For many countries around the world, November 11 is known as Armistice Day in honor of the truce that marked the end of hostilities on the Western Front between German and Allied forces, enacted on November 11, 1918. While a lasting peace was not formally established until the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, for many, November 11 effectively signified the end of World War I. Today, in the United States, November 11 is celebrated as Veterans Day, in honor of all American veterans, living or dead.
The state of Connecticut contributed a great deal to the Allied war effort in World War I, both on the home front and the Western Front: while the state’s bustling factories churned out much-needed supplies and munitions (Bridgeport’s Remington Arms produced over half of the U.S. Army’s small arms cartridges during the war), an estimated 63,000 state residents served overseas in a military capacity as part of the American army or other Allied forces. Among them was Sergeant Paul Maynard of Torrington, who served as a machinist in the famous 26th Infantry Division, known as the “Yankee Division” since most of its men hailed from southern New England. After experiencing some of the fiercest fighting on the Western Front in Northern France, the 21-year old Connectican was mortally wounded while attempting to protect his comrades under heavy fire during the final days of the bloody Meuse-Argonne offensive. He died from his wounds on November 11, 1918 — the same day the famous Armistice ended hostilities on the Western Front.
In 2010, members of Maynard’s extended family discovered a long-lost cache of the sergeant’s World War I letters, which shed light on the front-line experience of the young men who made up the bulk of the Yankee Division. In his final letter, Maynard confessed, “We’ve had a hard time with this front, and I’ll be glad when it’s over.” Thanks to the bravery exhibited by the young Torrington sergeant and his comrades, the war was finally over, though in a cruel twist of fate, Maynard did not survive to see the first full day of peace in Europe. In 2015, during the centennial commemoration of World War I, the American Battlefield Monuments Commission released a 24-minute documentary about Maynard, drawing extensively on his recently-discovered wartime correspondence, and ensuring that he — and all the brave soldiers who fought alongside him — would never be forgotten.
Diane Lazarus and Mihai Tripp, “Connecticut Soldier Died on the Last Day of World War I,” Connecticut State Library
Susan Misur, “Letters from the battlefield offer glimpse into WWI soldiers’ trials,” New Haven Register
“Original World War I Documentary, “Never Forgotten,” Released,” American Battle Monuments Commission