Roy W. Howard in Brest: Part One, 7 November 1918

Roy Howard’s 7 November 1918 cablegram to New York City from the French port of Brest, carrying ‘official’ armistice news US Admiral Henry B. Wilson had given him, was very quickly reported by hundreds of newspapers with the United Press (UP) news agency.  Its premature peace message spread throughout North America, parts of Latin America, and to Australia and New Zealand, bringing hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets to celebrate victory for the Allies.  It also brought vilification and, some maintained, lasting damage to the reputations of Howard and United Press.  ENDNOTES III: 1c), 1d) and Weintraub.

This article recounts and examines in detail what happened in Brest during Thursday 7 November in relation to the false armistice news and Howard’s cablegram.  Part Two – the accompanying article – relates how Howard and United Press dealt with the immediate consequences the cablegram produced for them during Friday 8 and Saturday 9 November.

Much of the narrative comes from Roy Howard’s own memoir, the ‘Premature Armistice’ chapter in UP reporter Webb Miller’s 1936 I Found No Peace: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent; from Arthur Hornblow’s partly first-hand accounts in his 1921 ‘Fake Armistice’ and ‘Amazing Armistice’ articles; and from letters and telegrams held in their respective archives.

(‘Fake Armistice’ was never published as such.  Hornblow sent copies of it to Roy Howard and Admiral Wilson and, as a result of their comments, amended it and changed its title to ‘Amazing Armistice which the Century Magazine published in November 1921.) ENDNOTES: I. Arthur Hornblow item, for details.

Apart from Howard and Hornblow, only one other eyewitness seems to have written publicly about what happened.  This was Major Fred Cook, like Hornblow a US Army officer based in Brest at the time.  He made a brief statement in November 1918 at Howard’s request (on condition that it would not be published) about being present with Howard at US Navy Headquarters when Admiral Wilson released the armistice news.  And some years later, as a journalist for the Evening Star newspaper in Washington, DC, he wrote two consecutive False Armistice anniversary features based on his recollections.

Admiral Wilson refused to be drawn into making public comments about his part in 7 November events in Brest, but he left a ‘False Armistice Folder’ of unpublished papers from which some details are drawn.  A separate article complementary to this one, presenting his side of the story, is on this website.  ENDNOTES: I. Main Sources, and II. Biographical Information.

Information from those primary, and from some secondary, sources is brought together here for the first time.  Under examination it reveals similarities, and, much more importantly, differences, contradictions and factual distortions in the historical record they present.

With the aim of avoiding confusion, the text that follows is presented in different colours: this colour for information from Howard’s 1936 memoirthis one for extracts from letters and telegrams sent by him; this one for details from telegrams Howard receivedthis for information from Hornblow’s two articlesand this for information from Fred Cook’s letters and newspaper items.  Background historical details, and comments made on information from the sources, are in black text.

Roy W. Howard

In November 1918, Roy Howard was thirty-five years old and President of the United Press news agency.  Accompanied by his wife Peg (short for Margaret) he had travelled to France from Argentina a few weeks earlier, at the end of a business trip to South America.  In Paris, he intended to “have a look around a bit and meet the different fellows who are representing us at the different fronts”.  [Letter to Ed. L. Keen [United Press, London] from Buenos Aires, September 4, 1918. Howard Papers.]

He left Paris (alone) for Brest on the evening of Wednesday 6 November and spent the next three full days there (7- 9 November).  On Sunday 10th he set sail for the United States, as the man who had scooped – four days too soon – the eagerly awaited news that the Great War had finally ended.

Brest

Located on the tip of the Brittany peninsula, Brest was the principal entry port for American troops shipping to France after April 1917.  The United States had two major military facilities there: an army base under the command of General George Harries; and the main base and headquarters of US naval forces in French waters under the command of Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson.

The town had a trans-Atlantic telegraph transmitter (in the main Post Office building) for sending cablegrams to North America.  The French Telegraph Cable Company (Compagnie Française du Télégraphe de Paris à New York) owned the submarine cables from there that provided a direct telegraph link between Brest and New York City.

