11 November 1918 Pvt (ex-Sgt) Henry Nicolas Gunther, Co A, 313th Infantry Regiment, US Army.

Henry Gunther was born on 5 June 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland,

Location of Baltimore, USA CC OpenStreetMap

Henry was a bank employee prior to his enlistment in September 1917. A supply sergeant in Company A, 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division at the time of his arrival in France in July 1918, he was shortly afterwards demoted to private after censors intercepted a letter he had written to a friend urging him not to enlist.

79th Division, AEF

The 79th Division were ordered to advance towards Metz at 9:30am on the morning of November 11th even though it was, by now, general knowledge that the Armistice would come into effect at 11:00 am. The record of the 79th Division, Summary of Operations in the World War is as follows: 

The attack commenced at 9:30 a. m. The 314th Infantry, Nov. I I with its 1st and 2d Battalions in line from right to left, moved against Cote de Romagne in conjunction with an attack south east of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers by the 1st Battalion, 313th Infantry. On the left, the 2d Battalion, 316th Infantry, was withdrawn from the front line, and assembled with the remainder of the regiment near Gibercy early in the morning. The 315th Infantry, which had moved to the south during the night, advanced from the vicinity of Gibercy against Cote de Morimont with the 1st Battalion in assault and the 2d and 3d Battalions in support and reserve, respectively. In accordance with the armistice order, hostilities ceased at 11 a. m. and the advance of all troops was halted. The line held at that time ran northeast from Ville-devant-Chaumont, around the base of Cote 319, to the low ground west of Cote de Morimont.

During this advance, Henry Gunther's platoon encountered two German machine-gun sections blocking a road near the village of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers and was forced into cover. The Germans, at this stage, apparently fired some warning shots over their heads and then ceased fire (obviously, they, too were aware of the approaching Armistice). During this lull Henry, for reasons unknown, jumped to his feet and, despite orders to stop, single-handedly attacked one of the machine-gun positions. The Germans attempted to wave him back and refused to fire until he was within a few yards of their position. Henry was killed instantly, the 79th Divisional history recording that, "Almost as he fell, the gunfire died away and an appalling silence prevailed".

According to most sources Henry Gunther died at 10:59 am, just one minute before the Armistice, making him officially the last combat death of the Allied nations during the Great War. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Furst Mausoleum Memorial Chapel, Baltimore

In 1923 his remains were returned to the USA where he is buried in The Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Baltimore. A French memorial, dedicated in 2008, can now be found near the spot where he died.

Plaque commemorating Henry N. Gunther, Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Baltimore, MD, unveiled on November 11, 2010 CC BY-SA 2.0 by Concord on Wikipedia

11 November 1918

Research by David O’Mara.

Further Reading:

79th Division, Summary of Operations in the World War is a reproduction of library book from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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