On this day in 1918, and specifically at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Imperial Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France.
Coming amidst roiling ancient rivalries and modern territorial ambitions, the Great War arose from the political assassination of a virtual figure-head. The resultant 52-months of slaughter caused the fall of four great imperial dynasties, including Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey, ushered in the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and, with its destabilization of European society, laid the bloody groundwork for World War 2.
The First World War left a legacy of over 40 million total military and civilian casualties; 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. This total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and not less than 10 million civilians, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million lives or more. The ill-fated 1916 Battle of the Somme itself lasted nearly five months, costing both sides over one million dead combined.
The four years of slaughter ensuing after the first shots from the Guns of August saw introduction of the machine-gun, long-range artillery, aircraft, poison gas, armored tank, and other grisly tools to the business of killing. And the bitter peace that followed provided the incubator for a far deadlier and purely evil conflagration 20 years later.