Arthur Hornblow’s Information about the Jackson Armistice Telegram

The armistice telegram purportedly sent by Naval Attaché Captain R.H. Jackson to Admiral H.B. Wilson in Brest on 7 November 1918 was an ‘afternoon false armistice report’, arising a few hours after the first armistice reports had started circulating in Paris during late morning on 7 November. 10

The telegram’s message stated that the “Foreign Office” – French by implication – had announced an Armistice signing that morning at 11 o’clock, a cessation of hostilities at 2 pm, and the taking of the city of Sedan by the US Army during the morning. 

It showed “15207” – 3:20 pm on 7 November – as the time the message was first ordered to be sent out, and “Jackson” as its authorization.  The sentence “This is a translation, shall never be transmitted”, was appended to it. 7

After the war, Arthur Hornblow acquired information about this Jackson Telegram which Roy Howard seems not to have been aware of.  It came from two distinct sources: Admiral H. B. Wilson in 1921; and, years later, Moses Cook, a sailor claiming to have been involved in the telegram’s transmission from Paris to Brest on 7 November 1918.

This article (like its companion about Roy Howard’s False Armistice information) is in two parts: an account of what Hornblow learnt about the Jackson Telegram over the years, and a Commentary section.

Hornblow’s Information

a) Information from Admiral Wilson, 1921

During June or early July 1921, Hornblow sent Admiral Wilson a copy of his ‘Fake Armistice’ article and asked him to comment on it.  (He also sent a copy and similar request to Roy Howard.)

Wilson obliged and replied with a letter pointing out where, in the parts of the text relating to him, “some of [Hornblow’s] facts” were not as he remembered them, and almost immediately referred to Hornblow’s naming of Captain Jackson as the official who sent the armistice message to him in Brest.  The Admiral made the following significant points:

“[The] message [was] a routine one from my representative in Paris who kept me informed of all reports and rumors.  I have never told anyone from whom the message came, other than saying it was from our office there.  It is true that one of his functions was Naval Attaché, but those duties were small in comparison with others, and to have the article read that the message was from the Naval Attaché is off, though perhaps technically correct.  I feel you do the office of the Naval Attaché an injustice in so expressing yourself.  It was from my office in Paris.  I hope you see this.  I gave it the same credence as the one hundred and one other messages I had received from time to time, some proving correct and some incorrect.”  

In response to the Admiral’s comments, Hornblow amended his article to state that the false armistice message was in an “official telegram, signed by Commander Jackson of Admiral Wilson’s office in Paris and naval attache at our Paris embassy.”  In a later passage discussing Wilson’s acceptance of responsibility for announcing the message, he observed that the Admiral “did not even make mention of the official who had sent, or, at least, whose signature was affixed to the erroneous communication from Paris”. 2a  (My italics)

(Moses Cook (below) described Captain Jackson as being “in command of the US Naval Headquarters in Paris and as such was the American Naval Attache there . . . . He was referred to as Commander at times because he was Commanding Officer, but he was above a Commander.”)   

When Hornblow wrote to Admiral Wilson, he had not yet found a publisher for ‘Fake Armistice’.  By the time it appeared in Century Magazine in November 1921, he had amended parts of it in response to both Admiral Wilson’s and Roy Howard’s comments. He had also changed the title to ‘Amazing Armistice’ on Roy Howard’s advice against using ‘fake’ to describe the 7 November 1918 armistice news. 2b

b) Information from Moses Cook, 1941-1944

During 1941, by which time Hornblow was an established Hollywood film producer working at Paramount Pictures, he received information about how the Jackson armistice message arrived at US Navy Headquarters in Paris and was transmitted to Brest.  The information arrived, unsolicited initially, in letters from Moses Cook, “a press telegrapher in civil life” but then serving as a radio operator with the rank of Chief Petty Officer on the USS Wyoming

“I … sent it originally from Naval Headquarters in Paris ….”

In his first letter to Hornblow, in April 1941, Cook claimed that he was “chief radioman” on duty at US Navy Headquarters in Paris when the false armistice news was received there on 7 November 1918.  Without elaborating, he stated that he happened to be “the one who sent it”.   