The local newspaper, La Dépêche de Brest, leased a telegraph line to Paris (most probably from the French Telegraph Cable Company) which provided it with a private telegraph link to the capital.  Importantly, United Press had an agreement with La Dépêche that allowed it to use the private telegraph for its bulletins from Paris to New York City via the Brest Post Office cable transmitter.  This enabled it to bypass the usually crowded public telegraph service from Paris to Brest, and United Press thereby enjoyed a quick communication between its Paris office (Rue Rossini, Montmartre) and New York City office (third floor of the Pulitzer Building).

The time in Brest, as in the rest of France and Britain (Allied Time), was five hours ahead of New York City Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday 7 November, Roy Howard’s first and most consequential day in Brest, started around 9 o’clock in the morning.  For this article it is divided into the following parts: 9:00 am to about 4:00 pm, 4:00 pm to about 4:20 pm, 4:20 pm to about 6:30 pm, an interrupted dinner, and the remainder of the evening.  What he, Hornblow, and Cook wrote about events on the 7th is therefore also arranged within those five parts of the day.

Howard travelled to Brest to board a ship back to the United States, where he intended to make arrangements for United Press to cover the peace conference that would follow the end of the war.  And he believed the war would be ending very soon.

A few days earlier in Paris, Edward House [better known as ‘Colonel’ House] President Wilson’s Special Representative, had confided to Howard (at a luncheon laid on by the US Military Attaché, Major Warburton) that the Germans’ surrender could be expected at any time, and that the Allies had already agreed upon the armistice terms to be imposed on them.  By late evening on the 6th, when Howard caught the overnight train to Brest from Montparnasse Station, he also knew that a German delegation had left for the Western Front to conclude an armistice with the Allies.  Peace, finally, seemed to be just a few hours away. 2 

“All of these facts were clearly in my mind” he recalled, when the train pulled into Brest just after 9:00 am the next day (4:00 am in New York).

9:00 am to about 4:00 pm

Chasing Armistice Rumours

A member of Lieutenant Arthur Hornblow’s Army Intelligence [G-2] team met Howard at the station to take him to Hornblow’s office [presumably in the Army Base]; on the way he informed Howard “quite casually” that “the Armistice had been signed”.  There had been no official announcement – the news had travelled “via the grapevine” and was “general throughout the base”. 

Howard “hurried” to Hornblow’s office.  The Lieutenant told him he had heard the armistice rumour and confirmed there had been no official announcement.  He arranged for Howard to travel to America on board the S.S. Great Northern (departure time to be given later), conveyed an invitation to lunch with General Harries at midday and escorted him to the Continental Hotel, where he would be staying.  From here they went to the US Navy Headquarters to give Admiral Wilson a letter of introduction Howard was carrying from Josephus Daniels, the US Secretary of the Navy, and to try to find out more about the peace news – “[Hornblow’s] own interest in the armistice rumour [was] as keen as my own”.

The sailor on desk duty at Wilson’s office had heard the rumour but was unaware of any official report having been sent to the Admiral, who was not there at that moment and not expected back until 4:00 pm. 

Hornblow then took Howard to meet the local French Commandant, who “suspected that [the rumour] was true” but also had no official confirmation of it.  Afterwards he left him with General Harries at Army Headquarters for his luncheon meeting – “for which Hornblow could not remain”.  Staff here were “in high spirits as a result of the rumours”, but had so far failed to verify them. 

[Howard 1936, pp77-80]

Howard clearly considered the rumours that an armistice had been signed to be an important detail about events in Brest on 7 November.  And felt it necessary to emphasise that they were already circulating when he arrived and the military authorities he met during the morning and afternoon were trying to substantiate them.  But he had said nothing about any armistice rumours in the letters and telegrams he sent from Brest, between 7 and 10 November, to his United Press colleagues in Paris and New York City.

His first public reference to them seems to have been in a press statement he made on 20 November, just two days after he returned to America.  As the New York Times reported, Howard claimed they were “current in both French and American Army circles in Brest when [he] arrived”, and that he “put in the entire day endeavoring to confirm [them]”. III 3a.

