SHARE Book Club
This meeting of the PMML Book Club is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

This meeting of the PMML Book Club is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, by Joseph E. Persico

Bestselling author Joseph Persico recounts World War I's bloody climax in a cinematic style that evokes All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Illusion, and Paths of Glory.

November 11, 1918. The final hours pulsate with tension as every man in the trenches hopes to escape the melancholy distinction of being the last to die in World War I. The Allied generals knew the fighting would end precisely at 11:00 A.M, yet in the final hours they flung men against an already beaten Germany. The result? Eleven thousand casualties suffered—more than during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Why? Allied commanders wanted to punish the enemy to the very last moment and career officers saw a fast-fading chance for glory and promotion. 

Joseph E. Persico puts the reader in the trenches with the forgotten and the famousamong the latter, Corporal Adolf Hitler, Captain Harry Truman, and Colonels Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. Mainly, he follows ordinary soldiers’ lives, illuminating their fate as the end approaches.

Persico sets the last day of the war in historic context with a gripping reprise of all that led up to it, from the 1914 assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which ignited the war, to the raw racism black doughboys endured except when ordered to advance and die in the war’s last hour. 

The pointless fighting on the last day of the war is the perfect metaphor for the four years that preceded it, years of senseless slaughter for hollow purposes. This book is sure to become the definitive history of the end of a conflict Winston Churchill called “the hardest, cruelest, and least-rewarded of all the wars that have been fought.”

-- from the publisher


Discussion Questions

  •  What other books have you read about WWI?
  •  The author chooses to examine the war through the lens of the last day of battle. How does this affect the structure of the book? What about this is successful? Unsuccessful? 
  •  What about that last morning of fighting encapsulates your understanding of WWI?
  •  What in the book challenges your preconceptions of WWI?
  •  Persico tells us that of the 16 American divisions; nine of the commanders chose to continue the fighting, even though they knew the Armistice had been signed (p.347). What was their motivation for doing so?
  •  Pershing believed that, “There can be no conclusion to this war until Germany is brought to her knees” (p.309). Do you think if the Allies had been able to push the Germans all the way to Berlin during WWI that World War II would have still happened?
  •  What did you learn about trench warfare that you didn’t know before?
  •  Of all the people featured in the book, who stuck out to you? Why?
  •  Was there a particular person or part of the war that you would like to learn more about?
  •  Does the author seem prejudiced towards a particular country/group?
  •  What universal themes of war are expressed by the people featured in the text?
  •  Persico ends his introduction by saying: 

We conclude, finally that while situations shift, human nature does not. The same impulses—gain, glory, fear, pride, honor, envy, retribution—coupled with short collective memories will continue to propel mankind into a never-ending cycle of conflict occasionally interrupted by peace.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

 

Further Reading

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth : an Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925. New York : Penguin, 2005. PMML Call number PR6003 .R385 Z479 2005 (Main Stacks)

Britten, Thomas A. American Indians in World War I : at home and at war. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 1997. PMML Call number D570.8 .I6 B75 1999 (Main Stacks)

Brooks, Max. The Harlem Hellfighters. New York : Broadway Books, 2014. PMML Call number D570.33 369th .B76 2014 (New Books)

Graves, Robert. Goodbye to all that. New York : Anchor Books, 1998. PMML Call number PR6013 .R35 Z5 1998 (Main Stacks)

Harris, Stephen L. Duffy's war : Fr. Francis Duffy, Wild Bill Donovan, and the Irish fighting 69th in World War I. Washington DC : Potomac Books, 2006. PMML Call number D570.85 .N4 H37 2006 (Main Stacks)

Keegan, John. The First World War. New York : A. Knopf, 1999. PMML Call number D521 .K345 1999 (Main Stacks)

Mastriano, Douglas V. Alvin York : a new biography of the hero of the Argonne. Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, 2014. PMML Call number D570.9.Y7 M37 2014 (New Books)

Sassoon, Siegfried. The war poems of Siegfriend Sassoon. London : Faber and Faber, 1983. PMML Call number PR6037 .A86 A6 1983 (Main Stacks)

Sulzback, Herbert. With the German guns : four years on the Western front, 1914-1918. London : L. Cooper, 1998. PMML Call number D640.S7713 1998 (Main Stacks)

 

Recommendations by Attendees

Ferguson, Niall. The pity of war.  New York : Basic Books, ©1999. PMML Call number D511 .F28 1999 (Main Stacks)

Hastings, Max. Catastrophe 1914 : Europe goes to war. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. PMML Call number D511 .H37 2013 (New Books)

Hochschild, Adam. To end all wars : a story of loyalty and rebellion, 1914-1918. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ©2011.. PMML Call number D546 .H63 2011 (New Books)

Taylor, A. J. P. A history of the First World War. New York : Berkley Pub. Corp, 1966. PMML Call number D521.T35 1966 (Main Stacks)

Tuchman, Barbara W. The guns of August. New York : Bantam Books, 1976. PMML Call number D530 .T8 1988 (Main Stacks)

 

Tuchman, Barbara W. The Zimmermann telegram. New York : Ballantine Books, ©1994. PMML Call number D511 .T77 1994 (Main Stacks)