A.C. Snow, columnist and former editor of The Raleigh Times, wrote in 1968 about the 50th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I.
Fifty years ago this morning, three Raleigh men stood on a hill overlooking the plains in Metz, France.
Their ears were ringing from the bombardment of a night's artillery barrage.
Precisely at 11 a. m., 50 years ago, the world's greatest silence settled over the hills and the plains. And then, as in the case of all wars that end, all hell -- of the happiness kind -- broke loose.
World War I. It was a war 50 years ago. The first big war, it was a war to end war, to make the world safe for democracy. It was the first of the big wars in a long time.
"We knew the night before the war was to end at 11 o'clock the next morning," recalls William Y. Collie, local real estate executive.
"I was at an observation post overlooking the plains outside Metz in Alsace-Lorraine. "I was to look for a signal from the infantry for another barrage from our guns. Our artillery had been very busy during the night.
"At precisely 11 o'clock, everything stopped. There was a great stillness. Then everyone started yelling. We ran forward to meet the Germans to exchange souvenirs."
Collie traded a package of cigarettes to a German for his cigarette lighter. "He seemed to be as happy as I was."
Collie was 18 at the time, a freshman at the University of North Carolina, where another member of his outfit, the 113th Field Artillery, was a sophomore. All members of the 113th were volunteers.
Earl Johnson, insurance executive, ... was in Samur, France when the French went wild in celebration at the armistice
"Most everybody volunteered that I know," recalls Johnson. "We didn't burn draft cards in those days. We didn't have draft cards."
"World War I was a different kind of war than the kind we know today.
"The infantry really had it rough," he said. "They lived in trenches knee deep in water with rats for company."
He said there probably was less body contact then than in more recent wars.
"Mostly it was just out of the trenches, over the top and shooting it out with the Germans for the next line of trenches."
"You could have heard a pin drop," said E.M. (Skinny) Taylor of Commercial Printing Company here.
"We were in position to back up the infantry and we were headed for Metz 15 miles away. We had camped out in the woods all night," said Taylor. "I understand that some of the boys up in the trenches were ordered over the top that morning and many of them died."
Taylor and Col. William T. Joyner, local attorney, were together during much of the War.
World War I was a vivid contrast to later wars, Colonel Joyner notes.
"It was mostly trench fighting. There was almost a complete absence of airplanes and there were very few tanks.
"Our 75 millimeter guns were pulled by horses -- six-horse teams. Officers and non-commissioned officers escorted them on horseback. We would go in support of the artillery and were from 200 yards to half a mile back of the enemy.
"I suppose you might say that World War I saw the end of the cavalry and the advent of the air force -- on a very limited basis."
Colonel Joyner said the planes were used primarily as aids in observations. They were used to protect observation posts and that's usually what the highly fictionalized dogfights in the air were about.
"The air balloon was unique to this war. It was used to spot artillery. Anchored to the ground, the balloon would carry a parachutist aloft. It was the object of the enemy aircraft to shoot down the balloon. If the observation man was lucky, he floated to earth safely in his parachute if the enemy pilot so chose."
Col. Gordon Smith of Raleigh fought in the trenches during World War I in Northern France.
He engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
"The English put a lot of emphasis on the bayonet," he recalled.
"You might say that the bayonet came of age then..."
Those 50 years later, the veterans still met downtown for coffee and remembrance.
... the raise their cups in a toast to peace -- if not in their time, at lest in some future generation's time.