Armistice Day, Glen Ullin, N.D., Nov. 11, 1930

Col. A. B. Welch to give Armistice Day Speech at Glen Ullin, ND, November 11, 1930.  Newspaper article with Pencil Notation “250 Indians”:

 

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This day is the anniversary of an important event in the history of our Nation and of nearly every other nation upon the earth.  After our great war between the north and south, a war which had taken such a terrible toll of human life and had been he cause of untold loss of property  – a day was set apart which has become known to us as Decoration Day because of the practice of honor and respect with which we treat the memory of our soldier and sailor dead.

November 11th is the day upon which cessation of hostile activities took place during the World War.  And it has become our custom to observe that happy event in a big way and throughout the country.  It differs from decoration day in that it is a day of general rejoicing.

I am thinking that it might be of interest to indicate just what the situation was which brought about the signing of the Armistice upon Nov 11-1918, and will review for a moment those events which brought it about.

Sixteen years ago a ruler in Europe was assassinated by a fanatical communistic student and war flared out immediately with that episode as an excuse. Mobilization of huge armies commenced with a few hours along the borders of several European countries and out from Aix la Chapelle steel-helmeted troops of the Middle Empire soon overran Belgium. The north of France soon was ablaze and the greatest war in the history of the world was launched.  It so happened that I was in Canada at that time, and was witness of the feverish activity of preparation.

I could not help but compare that activity with the methods pursued at such times by my friends, the Indians of our own country, when they were getting ready for a war party to sweep through the country of some tribal enemy.  The Indians aroused their warriors by speeches, dances and other ceremonies intended to arouse their hatred and spirit of revenge.  The white people do the same thing.  They recounted their ancient wrongs; they drew dark pictures of their countries being overrun with soldier demons; upon the corners of the cities, men with drums and bagpipes inflamed the fighting spirit of the people; marching men and banners and flags slapping in the breeze; the enlistment stations were overflowing with men excited and mothers with fear and dread in their hearts looked with pride upon their boys in new uniforms  – wept as they march away.  That was in 1914.

Our own Nation was not yet prepared to engage in warlike activity.  However, a serious situation developed along the border of Mexico, and made it necessary for our government to mobilize an army, which to us, was the greatest force of men under arms which we had had together since the Civil War in the ‘60s, and we find that in 1916, we were engaged along a border line of over 1000 miles in a guerrilla warfare, with irregular troops of Mexicans.

The political war cry of that election year was “He kept us out of war,” the troops of the Mexican Border Expedition returned to their home stations, the N.D. Regiment arriving on February 17th. The came the sinking of the Lusitania; the demands of the Central Powers that we paint our high seas vessels a certain color and keep to certain travel lanes; then the U.S. declared war as allies of the French Government.  In December of 1917 North Dakota troops landed in France  – and for us here, the war was on in earnest.

Along a 400 mile battle line from the North Sea to Switzerland the Allies were confronted by the greatest army and the best trained war machine of the entire world; flushed with victory, urged on by the war cry of “Deutchland uber alles,” and apparently sweeping on to complete conquest of Europe.  The spent and depleted regiments of the Allies were electrified to new endeavors as our Divisions fought with them side by side, and July, 1918 our troops were given a sector and welded into the First Army.  Their first entrance into conflict as a separate army during July was in that salient nearest Paris and along the Marne River.

This dangerous front was struck at Soissons and before Chateau Thierry, against the advice of the Allied Generals, as it was said to be impregnable.  However, we gained our objectives all along the line; the Imperial troops were forced to vacate their line of resistance, and through the wonderful trench network the Americans pressed with such an esprit de corps that no soldiers could withstand their impetuous advance  – and the salient was wiped out and the German troops, caught between the advancing Americans and their ruined line of communications also the Chemin de Dames and behind Metz, were forced to adopt the style of warfare in which American troops had been best trained, that of “open warfare,” which in understandable terms means simply “above ground.”

With the lines straightened out, the next stronghold to face the Americans was the heavily entrenched district on the Meuse River  – St. Miheil  – where the enemy had been in possession for four years.  The results of this battle were the sensations of the entire war, for, with an artillery preparation of only four hours with 3000 pieces of artillery, the infantry went over with complete success and very little loss of life, causing an entire rearrangement of the enemy lines and plans.

By September 1st it was thought that the tide of war would ebb within a short time, and it was plainly now a question of which side had the most reserves.  France and England were drained of both young and old classes of drafts, and the German prisoners indicated that very young men and very old men were both being thrown into battle to stem this retrograde movement and permit them to take up a position along the Hinderberg Line of ultimate defense.  The Americans were landing 20,000 new men every day in France.  These men were trained to a somewhat satisfactory degree in the U.S. and were shot immediately into battle positions.  With this element of new units, eager and anxious to get into the fray, it began to look very serious for the Imperial Armies.

Then on September 28th, he Meuse-Argonne offensive was launched with American troops, mainly.  The forests of Argonne have witnessed the worst battles of history for hundreds of years, and great war lords have refused, when possible, to be drawn into battle upon that ground ever since Julius Ceasar drew the Gauls into the valley of the Marne, from those mountains, and annihilated a great army under Vicingetorix at Chalon sur Marne.

However, the Hindenberg Line of defense was thrown across the valleys and ranges at right angles to the valleys, and the American First Army on the right bank and the Second Army upon the left banks of the Meuse, were confronted with the position. Within three days we were in possession of the Hindenberg Line and that strong secondary line, the Kremhildstellung; had stormed and captured the dominating height, called Mont Faucon, capturing hundreds of cannon and tens of thousands of enemy personnel.  The army of the Crown Prince which held that portion of the front, which is north of Verdun, was now without trench protection, as compared with a few weeks before, and the Americans were in position to use their strongest blows, which as I have said, is open warfare.

With 20,000 new men coming in every day from the reserves, there was no staying their triumphant advance and by the 6th of November, American soldiers were within 5 miles of Sedan; a turning point was anticipated, which would cut off the great base of German supplies at Metz and leave it behind our lines.

I have not given the situation on the French, Belgian or English fronts, but they were all forging forward in terrific thrusts, and early collapse of the Imperial War Machine was imminent and forseen.

Then, upon the 11th of November, came the announcement of the signing of the Armistice Agreement.  This agreement provided for the cessation of fire activity at 11:00 a.m.  To those of you who may have been on the line at that time, the effect is forever seared in to your brain.  It seemed that a terrible silence settled down  – a silence which was terrifying almost.  The air was no longer full of the roar of artillery; the staccato chattering of machine guns and the whispering of rifle bullets ceased;  great numbers of airplanes turned their noses toward their own hangers fields, the hostile crews waving their hands to the others as they passed each other within pistol shot distance; men of opposing armies stood up in plain sight of each other and lines of troops began to organize and march to the rear, and by 4:00 p.m. of that same day the organization of which I was a member, began the long march to Arenbrightstein, which dominated the Coblenz bridgehead on the Rhine, where we stayed until September 1919.

And now my friends, what of the present and what of the future of this country, this state, this county, this city.  We have just passed through a serious election  – just a week ago; political prophets are bombarding us through the press, with all sorts of dire and devastating results, but I ask you not to be dismayed or uneasy; this Government will live no matter what political organization governs it.

 

 

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