By way of verification, he included details about a CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) twentieth-anniversary Armistice programme, from New York City in November 1938, in which he “told his unique story” (to radio journalist Gabriel Heatter) “of the tense moments when the [false armistice] news was received and how it was cancelled later”. 3

Cook did not mention the Jackson Telegram itself in this letter – the first of four he sent to Hornblow.  He had contacted him, he explained, to request a copy of the latter’s November 1921 ‘Amazing Armistice’ article to replace one in his collection of “stories relative to this Armistice” which a friend of his (Col. W.H. Rankin) had apparently borrowed while writing a book about Roy Howard and subsequently mislaid.

In his replies, Hornblow promised to try to find a copy of the 1921 article and pressed Cook for details about the message he claimed to have handled.  He asked for a “recital of . . . facts” about how the message “was filed” and “by whom”; whether Captain Jackson “had anything to do with [it]”; whether the Embassy made any effort “to account for the filing of the wire” after the news was shown to be false; who the officer was who ordered the message to be sent out and why he believed it was authentic. Fundamental questions which, if their answers had provided the details hoped for, would have helped resolve some of the mystery still surrounding the False Armistice then and now.

The following recounts what Cook wrote in his letters, together with some information from a later newspaper article he also sent to Hornblow. 4

“Very glad to . . . pass along the story of the ‘False Armistice’ to you as it really happened”

Cook stated that, apart from himself, only two other people “knew this story”: “a successful attorney in New York City”, whom he did not name; and “Lieutenant Junior Grade Barler”, whose initials he could not recall, and who had since died.

On 7 November 1918, Cook was the “chief radioman in charge of the wire room” [Naval Communication area] at US Navy Headquarters in Paris; Lieutenant Barler was the duty “communication officer”.  During the afternoon [no time specified], Barler suddenly rushed into the wire room, handed Cook a message and ordered him to “Get this off right away”.

The message, carrying Captain Jackson’s name, read “Armistice signed eleven am, cease firing two pm, Sedan capitulated“.

Cook asked the Lieutenant where the message had come from; Barler replied that the American Embassy had just telephoned it to him.  Cook then passed the message to the “operator who was sitting on the Brest Wire” (unnamed), told him to stop what he was doing (“sending the American casualty list of the killed and wounded as we did every afternoon”) and transmit the armistice bulletin, which he did.

Some twenty minutes later, Barler rushed back into the wire room and shouted to Cook not to send the message: “Its a fake”.  Cook pushed the operator away from the Brest Wire transmitter, “grabbed the key and asked Brest if they could stop the message”.  But it was too late – the message had already been forwarded from Brest to Washington, DC.

Not long after these events, Lieutenant Barler was sent home [seemingly because of his part in them].

In Cook’s opinion, Captain Jackson most probably did not authorize the armistice message even though his name was attached to it.  Jackson was in command at Navy Headquarters as well as being the American Naval Attaché in Paris, and “all messages leaving our headquarters had to be signed ‘Jackson’ as a matter of routine, but he did not see every dispatch that was sent”.  Indeed, “he was very much upset about it”, demanded to know what had happened and who had released it, and had Lieutenant Barler “on the carpet about it”.

Years later, just prior to Cook’s participation in the November 1938 CBS Armistice anniversary programme, CBS contacted Jackson, by now an admiral, to ask permission to use his name in connection with the false armistice message.  He emphatically refused, threatening to “bring suit” against CBS if they did.  Consequently, during the programme he was referred to only by his title of naval attaché.  “I am very certain”, Cook maintained, “that he knew nothing about this message”.

(Hornblow commented to Cook that “This is the first time that I learn that it was not Commander Jackson himself who sent the message to Admiral Wilson”, not, it seems, because he had forgotten what Admiral Wilson had intimated to him in 1921 about who sent the message, but rather to encourage Cook to tell him as much as he could about it.)

Lieutenant Barler had apparently told Cook the name of the “commander . . . he thought had called him from the American Embassy”.  Cook said that he knew the commander in question but could no longer remember his name.  And that he believed Barler had been duped into thinking the telephone call was “genuine”: “How in the world did he fall for a thing like that over the fone?”