This was followed three days later by a reference in an Editor & Publisher newspaper feature titled Roy W. Howard’s “Full Story of Premature Peace Rumor”, in which he stated that “shortly after 10 A.M. … it was at Army Headquarters that I first heard that an armistice had been signed.  This was only a rumor.” III 3b.

However, neither Arthur Hornblow in his ‘Fake Armistice’ article, nor Fred Cook in his 1924 and ‘25 newspaper features mentioned the rumours at all.  And Howard criticised them both for not doing so.

In comments he made to Hornblow in June 1921 about ‘Fake Armistice’, Howard urged him to amend it to include “the fact” that, at the railway station, then at US Army, US Navy and French Army Headquarters, he was told there was an “unofficial rumor” the armistice had been signed and that everyone expected “the confirmation would be coming along at any moment”. (Details below)

And in a letter he wrote to Cook about the latter’s November 1925 False Armistice feature he complained that his failure to mention the rumour gave readers the impression that when the armistice news arrived from Paris around mid-afternoon, it was the first Brest had heard about it. (Details below)

The rumours

It is most unlikely that the rumours Howard said were circulating in Brest before 9 am were  about the Germans having signed an armistice, primarily because the ‘armistice-signed’ rumours that started in Paris not long before midday on 7 November would obviously not have spread to Brest (or anywhere else in France) before 9:00 am.

If rumours were circulating there when Howard arrived, they were  probably about the German delegation sent to open armistice talks with the Allies.  The official French announcement of the 6 November departure of the delegation for the Western Front had appeared in the Paris morning newspapers on the 7th, and this news had certainly reached Brest by 9:00 am. III.1d)   Indeed, in ‘Fake Armistice’, Hornblow remarks that people were discussing the delegation news outside La Dépêche where a bulletin about it was on display.

However, in response to Howard’s comments about ‘Fake Armistice’ Hornblow obligingly inserted a few short (inaccurate) references to armistice-signed rumours current in Brest before Admiral Wilson’s afternoon announcement of a signed-armistice, a cease-fire and liberation of Sedan.  Fred Cook’s article had already appeared in print when Howard  complained to him about not mentioning the rumours, so – even if he had been willing to do so – it was too late to change it to suit Howard.  (Details further below)

Given what Howard had learned, before he left Paris, about the probability of a German surrender in the next few days and the actual departure of the German delegation for the Front, when he arrived in Brest he may well have been expecting to hear that the war had ended during the twelve hours he had been on the overnight express train.  So, it is more likely that Howard, eager to find out what was happening, was quick to ask the G-2 orderly at the station for the latest war news than it is that the orderly told him “quite casually”, on their way to US Army Headquarters, that there were rumours an armistice had been signed.  And more likely also that, knowing the armistice had not yet been signed but believing it was imminent, for the rest of the morning and early afternoon he moved from one military facility to another expecting to hear that the war had just ended.

Behind Howard’s questionable claims about armistice-signed rumours in Brest and his criticisms of Hornblow and Cook for ignoring them in their articles, there seems to have been an anxiety that, without some reference to the rumours as part of the background to events in Brest, his, Hornblow’s and Cook’s eye-witness accounts might somehow retrospectively justify the accusations made at the time, against him and United Press, of “fake” and “hoax” armistice reporting and the denigration of his professional integrity and “status as a journalist”.

The same anxiety seems to have led him to stress, in his various public accounts, that before he used Admiral Wilson’s armistice message, he had ascertained that it was ‘official’.  For example, in one of his earliest, he wrote “’Is that official?’ asked the major. “’Yes,’ replied the admiral. “The war is over. It is finished.’ …. I twice repeated Major Cook’s inquiry as to whether the news was official, and being fully reassured, … asked the admiral if I might use the dispatch.” 3b

Revealing his enduring sensitivity about the controversy over his armistice cablegram from Brest, he explained to Hornblow:

“I cite this fact [about the rumours] as being of importance only because of the persistent effort made by the New York Globe, the Associated Press, and one or two other newspapers particularly unfriendly to the United Press, to create the impression that I had filed [sent] 23 a wild rumor that did not have any semblance of official justification.”

