By the autumn of 1918 during World War I, Germany found itself bereft of manpower and supplies and was faced with imminent invasion. The country’s leaders requested an armistice from the Allies to end fighting on land, sea and air. Also known as the Armistice of Compiègne from the place where it was signed, it came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time on November 11, 1918 (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”) and marked a victory for the Allies and a defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender. Although the armistice ended the fighting, it needed to be prolonged three times until the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on June 28, 1919, took effect on January 10, 1920.
Thousands of Americans, including many from Wyoming, were demobilized near Cheyenne through Fort D. A. Russell, which had also served as a major mobilization point at the start of the war.
Gov. Robert D. Carey, who had won the 1918 election, appropriated $10,000 for a fund to welcome the soldiers home. There are apparently no records of how this money was spent. However, plenty of projects sprang up to ease the soldiers’ transition back to civilian life.
The Wyoming State Tribune reported on March 24, 1919, “ninety-eight per cent of … [returning soldiers] will get their own old jobs back, or a job equally as good.” This effort was coordinated by Edward P. Taylor, U.S. Labor Commissioner for Wyoming.
An article in the same issue announced that the YMCA National War Work Council had opened headquarters in downtown Cheyenne. The Council expected to facilitate soldiers’ travel home and to funnel information to them from various agencies such as the U.S. employment bureau.
By order of the War Department, the War Camp Community Service also planned a soldiers’ club in Cheyenne. The club was to include a lounge, writing room, pool tables and a room for pressing uniforms and shining shoes.
Four bond drives were held during the war, all Liberty Loans, and one bond drive was held after the war—the Victory Loan. Wyoming residents purchased $23.6 million worth of Liberty Bonds. Victory Bonds paid 4.75 percent, and Wyoming purchased $7.2 million of these. Charitable donations in Wyoming totaled an additional $1.4 million, with individuals giving, giving, giving, “until it hurt.”
Visit the American Heritage Center to see a display of original materials regarding Wyoming’s involvement in World War I. The display is located in the Centennial Complex lobby and is available for viewing from November 6 through November 16, 2018.
– Sections of this post were excerpted from “Life on the Home Front: Wyoming During World War I” by Rebecca Hein, WyoHistory.org.