The following post is by Ryan Moore, a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.
At 11 am on November 11, 1918, the long and terrible fighting that was known as the Great War ended. The final hour of the final day of World War I, as it is known today, was documented by the United States Army on a large 36″ x 32″ map sheet. The mapmakers used a 1:600,000-scale Carte de France as a base map and overlaid intelligence that showed the military situation across the entire Western Front. The map contained then-classified information that included tables concerning the status and strength of combat units. The information was important to Allied commanders who needed to stay prepared for battle should the Germans decide to disregard the ceasefire. In fact, combat operations were conducted by American forces up to 10:30 am on November 11, which became a matter of Congressional inquiry after the war.
The map illustrates the power of the Allied forces on the Western Front. Among this powerful coalition were the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), whose growing numbers and tenacity in battle helped the Allies overwhelm the German forces. Thirty American divisions were part of the total 213 Allied divisions; the American divisions were twice the manpower of their Allied counterparts. Facing them were 185 German divisions, but American intelligence characterized only 49 of the German divisions as ready for battle. The rest were largely weary, battered or inexperienced teenage conscripts. The Germans, fully aware of the increasingly desperate situation, begrudgingly accepted that the Allies had the upper hand and sought terms of peace.
The American contribution to the war was significant. American forces successfully advanced against the Germans at St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and elsewhere. The AEF were commanded by General John J. Pershing, who was more than just a capable military leader. Pershing convinced the British and French that American troops should remain distinct formations under the command of American officers, rather than integrated into the British and French armies. As a result, the international reputation of America’s military increased in stature.
The map is from the collection made by General Tasker Howard Bliss (1853–1930), and it was used during his service with the United States Army in World War I and at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. General Bliss’ collection is held by the Geography and Map Division. His map can be downloaded from the Library of Congress by clicking here and other maps of World War I are available for viewing in the Library’s publication Maps of the First World War, which can be viewed by clicking here.