[Roy W. Howard to Arthur Hornblow, San Diego June nineteenth 1921, pp1 and 5-6.  Hornblow Papers.]

One of Hornblow’s duties as the US Army Intelligence Officer in Brest was to look after American journalists arriving there.  He had not met Howard before but had received favourable reports about him and regarded him as a “distinguished visitor” entitled to a high “degree of attention”.

“I sensed something of what goes to make the successful newspaper man.”

Not long after 9:00 am, one of his G-2 team on duty at the railway station informed Hornblow of Howard’s arrival.  He expected Howard to introduce himself at his office a short time later – “most newspapermen made it a point of reporting promptly … in order to hear if any news had broken locally, and to be facilitated generally in getting around and seeing things and people”.  But it was not until “shortly before noon” [around three hours later] that Howard “strolled in casually” and asked Hornblow whether he could arrange for him to take a faster ship to America than the one already booked for him, which was due to leave at two o’clock that afternoon.  He wanted to reach the United States as quickly as possible to prepare for returning to France with President Wilson’s peace conference entourage – “The man knew even then that the President was coming”.

Hornblow was able to do so – a transfer to the S.S. Leviathan sailing the following morning – and in response to another request took Howard to US Navy Headquarters to meet Admiral Henry Wilson.  They left Hornblow’s office “about noon”.

On the way they stopped outside the La Dépêche de Brest, the town’s local newspaper on President Wilson Square.  Here they read the bulletin about the German armistice delegation’s departure for the front lines.  “A small, excited crowd was discussing the tidings and waiting eagerly around for more”, Hornblow noted, and “oddly enough, a rumor was seeping through it to the effect that an armistice had already been signed”.  Howard told Hornblow that he had “heard the same thing” on his arrival at the station.

La Dépêche had a private telegraph line to Paris which United Press used to the exclusion of all other foreign newspapers, and Howard introduced himself to the newspaper staff.  He and Hornblow then went on to Admiral Wilson’s Headquarters.  As the Admiral was elsewhere, his aide Ensign John Sellards booked an appointment for Howard to meet him at 4:00 pm.

Hornblow gave Howard a tour of “a few of Brest’s sights (nothing much to see)”, took him to the Navy Club for lunch, accepted his invitation to take a few of his “cronies” to have dinner with him later that evening, and – “after two o’clock” – left him at the Continental Hotel, where Howard had managed to find accommodation. 

[Hornblow, ‘Amazing Armistice’, November 1921, pp 90-93; 96]

There are clear differences here between Howard’s and Hornblow’s accounts of their morning and early afternoon activities in Brest:

Howard gave the impression in his memoir that he met Hornblow in his office soon after arriving in Brest; Hornblow stated that it was not until just before midday that he and Howard met for the first time.  In his June 1921 letter to Hornblow about ‘Fake Armistice’, Howard had remarked that “immediately upon my arrival in Brest I reported directly to General Harries’ headquarters”.  He included this “fact” in his comments to Hornblow about where and by whom in Brest he was told about the armistice rumours.  According to Howard, then, the events he outlined occurred after 9:00 am and before a midday lunch with General Harries; according to Hornblow, the events he outlined, including lunch together at the Navy Club, occurred between midday and sometime after 2:00 pm.

Hornblow (as noted) did not mention any armistice-signed rumours in his ‘Fake Armistice’ article.  The above remarks in ‘Amazing Armistice’ about hearing an armistice-signed rumour seeping through the crowd outside the La Dépêche building around midday, and about Howard’s telling him he had heard it at the railway station were inserted only because of Howard’s criticisms noted above (as were similar remarks later in his article).

Nor did Hornblow specify taking Howard to see the French Commandant or General Harries.  He recorded that he took Howard to US Navy Headquarters and then showed him around Brest before taking him to lunch and leaving him at the Continental after 2:00 pm.

