November 13 1918, Belgrade–Hungary was left in an especially awkward position by the end of the war. Karólyi’s new government declared independence from Austria-Hungary at the end of October, and hoped they would be treated as a new state looking for self-determination on the same basis that the Czechoslovaks and the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes were. On the other hand, Hungary had been an equal partner in Austria-Hungary. At a meeting on November 7 between Károlyi and Franchet D’Espérey in Belgrade, the Allies made their position quite clear: Hungary was a defeated belligerent, not a neutral–and Károlyi’s claims of representing all of Hungary were undercut by Hungary’s long history of oppression of its Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovak minorities.
After the armistice at Compiègne, the Allies continued to advance north of the Danube, though it is unlikely they met much resistance; the Hungarians, in their own view, had already exited the war. At 11:15PM on November 13, the Hungarians agreed to armistice terms similar to those Austria-Hungary had agreed to ten days earlier. The Hungarians would evacuate all territory corresponding to modern-day Croatia and Serbia, as well as much of Translyvania (up to the river Mureș). The Allies (including the Serbians and Romanians) would have the right to occupy whatever strategic points were deemed necessary and have free use of the railways. All German troops were to leave Hungary by November 18 (an unrealistic deadline, especially for Mackenen’s troops that were still in Romania). At the insistence of the Hungarians, the armistice did not specify a time it would take effect on the front, merely declaring that “Hostilities between the Allies and Hungary have ceased.”
Territories claimed by the Republic of German-Austria. In addition to modern-day Austria (excepting Burgenland, at that time still in Hungary), it included South Tyrol (already occupied by the Italians) and the Sudetenland.
November 12 1918, Vienna–In the last two weeks of the war, Austria-Hungary had very quickly broken apart. The Hungarian part of the empire split off entirely (and was itself under threat from the advancing Allies). The new State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs had taken over much of what now forms Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and parts of northern Serbia. Czechoslovakia declared independence and Kraków and the surrounding area had pledged allegiance to a new Polish state under Piłsudski. The Ukrainians had established themselves in Lviv (though not without resistance from the Poles), while the Romanians had entered Bukovina and were preparing to move into Transylvania and the Italians had occupied Trento, South Tyrol, and the Austrian Littoral (including Trieste and large parts of present-day Slovenia). Even the German-populated portion of the empire was breaking away; on October 21, well before the other declarations of independence, the German Austrians had formed their own national committee.
When it became clear that none of his subjects wanted him anymore, Emperor Charles decided not to fight for his throne, ignoring pleas from Boroević to let him bring his army to Vienna to restore order. On November 11, Charles, in a carefully-worded proclamation, announced that “I renounce all part in state affairs”–not technically an abdication, but it was taken as such. On November 12, the German Austrian national committee declared the existence of the Republic of German-Austria, under the leadership of the Social Democrats. German nationalism had been growing in Austria during the war, and it was commonly assumed that the new Republic would quickly join with Germany (as the new State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs would join with Serbia). The provisional constitution, issued on the same day, stated that “German-Austria is an integral part of the German republic.” The next day, they began negotiations with Germany regarding a union, and they soon appealed for Wilson’s support on the basis of national self-determination. The Allies were less than enthusiastic about enlarging defeated Germany, however, and made sure the union did not take place.
Armistice celebrations in Philadelphia, a city which only weeks before had been effectively shut down due to the flu.
November 11 2018, Arlington–After 1568 days, the war has finally come to an end. At the time, however, it was not completely obvious that this would be a permanent end to the war. After all, the armistice at Brest-Litovsk was called off by the Germans after the Russians walked out of peace talks, resulting in thirteen days of renewed fighting on the Eastern Front before a final treaty was signed. In fact, Ludendorff had originally hoped that an armistice would let the Germans regroup behind their own borders and let them secure better peace terms than defeat and invasion of Germany would. Groener was under no such illusions, and the terms of the Compiègne Armistice, including the occupation of the Rhineland and surrender of the bulk of the German fleet, did their best to ensure that the Germans could not viably reject the resulting peace terms by force.
In the rest of Europe, the end of the war was not as neat as on the Western Front. In particular, Hungary, which had declared independence from Austria at the end of October, was still considered a belligerent by the Allies, though they were no longer resisting the advance of the Allies into territories claimed by the Serbs and Romanians. The Allies still had a significant presence in Russia (though the Czechs had lost interest after Czechoslovak independence), and the civil war between the Reds and the Whites still raged. The political future of the states that had once formed Russia’s western frontier was now extremely unclear, as the German occupation there would presumably soon end. In the Ottoman Empire, the Allies planned to occupy Constantinople and large parts of the country.
As a result, Today In WWI plans to cover the aftermath of the war going forward, though posts will no longer always be on a daily basis. I expect coverage to continue, if in an increasingly-sporadic fashion, until at least early 1923.
When I started this blog on a whim on June 29, 2014, the day after the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, I honestly did not expect I would make it all the way to the Armistice. I definitely could not have made it without extensive help and support from many people, and I especially want to thank:
My wife, for her unfailing support over the last 4+ years, including searches for topics for posts on quieter days in the war, and acquiring a signed copy of Gene Fax’s With Their Bare Hands.
