing fire at 10 45 might be a little wobbly. - be interesting to see Persico's sources.

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The burden of proof remains with those who claim the allegation to be true. Click here to see the text of a letter Truman sent to his wife on November 11, 1918.

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I have to say that there is nothing in Centurion's last post which suggests Trumam fired after the Cease Fire. I doubt that any official document exists to prove this, we would all know about it. It will take exceptionally persuasive circumstantial evidence to turn up for any definite decision to be made. I think we will never know for a fact. Personally, I always thought a Canadian battery fired after the whistle and that the jury was out on how much of an accident it was. I can't remember where I read it and it's not important enough for me to go looking.

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The burden of proof remains with those who claim the allegation to be true. Click here to see the text of a letter Truman sent to his wife on November 11, 1918.

This isn't a court of law so talk of burdens of proof are so much ........ we're dealing in probabilities or possibilities. The Persico information just serves to show that the posibility remains.

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