November 11, Marshal Foch and the Treaty of Versailles

Armistice train Marechal Foch

Armistice train Marechal Foch

This is a federal holiday in the United States, and a national holiday in France. In both countries it commemorates the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, and honors the sacrifice of all veterans.

So today is the 90th anniversary of the November 11, 1918 armistice, signed at 11 am French time in the railway carriage of the Allied Supreme Commander, Marshal Foch. The train had stopped in a clearing in the forest of Compiègne, north of Paris. Here is Foch, second from the right, in this photograph taken immediately after the signing.

Months later, on June 28, 1919, a formal peace treaty would be signed at Versailles (again Versailles!) after tense negotiations.

Foch felt that the Treaty of Versailles gave Germany far too much opportunity to rearm. He famously stated: “This is not peace. This is an armistice for twenty years.” Twenty years indeed! 1939 marked the beginning of World War II. One has to give Foch credit for some prescience. But at Versailles in 1919 politics overwhelmed the better judgment of clear minds. To this day we live with the legacy of this momentous agreement.

Let us never forget the lessons of history…

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