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Peace Finally Declared in Europe

Nov 14, 2018

During the early days of November 1918, as word from the Western front was encouraging, Americans began to think of victory and, more importantly, peace and the end of the carnage. Still, the war went on, and they were reminded with articles like this in the New Jersey Courier of Nov. 8.

“Last night’s list of casualties contained the name of Charles H. Boshier of Waretown, as dying in France from wounds in action. Job Boshier of Waretown, his father, received a telegram on November 1 from the War department at Washington, telling of the death of his son.

“Young Boshier was a bayman, about 25 years of age, and was drafted last spring, leaving Toms River on April 26 with ten other young men for Camp Dix.”

It wasn’t hard to believe that in this atmosphere rumors could trigger reactions, published the same day.

“Almost words fail one when it comes to commenting upon the glad news that reached Lakewood yesterday and was given out to the people first of all by the Lakewood Citizen bulletin upon information sent to this office by our good friends, Mr. Charles Lathrop Pack, who was in New York. Mr. Pack’s message reached us at 12.50 and about two minutes later the news was placed on a large card in one of big front windows where it was read and commented upon by many. Being so full the joy of it we immediately got busy on the telephone and sent the glad message of Germany’s surrender to her sister towns, Toms River, Barnegat, West Creek and Tuckerton and through these agencies we imagine the news spread like wild fire and that all Ocean County was doing its share of rejoicing before long.”

The reaction by war-weary citizens still reeling from the influenza pandemic could be expected.

“As to Lakewood she simply went mad. In a remarkably short space of time the big siren at the Lakewood Light & Power Co.’s plant started in to blow the most beautiful sounds she ever emitted. Strange how different the tone of her voice sounded in her Victory blast. And accompanying the whistle was the ringing of bells and from everywhere came the sounds of horns and whirlygigs and in fact all sorts of noise makers. Women blew horns until their heads whirled, all sorts of parades were inaugurated in most informal fashion and cars with occupants of both sexes all bent upon making a share of the noise were running wild about town.”

It was finally over.

“The school children paraded and later congregated at the corner of Second and Clifton and sang the national airs, the crowd joining them. It was a sight good for sore eyes. … Everybody seemed to feel it his or her Christian duty to hang all available flags out and the streets were gay in flags and bunting.”

Nearby there were other celebrations. According to the Wilmington Journal, “With the roaring cheer of 25,000 voices yesterday, Camp Dix, which trained two of the divisions that were ‘over there,’ greeted the supposed news of the Hun capitulation. It was the greatest of many great demonstrations the cantonment has witnessed when the entire command, hastily summoned to the parade ground by order of Major-General Hugh I. Scott, heard the momentous announcement.

“Then came the most thrilling feature of the celebration when 25,000 troops passed on the parade ground, faced headquarters, and, under leadership of Camp Song Director William Simmons sang ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ as the flag on headquarters hill was lowered. … The celebration was continued last night with demonstrations in every hut and soldiers’ club.”

Unfortunately, the next day newspapers across the country carried the sad news that the war continued, and so did the dying. On Nov. 10, Eleanor Price sat in her Tuckerton home, where she was recuperating from influenza. She wrote in her diary, “Tuckerton begins to grow monotonous already! If it were not for the war excitement of the past week – the ‘Peace’ excitement I should say – it would be almost unbearable again. America has been celebrating lately a peace that has not yet come – trust Americans for getting there ahead of time! Germans have been given the Allied terms of armistice by Foch and are now engaged in thinking it over. I hope they enjoy their job!! Various startling rumors are coming continually from the dark mysterious country of the Huns, chief among them being that of a successful revolution in the navy and that Bavaria has been proclaimed a republic. … The Germans have until Monday morning to reply to the terms of armistice. So, history is in the making while I sit here and write.”

The next day, Nov. 11, would be the date the world would remember, but with some irony, the Stars and Stripes reported the fighting continued until the last minute.

“Probably the hardest fighting being done by any Americans in the final hour, was that which engaged the troops of the 28th, 92nd, 81st, and 7th Divisions with the Second American Army, who launched a fire-eating attack above Vigneullies just at dawn on the 11th. It was no mild thing that last hour of the battle, and the order to cease firing did not reach the men in the front line until the last moment, when runners sped with it from fox hole to fox hole.”

Then the war was finally over.

“At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month hostilities came to an end from Switzerland to the sea. Early that morning, from the wireless station (in) the Eiffel Tower in Paris, there had gone forth through the air to the wondering, half-incredulous line. … On the stroke of 11 the cannon stopped, the rifles dropped from the shoulders, the machine guns grew still. There followed then a strange, unbelievable silence as though the world had died.”

This time it was for real. The Tuckerton Beacon of Nov. 14 announced, “Beach Haven was not in the least to be considered among the ‘slacker’ class when it came to a real expression of their joy over the close of the war.

“When the news of the victory reached town on Monday, the bells of the town soon told the news, which caused many expressions of joy, and mothers and fathers whose boys are ‘Over There’ shed tears of joy. The real jubilee came on Monday evening as the hands of the clock pointed to 7:30, the bells and whistles assisted by guns, horns, drums and in fact, everything that could be brought into use helping to make a noise was used, at the same time a parade was forming in front of the Fire house. Houses were illuminated, flags were flying from almost every home that was occupied.

“The parade was headed by Mayor Herbert Willis, followed by a large delegation of Coast Guards and Naval Reserves from the Coast Guard Stations along the Beach, then came the Beach Haven branch American Red Cross, then the school children and many of the citizens followed marchers, then a line of about 20 automobiles, mostly decorated with the National colors. The parade marched through the town ending up at the Opera House.”

It was finally “over, over there,” although many local families would be informed after the Nov. 11 celebrations that their loved one was already deceased, and the flu would still take more lives among the troops in France and those at Camp Dix.

Next Week: Shipsbottom shipwrecks.

tpfcjf@comcast.net

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