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Armistice Day Celebration, 1918


World War I, which took place from 1914 to 1918, was the deadliest conflict the world had ever known. So, when the “Great War” ended, it brought jubilation.

On this date in 1918, the Grand Forks Herald announced that the “great world-war” was over. The Armistice stopped all fighting at exactly 11 a.m., Paris time, on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

News of peace came from the Associated Press at 3 in the morning, and within minutes, newspapermen alerted local factory-workers who blew their factory steam whistles, awakening everyone.

By 4 a.m., the streets were alive with people “yelling, shouting, laughing, singing, running, [and] dancing,” with joy. “Strangers embraced, shook hands and exchanged mutual congratulations” because the war was over. Some grabbed “revolvers, rifles or shotguns” and sent hundreds of shots reverberating “through the still night air.”

Despite such hubbub, the newspaper reported “no cases of rowdyism.” When morning came, “thousands of citizens crowded the streets” as joyous celebration continued “the entire day.” At 9 a.m., three UND military companies of about 320 men gathered at City Hall and led a parade through downtown streets. The City Band joined in, playing patriotic songs and marches. Thousands of citizens followed, waving flags, tootling tin whistles, and thrashing noisemakers. All business places closed, with workers joining the celebration.

November 11th became an instant holiday, as everyone took the day off by mutual agreement. The jubilant parade was repeated at three in the afternoon and at seven in the evening. When darkness came, people lit “carnival torches,” and kept drumming on “dishpans, hammering drums and yelling” until their voices gave out. At 9 o’clock that night, the crowds began going home, but some kept on ‘til midnight.

Never had Grand Forks seen a day like November 11th, when festivities took place on a “scale larger than any other . . . ever known in the annals of the city.” It seemed that jubilation echoed forth across North Dakota on that day.

Yet this joy mingled with weighty sorrows. Grieving families mourned the loss of their loved ones who would never come home from European battlefields.

November 11th is still called Armistice Day – a day to remember 3,000 N.D. World War I veterans, and a memorial-day to honor the 700 from the state who died in combat, or from disease, one-hundred years ago.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

Sources: “Wave Of Enthusiasm Sweeps Over City As News Of War’s End Is Flashed Here,” Grand Forks Herald, November 11, 1918, p. 10; “The Victory,” Grand Forks Herald, November 11, 1918, p. 4.

“Grand Forks In Delirium Of Joy, When News Of Victory Is Carried Over Herald’s Wire,” Grand Forks Herald, November 12, 1918, p. 8.

“North Dakota Lost Exactly 700 in War,” Grand Forks Herald, February 21, 1920, p. 6.