Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Last Shot of World War One

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The doughboys of Battery E, 11th Field Artillery carefully loaded the 95-pound shell into Calamity Jane, the name of their favorite 155mm artillery piece. With the round in place, the men locked it into the breech and prepared to pull the lanyard. An officer, looking at his watch, stepped forward. Raising his hand, he kept his eye on his watch, waiting for the second hand to reach twelve. When it did he dropped his hand. A soldier yanked the lanyard. Calamity Jane was fired one at 1100 hrs, 11 November 1918. World War I was over.

There is no explanation why the 11th was chosen, but it is possible some enterprising officer in the American high command noticed the succession of elevens in the cease-fire order and picked the 11th to play along with the consistency. 

Source: Army History, 20 January 2015


  1. But the arrival of the shell at it's target, and its attendant death and destruction, occurred AFTER the armistice.

  2. There were many claims by others wanting to fire the last shot. Many on both sides were killed in the last minutes and seconds by those seeking this "honor." See "11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour" by Joseph E. Persico.

  3. Somehow it seems appropriate that there would be one last shell in that war full of mistakes and one tragedy after another.