Cook’s suspicions were aroused as soon as the Lieutenant told him how the message had arrived from the Embassy:

“Why did they fone such an important message?  Why did’nt they put it in code?  They coded other messages of less importance, and why was’nt it delivered by a marine courier as were all messages of any urgency?  The American Embassy was right behind the Navy Headquarters building.  Also I did’nt believe that the Germans had met Foch so soon and to have talked things over so quickly.”

What Cook surmised and wanted “to bring out”, was that the American Embassy “never foned that message”, which was “probably the work of an enemy agent” aiming “to give the world a taste of what an Armistice was like” – and making “a good job of it”.  The American Embassy, he maintained, “knew nothing of it, and were never able to locate the party that did”.

Shortly after the Armistice Cook was sent to Italy for a month, then to Brest for about seven weeks; here he was “put in charge of the brig” before returning to the United States. 

Contacting Hornblow again in 1944, by which time he was a warrant officer and “chief radio electrician at the Miami Naval Air station, Opa Locka”, Cook sent a cutting of an item about himself from the Miami Daily News with the title ‘Inside Story of False Armistice Flash In 1918 Told By Navy Man Here’.  In his interview for the item, Cook repeated the account of 7 November events at Paris Navy Headquarters he had related to Hornblow, but with an additional conjecture about the origin of the armistice message:

“That will probably always remain a mystery, Cook says.  It has been well established that it did not originate in the American embassy.  Cook’s own theory is that a clever German agent ‘phoned in the message to the communications system, imitating the voice of the commander, who, the lieutenant [Barler] said, dictated [it] to him [from the embassy].” 5

Cook’s “own theory” that the armistice message was German disinformation echoed what Hornblow had surmised in his ‘Amazing Armistice’ article and may well have been indebted to it.  On the other hand, Cook’s proposition that a clever German agent imitated the voice of a commander at the American Embassy in Paris and thereby fooled Lieutenant Barler at Navy Headquarters into believing the false peace news – would probably have struck Hornblow as being obviously contrived and comically implausible.

In a brief acknowledgment – the last of their letters in the archive – Hornblow thanked Cook for the “interesting clippings on [the] Armistice dispatch”.  He was “glad to have them” for his files, he said, and to learn that Cook was “still well and active in the service”.  (Whether he ever sent Cook a copy of his November 1921 article is not indicated in their correspondence.)


The Jackson Armistice Telegram

The following is an image of the typed copy of the Jackson Telegram Roy Howard received in August 1919 from L.B. Mickel 6 :

Moses Cook told Hornblow that the message read “Armistice signed eleven am, cease firing two pm, Sedan capitulated”.  He did not mention the “Foreign office announces” detail, the message’s time-of-issue shown on the telegram – 3-20 pm – or the sentence at the bottom.  And he did not say at what time the message was transmitted to Brest along the military wire from Paris.  (Admiral Wilson received it before 4:00 pm.)

The following image is most probably of the Jackson Armistice Telegram put together at Brest Headquarters from the wired Morse Code message:

It is available in the US Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Archive, but it has been incorrectly listed as an 11 November 1918 telegram and included in a group of telegrams announcing the Armistice of 11 November 1918, thereby rendering it virtually invisible as an historically important document in its own right. 7

Cook’s evidence that Captain Jackson most probably did not see (or therefore approve) the message before it went out appears to substantiate Admiral Wilson’s 1921 comments to Hornblow that the latter’s claim the Naval Attaché sent the telegram was “off, though perhaps technically correct.  I feel you do the office of the Naval Attaché an injustice in so expressing yourself.  It was from my office in Paris.  I hope you see this”. 1      

Wilson’s implication is that although the message carried Jackson’s name, Jackson did not order it to be transmitted; that the decision to send it was made by someone in Admiral Wilson’s “office in Paris”.  This someone, presumably, was able routinely to have telegram messages dispatched from Navy Headquarters carrying Jackson’s name as authorization but which Jackson himself had not necessarily seen beforehand.

It is not certain what the function of Wilson’s Paris office was, where exactly it was (in or close to Navy Headquarters, for instance) or how many worked there.  But it does seem to be more than likely, on balance, that the armistice telegram attributed to Captain Jackson was not authorized by him but by someone in that office.

