Pastoral grasslands and dark forests grace the gentle hills and spreading valleys where armies once tread. Busy highways and teeming cities have taken the place of cannons and screaming aircraft.
A century later the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Armistice Day, is all but forgotten.
Armistice Day, November 11, brought an end to the four-year global conflict known as “The Great War,” the “War to End all Wars,” or WW I. More than 60 million young men from countries across Europe, Asia, Great Britain and the U.S. met in a conflict that pitted antiquated strategies against new technologies such as machine guns, tanks, gas and chemical weapons and airplanes. The carnage was horrific with some nine million combatants killed and another 15 million or so seriously wounded.
As the terrible war ended a new enemy emerged in 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic. For two years the Spanish flu ravaged populations around the world eventually killing nearly three million people in Europe and more than 600,000 in the U.S.
Armistice Day was first celebrated at Buckingham Palace in 1919, commemorating the end of the war and honoring those British soldiers who fought. Other nations soon followed with their own celebrations.
After WW II, the U.S. Congress decided to use the day as a day to honor all veterans, renaming it Veterans Day.
The young men who fought from the trenches of the Western Front and the Argonne Forest are gone now, passed into history and eternal rest beneath silent headstones.
Approximately 200 of those young men came from George County, Mississippi, according to historical records kept by Jimmy Trussell.
Hardy Devoe Vise was one of those young men, although his service was closer to home than France or Germany. Vise joined the Army and was sent to Camp Beauregard near Pineville, Louisiana for training. At Camp Beauregard Vise was trained to shoe and care for horses and mules that were being shipped from the U.S. for use in Europe.
The Camp is one of 30 established in 1917 to train soldiers enroute to the European front and is named for the Confederate General Pierre Beauregard. Beauregard is credited with beginning the Civil War by leading the attack on Ft. Sumpter.
Upon returning to civilian life, Vise came back to George County where he farmed and operated a blacksmith shop caring for local horses. He was also one of the founding members of the Grantham Howell American Legion Post 53.
He passed away in 1986.
The last living WWI veteran known from George County was James Curtis (Curt) Dickerson, born April 3, 1896. He died June 7, 1991. From the Bexley community, he served as a Private in the U.S. Army during that war. He is buried in Holmes Baptist Church Cemetery.
The last known WW I veteran in the U.S. was Frank Woodruff Buckles, who died on February 27, 2011, just days after celebrating his 110th birthday.
Buckles was born on a Missouri farm in 1901. At age 16 he joined the Army by lying about his age.
“I was interested in the war,” he explained during a 2001 interview with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. “I’d been reading the newspapers since I was a child and I was a wireless amateur.” In December 1917 he set sail for England on the Carpathia, meeting crew-members who had been aboard when the ship rescued survivors of the Titanic less than six years earlier.
Eager to see action, Buckles persuaded his superiors to send him to France. “I used several methods, including, I should say, pestering every officer of influence in the place,” he recalled. He was stationed in Bordeaux and various other locations, where he drove ambulances and motorcycles but never served on the front lines. After the armistice, he assisted with the repatriation of German prisoners of war, then returned to America and eventually got a job with the White Star Line steamship company.
In December 1941, he was working in Manila when Japanese troops invaded the city and took him prisoner. He was held in several brutal internment camps and lost more than 50 pounds before being freed by an American airborne unit in February 1945.
Returning to the U.S., he married, and he and his wife raised a daughter. Seeking a quieter life, he owned and operated a cattle farm in West Virginia until his death.
Buckles became the country’s last surviving World War I veteran following the death in February 2008 of 108-year-old Harry Landis. Over the next few years, he received a flood of honors and awards, including special permission to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He also served as the honorary chairman and spokesman for the World War I Memorial Foundation, which supports the restoration of the District of Columbia War Memorial and its rededication as a national monument to veterans of the Great War.
The boys who lived in dirt trenches, crawled through barbed wire barricades and faced machine gun fire to stop a dictatorial aggressor are all gone now. Their war did not end all wars. Their sacrifice, though, was momentous and should be remembered. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the day that war ended.