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Last soldier killed in WWI died one minute before the Armistice


The day was November 11, 1918, and the clocks were about to strike 11.

Millions of soldiers across the world knew the Armistice was about to come into effect, but one American man had other ideas.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was about to make his mark on his history by being killed at 10.59 – one minute before the ceasefire.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was the last soldier to be killed during the First World War (Picture: Wikipedia Commons)

He would become the last soldier to die in the First World War.

It’s still unclear why the 23-year-old charged at German machine gunners with a fixed bayonet so soon before the Armistice.

But it could be down to his disgruntled mindset.

Back home in Baltimore, Maryland, he suffered prejudice from fellow Americans who disliked his surname and German heritage.

His closest friend, Sergeant Ernest Powell, said Gunther brought this chip on his shoulder to the battlefield.

He charged at German machine gunners at this spot near Verdun in northern France (Picture: AP)
He should have celebrated the Armistice peace celebrations like the rest of America (Picture: Getty)

He described him as miserable during his service as a supply sergeant – a rank of soldier which did not reward him with a lot of friends.

Sgt Gunther was also not even a sergeant on the day he died.

Army censors had found one of his letters in which he criticised the war, and demoted him to the rank of private as punishment.

As such, he was far from happy when his unit began taking fire from a German platoon near Verdun in northern France.

They were forced to take cover, but with the end of the war so near, they apparently stopped shooting.

The whole world celebrated the Armistice (Picture: Topical Press Agency/Getty)
A memorial to Henry Gunther is perched on the hill where he died (Picture: AP)
It’s not known why he charged at the Germans so soon before the Armistice (Picture: Wikipedia Commons)

At this point Gunther got to his feet with his bayonet in hand and charged at a machine gun nest, despite Sgt Powell ordering him to stop.

The Germans did not shoot until he was within yards of their post, killing him instantly.

His divisional record said ‘the gunfire died away and an appalling silence prevailed’ as he fell to the ground.

He wasn’t the only soldier to die during the final hour of the First World War.

Historians say some 3,000 men died in that brief time before the Armistice.

General John Pershing of the US Army recorded Gunther as the last American man to die in the conflict, and he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

A memorial for Gunther was made 90 years after his death in 2008, close to the spot where he died.





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