At the US Navy Headquarters in Paris

Cook claimed that Lieutenant Barler wrote down the 7 November armistice message, as telephoned from the American Embassy, ordered its transmission to Brest, and about twenty minutes after it had left Paris tried to cancel it; but that by then the message had already been forwarded from Brest to Washington, DC. 

The only Lieutenant Barler listed in the US Navy Register for that time is: “Barler, Harold A.C., Lieutenant (j. g.) [junior grade] U.S.N.R.F., born 18 May 1886, enrolled 23 September 1917”. 8

One of the letters in the “DUTY” box shown on the L.B. Mickel and Naval History and Heritage Command 7 November cablegrams is “B”.  If this and the other three letters denote the initial letter of the surnames of duty officers in the Communication Office that day, then “B” most probably identifies Lieutenant Barler as one of them.

Cook told Hornblow that Barler died in 1934, leaving just himself and the operator of the Brest Wire as “the only ones that were present” when the armistice message was transmitted.  He stated that he regularly kept in touch with this operator, but did not name him, referring to him variously as “my friend”, “a successful attorney in New York City”, and “a young sailor, now a prominent New York attorney”.

It can be stated here that this unnamed operator of the Brest Wire was Lieutenant Emmett King, who described himself as “Chief Electrician (Radio)” at Navy Headquarters in Paris in a letter made available to Roy Howard in December 1918.  After a number of Internet searches, references to “Emmett King . . . an attorney living in New York” have been located in the transcripts of investigations carried out by the US Senate, shortly after the end of the Second World War, into “Expenditures in the Executive Departments”.  Apparently, King took part in a business trip to Paris in July 1945 with two other men, spoke French, “represented the Albert Verley Co. in New York”, and was advising on the negotiation of contracts with “manufacturers of finished perfumes”.  His full name is indexed as “Emmett Miles King”; he was 52 in 1945, and therefore 25 in 1918. 11

In his December 1918 letter, King affirmed that he “flashed the [armistice] message” on 7 November, knew “what caused the whole affair”, and “handled the whole case”.  He explained that the message read “identically the same as the message that was afterwards published in America to the effect that hostilities had ceased”, and that it was handed to him “in plain English” at about 3:50 pm (French time).  But he did not say where it came from (the American Embassy, French Foreign Ministry, French Ministry of War, for instance) only that it was “absolutely from official channels; did not reveal whose name it carried as authorization; or specify to whom and where he “flashed” it.  But he did disclose that almost immediately after sending it, the message was taken from him and was “never returned to the files”; that “the whole affair” had been caused by a “government official” – not an American, he pointed out – who had made some foolish mistake which could not be made public. 6

No information about Moses Cook’s service in the US Navy during the first and second world wars has so far been located from official military publications for this article.  No ‘Moses Cook’ is shown, for instance, in the 1918, 1919, or 1941 US Navy Lists.  The information about him here is solely from the letters and news clippings he sent to Arthur Hornblow.

At the US Navy Headquarters in Brest

Moses Cook told Hornblow that he spent seven weeks in Brest before finally leaving France early in 1919.  It is reasonable to assume that he became acquainted there with the unnamed US Navy Headquarters wireless operator who, L. B. Mickel told Roy Howard, had made a copy of the Jackson Armistice Telegram from Paris.  And it is possible that Cook also met Lieutenant J. A. Carey, Admiral Wilson’s secretary who, Hugh Baillie had told Howard, was offering to sell “the original” Jackson Armistice Telegram. 

Baillie told Howard that Carey was now (July 1919) a lawyer with offices in the Wilkins Building in Washington, DC, so he had presumably resumed a legal career soon after leaving the Navy.  A Lieutenant J. A. Carey, (j. g.) Supply Corps, U.S.N.R.F., is identified as “Flag Secretary” at US Navy Headquarters in Brest in November 1918, and, it seems, “Navy Press Censor” there.  The 1919 US Navy Register lists a Lieutenant (j. g.) Joseph A. Carey (Pay Corps) U.S.N.R.F., who was presumably the same person. 9  His claim to be in possession of the original armistice telegram appears to have been untrue.  In any case, what Howard received, from L. B. Mickel, was described as a copy (made by M.R. Toomer) of the copy of the original telegram the wireless operator at Navy Headquarters in Brest had made.  Mickel stated that the original Jackson Telegram was still in Brest.