For his part, Howard made no reference to a pre-lunch visit with Hornblow to La Dépêche to introduce himself to the staff there.  And to his recollection, he had lunch, not with Hornblow at the Navy Club, but with General Harries and some of his staff at Army Headquarters, which Hornblow did not attend.  However, in his June 1921 letter to Hornblow he refers separately to “our [his and Hornblow’s] luncheon at the Navy Club” and to “my leaving you after luncheon”. [19 June 1921 letter, pp4-6. Hornblow Papers]

Each named a different ship as the one Hornblow arranged for Howard to return home on: the Great Northern according to Howard, the S.S. Leviathan according to Hornblow.  The Great Northern was the one Howard said he boarded on 10 November when he eventually left Brest.

After lunch, General Harries ordered more telephone calls to be made to try to confirm the armistice rumour, again without success.  Accompanied by Major C. Fred Cook, a member of Harries’ staff and a pre-war news editor at the Washington Star, Howard then went “about Brest on a quest for information” before heading to Navy Headquarters again for his appointment with Admiral Wilson. 

The US navy band was playing to a crowd of civilians and servicemen in President Wilson Square; and throughout the town “there was a tense air of cheerful expectancy” among civilians and military alike.  When Howard and Cook reached the headquarters, Admiral Wilson was now in his office and available to see them.  The time was 4:10 pm.

[Howard 1936, pp80-81]

An obvious thing for Howard to have done would have been to contact the United Press office in Paris to see if they had any news about a German armistice.  He could have done this by using La Dépêche’s telegraph link or by telephoning them.  And from midday they would have been able to tell him there were armistice-signed rumours spreading around the capital.  But Howard commented towards the end of his 1936 memoir that the La Dépêche telegraph was not open “until late on the evening of the seventh” and that “meantime, it was impossible for censorship reasons for me to communicate with the Paris office, or for them to get in touch with me”.  [p89]

And yet, around 4:20 pm, Howard telegraphed staff correspondent John de Gandt at the UP Paris office  – just after sending his armistice cablegram to the New York City office – and received replies from there (as will be seen).  It is possible therefore that he did contact Paris earlier in the day, become aware of the armistice-signed rumours there during early afternoon, and was fully expecting official news the war was over to reach Brest very soon.

4:00 pm to about 4:20 pm

Admiral Wilson’s armistice news, and Howard’s armistice cablegram

Shortly before 4:00 pm Admiral Wilson received the false armistice news from Paris.  Between 4:00 and 4:20 pm, Howard’s cablegram containing the news was put together and transmitted to New York City, arriving around midday Eastern Standard Time – ahead of the early afternoon newspapers in that time zone, and of late morning ones farther west.

The sequence of events during those twenty minutes took place in three separate locations: Admiral Wilson’s office, the La Dépêche building, and the local Post Office or ‘P.Q.’ building. III.

 

In Admiral Wilson’s Office

Howard’s earliest account (unpublished) of events surrounding his false armistice cablegram is in a letter he typed to Phil Simms, UP’s Paris manager, on Saturday 9 November 1918, the day before he left Brest for the United States.  It begins, in direct speech mode, with his and Major Cook’s arrival at Admiral Wilson’s office (no time given).

“[General] Harries had sent Cook to present me to the Admiral ….”

As he and Cook entered Admiral Wilson’s room, the Admiral’s aide, Ensign Sellards, also entered “rather out of breath”. 

The Admiral announced “Well its over”; Cook asked him what he meant; Wilson replied that the Armistice had been signed at 11 o’clock that morning, hostilities had ceased at 2:00 pm, and the Americans had taken Sedan during the morning.

Howard asked whether the news was official; Wilson assured him it was, adding that it had come “right from headquarters – right from Paris” just a few minutes earlier.  The Admiral whispered something to Cook about – what Howard “gathered” to be – “the communication channel” for the news, and then asked Sellards whether La Dépêche had “posted the bulletin”.  Sellards said they had not – the editor, Mr Coudurier, was not there and Sellards had brought the bulletin back.  The Admiral instructed him to return to the building, give the news to the person in charge and tell him to “announce it”. 

