‘Old Glory was floating on the breeze’ 100 years ago this month as Armistice ended hostilities on Western Front

Cpl. Oliver DeWitt Barner

Editor’s note: Nov. 11, 2018, marks 100 years since the Armistice was signed, ending military action on the Western Front in World War I. Recognizing that anniversary, this uncensored WWI letter from Ozark County native Oliver DeWitt Barner, describing the last moments of the war, is reprinted from the December edition of the Old Mill Run, available for purchase later this week at the Ozark County Historium. The letter, dated Dec. 14, 1918, was published in the Feb. 7, 1919, edition of the Ozark County Times. Barner had been in the first group drafted from Ozark County. After the war, he married Vera Leona Rimer. They had six children and lived in the Noble area, where Oliver farmed and did carpentry work. During World War II, he and his wife worked for Pratt Whitney in Kansas City. He died July 26, 1965, at the age of 71 and was buried at Thornfield.


Spong, Germany

Dec. 14, 1918

Dear Editor and Friends:

I will write to let you know that we are still well and getting along fine. We are having some rainy weather. It has rained for almost a week but is warm for this time of year.

...I guess there was some celebration when you heard the armistice had been signed; but had you been at the front on the morning of Nov. 11 at 10:59 you wouldn’t have thought the armistice would ever be signed. Every piece of American artillery was firing as though hostilities would never cease. It seemed like they were preparing a barrage for the doughboys to go over the top. Then, in the twink of an eye, all ceased. Then came the yells of the Fritz doughboys and the yells passed to the American infantry and on down the way. It was like being to a 4th of July celebration back in the Ozarks. Such a change – a change from the mournful howl of the artillery bombardment to the joyful shouts of the soldier boys.

That afternoon I visited the German front line trenches and got a bunch of Hun souvehirs. We experienced some awful times when those old Fritz shells would be coming by, singing their graveyard howls. It made a person wonder if he wouldn’t be next.

On the night of Sept. 25, we helped put over the greatest barrage put over during the war. At the dead hour of midnight, we could have seen well enough to pick up a pin, but deliver me from that awful gas. ...

When we first took up positions we were backing up our own infantry; then they moved out and we backed up the 37th Division, then those boys went back for rest, and we backed up the 28th Division. We remained in our positions about two weeks in order to let the Germans vacate the trenches. ... 

On Dec. 7 at 8:50 a.m., we crossed the frontier into Dutchland [Germany]. As we crossed over, the band played “To the Colors,” and Old Glory was floating on the breeze. ...

...When I get home, I’ll tell you all about my experience, but I’ll say that you should be proud of the record of the 89th Division. 

Best wishes to all

Cpl. Oliver D. Barner

Ozark County Times

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