A telegram received by the East Oregonian in November of 1918 announced the armistice that ended hostilities during World War I. But the United Press had jumped the gun by four days.
The telegram was sent at 9:30 a.m. from the UP’s Portland bureau on November 7, 1918. The news from Paris, according to the telegram, was that the Allies and Germany has signed an armistice at 11 a.m. that morning (Paris time) and hostilities had ceased at two o’clock in the afternoon — but not before the Americans took control of Sedan in northeastern France.
The EO plastered “Huns Quit!” across the top of the front page of its November 7 edition. Neither the Associated Press nor William Randolph Hearst’s International News had heard anything about the signing an hour after the UP flashed its news to the world, and the AP accused the UP of faking the news.
The following day, Admiral Henry B. Wilson, United States Navy commander of American forces in French waters, came to UP’s defense: “The statement of the United Press relative to the signing of the armistice was made public from my office on the basis of what appeared to be official and authoritative information. I am in position to know that the United Press and its representatives acted in perfect good faith and that the premature announcement was the result of an error for which the agency was in no way responsible.” A second telegram stating that the armistice information was unconfirmed had been delayed for hours by censors, arriving in New York at noon on November 8.
Facts were, the Allied forces had offered armistice terms to Germany, but also given them until 11 a.m. on November 11 to decide whether to surrender.
The UP’s premature release of the news caused an uproar in Germany. It had been suggested that the news be delayed a world release until the German people could be informed, but instead revolts broke out in all the major German cities after the story broke, bringing the entire country to a halt. Kaiser Wilhelm II fled Germany for the Netherlands after abdicating his throne, and the crown prince was forced to abdicate just hours later. Germany subsequently became a republic.
Ferdinand Foch, the French general and military theorist who served as the Supreme Allied Commander during WWI, accepted the German surrender at 11 a.m. (Paris time) on November 11. Terms of the armistice required German forces to be evacuated from all invaded territories, and all air and sea craft returned to stipulated points on German soil; reparation for damage done to invaded countries and Allied and American vessels; the surrender of a vast amount of weapons and equipment; and the abandonment of all treaties forced on occupied countries by Germany during the war. And Germany had 30 days to make it happen.
The French palace at Versailles was chosen as the site for signing the official peace treaty, and on June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that led to the war’s beginning, Germany and the Allied powers formally ended World War I.