When all was quiet on the western front on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918.

Mt. Hope Cemetery. 11 a.m, 11 November, 2018 [Photo: Dean Tucker]

Mt. Hope Cemetery. 11 a.m, 11 November, 2018 [Photo: Dean Tucker]

This morning my friend Dean and I visited the World War I veterans’ plot in Mt. Hope Cemetery to honor the 100th anniversary of the 11 a.m., November 11th, 1918 armistice ending hostilities in the “Great War.” At the gravesites of 209 men of Rochester and Monroe County of whom 17 died before the armistice, we found five others honoring the dead.

From the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park.

From the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park. See History Isn’t Always Carved in Stone. Even when it is.

Anne Fanti Grossi and Adam Hage wanted to honor veterans, especially on the 100th anniversary.  Anne and Adam are not Polish — although Adam said he was close enough — but chose to stand before Mich L. Klosowski at whose grave someone left a wreath honoring the Polish-American army of World War One.

Rhonda Jagnow often walks her dog in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Today, she stood next to the grave of her great uncle William Jacknow, killed on September 22nd, 1918 and buried in France.  Shortly after William’s remains were reinterred in Mt. Hope in 1921, his father committed suicide.  Rhonda does not know if the father’s suicide was influenced by his grief over the loss of his son.

Aaron Gardner and Kristen Muck visited the plot to honor Remembrance Day — as November 11th is called in Great Britain.  Aaron is well versed in World War One history.  We discussed how the fighting was still ferocious right up to the 11 a.m. cease fire.  Aaron concurred with one dark theory. Some soldiers in the trenches — Allied and German —  became enamored with the war experience.  The soldiers wanted to fire their guns up until the very last second.

Aaron and Kristen stood behind the graves of Spanish-America veteran Solomon Fenchmen and his wife Catherine who died at age 101 in 1984 and whose grave is the last one in the Spanish-American War plot.

Armistaqice Day-page0001

(l-r) Rhonda Jagnow at the grave of her great uncle, William; Aaron Gardner and Kristen Muck at the site of Mich L. Klosowski; Aaron and Kristen stood behind the graves of Spanish-America veteran Solomon Fenchmen and his wife Catherine who died at age 101 in 1984 and whose grave is the last one on the plot; Polish-American World War One medallion.

At eleven a.m., I took a photo of Joseph Bell’s site who died only three days before the final firing of the cannons as we five listened to the bells chime from the top of the Rush Rhees library at the nearby University of Rochester.

In October when I discovered Bell’s grave inscribed he that died on November 8th, 1918, so close to the end, I imagined Bell killed in action in the trenches. Bell’s death reminded me of the German character Paul Bäumer from Eric Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Paul survives almost the entire war only to fall in its waning weeks.

All Quiet

Last page of All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) by Erica Maria Remarque. “He” is Paul Bäumer.

As seen in the November 8th The New York Times headline below — “False Peace Report Rouses All America” — rumors spread on the western front that the armistice would begin on the 8th not the 11th, making Bell’s sacrifice that much more poignant.

November 8th and 11th-page-0

(bottom left) November 8th, 1918 New York Times headline on the commencement of armistice negotiations; (top) grave markers of American soldiers killed November 11th. From The First World War: A Photographic History edited by Lawrence Stallings (1933). [Eugene Kramer’s collection] From History Isn’t Always Carved in Stone. Even when it is.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Tues, November 12th, 1918, page 1

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Tues, November 12th, 1918, page 1

I later learned Bell was not killed on the front but died of previous wounds in a German Reserve Hospital after being taking prisoner. His real story is just as poignant, dying three days before he would have been freed.

Account of JosephhBell's death on November 8th, 1918 from

Account of Joseph Bell’s death on November 8th, 1918 from World War Service Record: Rochester and Monroe County, N.Y. (Volume I, 1924)

I learned that George Robinson was the Rochester man killed in action closest to the armistice, ten days before.

ROBINSON-page0001

George J. Robinson, killed in action, November 1st, 1918 from World War Service Record: Rochester and Monroe County, N.Y. (Volume I, 1924) [Photo: October 2018]

As seen in Rochestarians in World War One and the One Hundredth Anniversary of Château-Thierry, in July at the WWI plot, I attended a ceremony for William H. Cooper. An event coordinator pointed to the 209 graves, noting the early deaths of the veterans. The coordinator posited that many of the dead suffered from PTSD and, as such, a tendency towards deep depression, suicide and alcoholism contributing to their early deaths.

To confirm, I tabulated the ages of death for the veterans who survived the war itself, discovering the average age of death was about 39 years and that nearly 20% died within six years. The 39 year average and the 37 veterans who died by 1925 felt both low and high, but I lacked hard data to prove the hunch of the coordinator.

October, 2018

October, 2018

November 2018

November 2018

First snowfall. November 9th, 2018

First snowfall. November 9th, 2018

1. Mt Hope-page0001

(above) from the UR’s River Campus Libraries website, Rochester’s Hope: The University of Rochester’s Connection to “Our Quietest Neighbor”; (below) October 2018

While life expectancy was lower in 1918 — with high infant mortality a big factor — a young man healthy enough to join the army would seem likely to live longer than 39.

The knottiest problem was that no new graves were placed after 1937. Had more veterans been buried in the plot in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, the overall age at death would be higher. Furthermore, the 37 early deaths comprise a very small sample size to claim the war took its latent toll.