My parents, for being two of my most devoted readers and for many helpful books they have provided as gifts, forming the backbone of my collection.
My Aunt Sherry and my father-in-law, for additional books.
The libraries of Arlington County, Hennepin County, the University of Minnesota, and MIT, for their extensive collections.
Williams College, for continued access to JSTOR.
Wikipedia, for general (and, more times than I’d care to admit, specific) information.
If you somehow haven’t had enough World War I coverage over the last four years and want to learn more, check out my Further Reading section for books that I found especially interesting and useful during the process.
Peace is celebrated even at the most remote corners of the earth. The Pribilof Islands are far above the Arctic circle in the Bering Sea. When they learned of the armistice, the island’s inhabitants fired off a 21-gun salute.
The armistice ends fighting on the Western Front, but the war continues for some days in East Africa, where German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck has been waging a guerrilla struggle since 1914. His small army of 150 Europeans and 1,000 African askaris only surrendered on November 25 after capturing a British despatch rider who told him the war had ended. One of his askaris sketched this picture of the surrender. Lettow-Vorbeck was undoubtedly a gifted tactician but the war also took an immense toll on East African society because of famine, disease, and the forcible conscription of the local population as soldiers and porters.
The Allied gains on the Western Front in the “Hundred Days” from August 8 to November 11.
The last four months of the war were marked by impressive Allied victories and revolution in three of the four Central Powers. The Tsar of Bulgaria was forced out in favor of his son, the Hohenzollerns in Germany were overthrown, and Austria-Hungary completely disintegrated.
The Russian Civil War:
The Bolsheviks’ one-time allies, the Left SRs, turned against them in protest at their continuing collaboration with the Germans. Turning back to “propaganda of the deed,” they assassinated the German ambassador in Moscow and the German military governor of occupied Ukraine. Although the Bolsheviks soon cracked down on the Left SRs, they were weakened, and Komuch and Czech forces were able to take large stretches of the Volga, including Kazan. In response, the Reds moved forces that had been defending Petrograd from a possible German advance, and retook Kazan within a month. By the Armistice, the Komuch’s military power had largely been destroyed, and their Czech allies just wanted to return home to their newly-independent country.
Lettow-Vorbeck continued his campaign in Mozambique, nearly reaching Quelimane before turning back north. At the end of September, his forces crossed the Rovuma again, returning to German East Africa for the first time in nearly a year. By November, his forces had entered Northern Rhodesia [Zambia], where he would learn of the Armistice on the 13th.
The Turks turned their main attention towards Baku, taking the city from its Armenian and British defenders in mid-September. Dreams of pushing on further into Persia or even across the Caspian into Central Asia were overtaken by events elsewhere.
Allenby’s forces broke through in Palestine on September 19, and British cavalry surrounded and effectively destroyed two Turkish armies. They soon took Damascus (together with Feisal’s Arab forces), and by the end of October had pushed beyond Aleppo. In late October, the British attacked in northern Mesopotamia as well, destroying much of the Turkish defending force. The Bulgarian collapse, however, was what forced Turkey out of the war, due to the threat that the British could just march on Constantinople by land. After the most-prominent CUP leaders (the “Young Turks”) were forced out of office, the Turks concluded an armistice with the Allies on October 30. The Allies occupied Mosul on November 4, and would arrive in Constantinople by land and sea on November 12.
Italy and Austria-Hungary:
The Italians, still cautious after Caporetto, did not decide to join in the general Allied offensives, and did not attack until late October. At this point, Austria-Hungary was quickly falling apart–a move by Emperor Charles to quickly federalize the Austrian half of the empire had backfired, and Wilson had made it clear that any acceptable peace with Austria-Hungary would require Czechoslovak and Yugoslav independence. By the time an armistice was concluded in early November, Austria-Hungary had essentially ceased to exist: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and a State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs had all declared independence with no real opposition. Austria’s Polish territories had pledged allegiance to an independent Poland, which was still in the process of forming on November 11. Ukrainian forces took control of Lviv, though fighting quickly broke out between the Ukrainians and the local Polish population. The Italians, meanwhile, had occupied all of South Tyrol and were moving into the “Austrian Littoral”–including large swathes of territory home to Slovenes and Croats with no love for the occupying Italian forces.
The Italians had one final success of their guerilla naval tactics in the final days of the war, when frogmen sank the dreadnought Viribus Unitis on November 1; a day earlier, it had been handed over to the new State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, though the Italians were not aware of this at the time.
In mid-September, the Americans, in their first major independent operation, took the St Mihiel salient, a quick victory as the Germans had been busy preparing an evacuation of the salient. There was no effort to follow up on the victory and push towards Metz, however, as Pershing had committed to an offensive on the other side of the Meuse later in the month. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, launched on September 26, was considerably less successful; the Americans would take extremely heavy casualties for only small gains. Other near-simultaneous Allied offensives had better luck, however–the Canadians on the Canal du Nord, a combined Allied force in Belgium, and, most dramatically, a British attack on the St. Quentin Canal. These combined offensives, along with Bulgaria’s sudden exit, sent Ludendorff into a panic and led him to call for an immediate armistice. Although he would later walk this back, the damage was done; the explicit appeal, issued on October 3, made it much less likely that the Central Powers’ forces could continue to resist in a war they were clearly losing.