Obit of the Day (Historical): The Last Soldier Killed in WWI (1918)
As 11:00 a.m. approached on the Western Front, soldiers from both sides recognized that the Great War was soon to end. Germany had signed an armistice with the Allied powers (Great Britain, France, and the United States) to end all hostilities on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m.
Private Henry Gunther, of Baltimore, had learned of the planned cease fire at 10:30 a.m. He and his company remained pinned down by German machine gun fire waiting for the minutes to pass.
But in a surprise to his compatriots - and the Germans - Private Gunther scrambled out of his foxhole, rifle in hand, and began to charge the gun battery. The Germans pleaded with the 23-year-old to stop his charge reminding him that the war was soon to end but he continued running and firing his rifle. They had no choice but to return fire.
Private Henry Gunther died at 10:59 a.m. on November 11, 1918. The last soldier killed in action in the conflict later called World War I.
Although he never gave a reason for his actions, Pvt. Gunther was recently demoted from sergeant to private after a letter critical of Army life was intercepted by military censors. A German-American, he was already under some level of suspicion this did not aid his cause. He would tell his fellow soldiers that he wanted to “make good.”
Following his death Private Gunther was returned to the rank of sergeant and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His body was returned home and buried in Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Baltimore.
(Image of Private Henry Gunther, circa 1917, is courtesy of findagrave.com)