Carey and the unnamed wireless operator may have been involved in the transmission of two cablegrams allegedly sent to the Navy Department in Washington, DC, on 7 November 1918, one informing them that “Headquarters reports armistice signed” and a subsequent correction stating that “Headquarters report error in signature” – “Headquarters” here referring to those in Paris.

© James Smith.  (Original version and format uploaded February 2019.  Reorganized August 2020. Reviewed December 2021.)


Archive Sources

I. Arthur and Leonora Hornblow Papers. Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Beverly Hills, California.

II. Admiral Henry B. Wilson Papers, Box 1.  Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.


1. Admiral Henry B. Wilson to Arthur Hornblow. 13 July 1921 (Sheet 1). Hornblow Papers; and p2 of Admiral Wilson Papers.  Hornblow seems to have been the first to state publicly that Captain Jackson sent the armistice message to Brest.

2a) ‘The Amazing Armistice: Inside Story of the Premature Peace Report’, in The Century Magazine, November 1921, pp94 and 97. 

2b) The ‘Fake Armistice’ version of Hornblow’s article is not available in his archive, but the copy he sent to Admiral Wilson is preserved in the latter’s papers as pages 31-48.  For Howard’s remarks about use of the word fake, see his entry in ‘Biographical Details’ on this website.

3. Moses Cook to Arthur Hornblow, 20 April 1941; and a piece about him from The Norfolk Seabag2-8-41, under the heading ‘Reserve C.P.O. Had Unique Experience’. Hornblow Papers.

4. Subsequent correspondence: Arthur Hornblow to Moses Cook, April 28, 1941; Moses Cook to Arthur Hornblow, 7th May, 1941Arthur Hornblow to Moses Cook, May 14th, 1941; Moses Cook to Arthur Hornblow, May 23, 1941; Moses Cook to Arthur Hornblow (July?) 1944. The latter is not in the collection, but is acknowledged in Arthur Hornblow to Moses Cook, 31 July, 1944, as is its enclosure from The Miami Daily News, 20 June 1944, under the heading ‘Inside Story of False Armistice Flash in 1918 Told by Navy Man Here’. Hornblow Papers.

5. The Miami Daily News20 June 1944, under the heading ‘Inside Story of False Armistice Flash in 1918 Told by Navy Man Here’. Clipping in Hornblow Papers with Arthur Hornblow to Moses Cook, July 31, 1944 letter.

6. See ‘Roy Howard’s Search for Information about the False Armistice’, on this website.

7. Naval History and Heritage Command.  ‘Telegram Announcing Armistice, 1918’.  Catalog # NH 115448.  (The Caption and Original Date details given for it are incorrect.) 

8. Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy, U.S. Naval Reserve Force and Marine Corps, January 1, 1919, p650.

9. See: ‘Some of Brest Staff’: a handwritten note, listed as p25 of the Admiral Henry B. Wilson Papers.  The note was by (presumably) M.S. Tisdale, in November 1918 Lieutenant-Commander and Assistant to Chief of Staff & Personnel Officer at the Brest Navy HQ.  Also: An Account of the Operations of the American Navy in France during the War with Germany, pp8,10. (1919) Available online.  And: Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy, U.S. Naval Reserve Force and Marine Corps, January 1, 1919, p518.

According to Roy Howard in his memoir published in Webb Miller’s book, Ensign James Sellards was Admiral Wilson’s “personal aide, secretary, and interpreter” at Brest Headquarters.  But Sellards is named simply as “Aid” in the 1919 published list of Admiral Wilson’s Staff. 

10. See ‘The 7 November Local Cease-Fire Orders and the False Armistice News’ on this website.

11. Influence In Government Procurement. Hearings Before The Investigations Subcommittee Of The Committee On Expenditures In The Executive Departments. First Session; pp225, 227, 763. (Washington 1949)