These veteran, buried in the Spanish-American plot in Mt. Hope, did live into the 1960's. From

These WWI veterans, buried in the Spanish-American plot in Mt. Hope, did live into the 1960’s. From Rochestarians in World War One and the One Hundredth Anniversary of Château-Thierry

Fortunately, I found an article, The health impacts of the First World War on New Zealand: a summary and a remaining research agenda, in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, published just two weeks ago on October 28th.

The study compared New Zealand men who fought overseas and those who stayed home. The latter group — fairly well clarified in the research — lived about ten years less.

New Zealand-page0001

From The health impacts of the First World War on New Zealand: a summary and a remaining research agenda in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, October 28th, 2018.

Furthermore, exploring the physiological and psychological effects of the war — “a very long shadow” — the report determined soldiers did not just suffer in the early years after the war — i.e. those 37 veterans in Mt. Hope — but the “military personnel kept dying for many years after the 1918 Armistice Day:”

The war also cast a very long shadow and New Zealand military personnel kept dying for many years after the 1918 Armistice Day-page0001

From The health impacts of the First World War on New Zealand: a summary and a remaining research agenda in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, October 28th, 2018.

For all the travails of the New Zealanders, the loss of ten years is persuasive, the very long shadow. New Zealanders served on the western front longer than soldiers in the American Expeditionary. As such, United States’ veterans may not have had the same high, long lasting mortality rates, yet a toll was taken.

We don’t know the exact full costs suffered by the 209 buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. What we do know is World War I was heralded as “The War to End All Wars.” Alas, looking back a century, it was not.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) by Erica Maria Remarque. [From Eugene Kramer's collection. Coincidenally, Remarque born Eric Kramer. Wanting his name to sound less German, Kramer's psudsonym became Kramer spelled backwards with the K changed to Que.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) by Erica Maria Remarque. [From Eugene Kramer’s collection] Coincidentally, Remarque was born Eric Kramer. Wanting his name to sound less German, Kramer chose Remark as his pseudonym: Kramer spelled backwards. To sound more French, Kramer also changed the “k” to “que”.

(L-R) Armistice Day, 1918, State St., Armistice Day, 1918, Main St., Armistice Day, 1930, Four Corners, Listening to Taps. From Facts About Rochester Veterans

(L-R) Armistice Day, 1918, State St.; Armistice Day, 1918; Main St.; 1930, Four Corners, Listening to Taps. From Facts About Rochester Veterans by Rachel Barnhart

For more on Armistice Day in Rochester and Rochester in World War One, see Democrat and Chronicle columnist Jim Memott’s November, 11th, 2018, Artifacts from WWI: Pittsford man keeps grandfather’s memory alive

Also, see University of Rochester NewsCenter release on November, 8th, 2018, ‘I’ve got to do something for Uncle Sam’, chronicling the men and women of the UR who served in the armed forces during World War I.

The Students Army Training Corps at the University of Rochester in 1917. November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the World War I. (University photo / Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation)

The Students Army Training Corps at the University of Rochester in 1917. November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the World War I. (University photo / Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation) From ‘I’ve got to do something for Uncle Sam’ (Jim Mandelaro, UR NewsCenter, 11/08/18)

SEE ALSO

One hundred years ago when America entered the War to End All Wars. And Rochester.

gun 1

Edmond Lyons Park., East Rochester. A German WW1 minenwerfer (literally, “mine thrower”) in 7.58cm caliber. 4/5/17 [Photo: David Kramer]

Rochestarians in World War One and the One Hundredth Anniversary of Château-Thierry

featured

Mt. Hope Cemetery, 7/18/18. A Centennial Remembrance of Sergeant William H. Cooper. [Photo: David Kramer]

The Austrian cannon is back in Washington Square Park. And some Italian Rochester history.

WW1 cannon

Washington Square Park. January 2018 [Photo: David Kramer]

Remembering the fallen of the RCSD from America’s past wars

In the lobby of East High School, including David Hochstein.

In the lobby of East High School, including David Hochstein.

Over the Top! Courtesy of the Military History Society of Rochester

WWI German howitzer on the site of the Pittsford Public Works next to the Canal Path. members of the US Army’s 27th Division National Guard unit from Western New York, captured the Krupp-made cannon from German forces in France in October of 1918. The Rayson-Miller American Legion Post acquired the cannon then dedicated it as a memorial to Pittsford citizens who served in the armed forces during World War I.

WWI German howitzer at the Pittsford Public Works next to the Canal Path. Members of the US Army’s 27th Division National Guard unit from Western New York, captured the Krupp-made cannon from German forces in France in October of 1918. The Rayson-Miller American Legion Post acquired the cannon then dedicated it as a memorial to Pittsford citizens who served in the armed forces during World War I.

History Isn’t Always Carved in Stone. Even when it is.

Henry Gunther. Last American killed in WWI. [Provided by Michael Nighan]

Henry Gunther. Last American killed in WWI. [Provided by Michael Nighan]

For more on Gunther, see: The Courage and Folly of a War That Left Indelible Scars,” The New York Times, 11/10/18)

The New York Times, 11/10/18, page A4

The New York Times, 11/10/18, page A4

Also see Adam Hochschild’s “The Eleventh Hour” in the November 5th, 2018 New Yorker. Hochschild explains how “thousands of men were killed or maimed during the last hours of the war for no political or military reasons whatever.”

New yORKER

The New Yorker, November 5th, 2018

SEE ALSO

On Spanish-American War monuments in Rochester. And remembering the Buffalo Soldiers on Veteran’s Day