We will not see the date 11-11-11 again for 100 years until Nov. 11, 2111. The significant date that just occurred, Nov. 11, 2011, refers to Armistice Day. The armistice was signed between the Allied Nations and Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month at the end of World War I in France on Nov. 11, 1918. This war was called the "Great War" and the "war to end all wars." Historically the name Armistice Day was changed by President Eisenhower in 1954 to Veterans Day to commemorate all of our fighting men.
What better understanding of that historic day than a firsthand account of the surrender. Rosamond's father and Mary's grandfather Donald Kennedy Gillespie, left a historical legacy with letters he sent to his wife, Jen, from the battlefields of France. After being sent to Officer's Training School to become a 2nd Lieutenant, he was assigned to the 371st Negro Division who were fighting on the front lines. He was with them when the German's came across "No Man's Land" waving white flags.
The following is his account of what happened the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month:
2nd Lieutenant Donald Kennedy Gillespie, World War I, “The Fighting 69th,” 165th Infantry Rainbow Division.
Nov, 11, 1918, Armistice Day
My Dear Jen,
This has truly been a wonderful day, and one never to be forgotten by those who were in the front line. Today at 11 am the war was over, the last shot fired Nov. 11, 1918, Armistice Day, and the whole world made happy.
As I wrote you in my last letter, I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to a Negro Regiment (371st), which I joined just two days ago. Fortunately, they were at the front, so I was in the game when the end took place. At about 10 o'clock this morning the Boche (Germans) opposite us started to fire off everything they had and at 11 o'clock white flags were waved here and there and they came out of their trenches (without arms) and came across "No Man's Land" full of joy to offer their hands in peace.
It was a sight to be remembered. Of course we will now have to push ahead and take over certain territory, but the fighting is finished!
And best of all I'll be with you again. I'll sure be happy to stay there henceforth.
On my way here I stopped over in Paris for a day and a half and sent you cards from there. That was my first vacation in a year. I'm going to be one of the few lucky boys who went through all the battles unharmed. It must have been your prayers that saved me.
In the present I must close, but will write you again in a day or two. Give my love to all the folks, with plenty of the same for yourself.
As ever, Don
This letter and many others are in the book, "My Dear Jen" written by Rosamond and son George Burns III, retired commander of the United States Coast Guard. It tells of love, loss and survival spanning 100 years. It is available at the Book Nook at the D&F Plaza and at the bookstore on the Fredonia Campus behind Starbucks.
Sadly, communication by handwritten letters are a thing in the past. Technology has replaced this activity with e-mail, texting and other Internet devices. It is important to note that letters, postcards and documents that do exist should be kept safe or given to our local museums especially when an estate is being settled.
The best present you can request from a family member is a handwritten note, letter or poem.
Make it a good week and write to someone, Rosamond & Mary
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