Howard requested permission to see the note Ensign Sellards was holding.  It was the news about the armistice, cease-fire, and Sedan.  He asked the Admiral again whether the information was “official”, was told it was and had been received “directly through our own private channels”.  He then asked for permission to “use” it.  Wilson agreed: “go right ahead”, he told him.

Howard “hustled over” to La Dépêche with Ensign Sellards, leaving Major Cook in the Admiral’s office.  

[Letter to Phil Simms, November 9, 1918, pp1-2. Howard Papers.]

To summarize, the main points Howard made are that:

  • Admiral Wilson received the armistice news from Paris Headquarters [Navy presumably] before Howard and Cook arrived at his office.
  • Before their arrival, Wilson had sent Ensign Sellards to give a copy of the news to the La Dépêche editor for him to post on the newspaper’s bulletin board.  Sellards entered the office just after Howard and Cook arrived, bringing the message back with him because the editor was not in the newspaper building.
  • Wilson apparently confided to Cook details about the message’s “communication channel”.
  • Wilson instructed Sellards to return to La Dépêche with the news.  Howard went with him, having received permission to “use” what Wilson assured him twice was an “official” report from the Admiral’s private channels in Paris.
  • Cook stayed behind when Howard left with a copy of the message.

And for later reference, on 9 November:

  • Howard told Phil Simms that he accompanied Sellards to the La Dépêche building on his own initiative.
  • Howard made no allegations that Admiral Wilson instructed Sellards to go with him to help him file the armistice cablegram, or to make sure the censors allowed the cablegram to be transmitted.

(In his later versions of what happened between 4:00 pm and about 4:20 pm, Howard claimed that his cablegram to New York City was transmitted without hindrance or delay specifically because of help from the Admiral and Sellards.)

Major Fred Cook’s original (unpublished) account of what happened in the Admiral’s office was a response to a request from Howard for a statement of what he recalled having taken place there.  It is dated 15 November 1918, eight days after the events, and covers a single sheet of writing paper.

“I would like to go on record as certifying that ….”

Cook attested to the following details [no times given for them]:

  • After the introductions, Admiral Wilson “hastened to inform” them that the Germans had signed the Allies’ armistice terms.
  • Cook asked if the news was official.  The Admiral replied that it was, explaining that he had received it from “the Embassy in Paris”.
  • Howard asked permission to “make use of the information”.  Wilson agreed and Howard then “disappeared” to the cable office [located in the Post Office].
  • Cook remained with the Admiral, “observed the sending of the Admiral’s personal aide [Sellards] to the Brest newspaper” [no reason given for this] and heard the Admiral order “an immense American flag” to be raised on the building. From the office balcony, he noted the “public announcement of the news from the band stand” in President Wilson Square.  The US navy band then played the Marseillaise and The Star-Spangled Banner.
  • Cook believed the news was official and reported it to General Harries at US Army Headquarters.

[Fred Cook Letters to Roy Howard. France, November 15, 1918. Howard Papers]

Thus, according to Cook, he (not Howard) asked the Admiral whether the news was official; Wilson informed them it had come from the American Embassy in Paris (Howard told Phil Simms it had arrived from Headquarters in Paris); Howard left the building to go to the “cable office”, and Ensign Sellards left, a little later it seems, to go to the La Dépêche building (for some unspecified reason).

Arthur Hornblow was not with Howard between 4:00 and 4:20pm.  His ‘Fake Armistice’ account of what happened in Admiral Wilson’s office was presumably based on what he said Howard had told him after the event.

However, some comments Admiral Wilson made about the ‘Fake Armistice’ text led Hornblow to change a few of its details for ‘Amazing Armistice’, in which he wrote:

Howard was introduced to Admiral Wilson “promptly at four o’clock”.  After chatting for a while, Wilson remarked that he had “just received a message which might possibly interest Howard and handed it to him for his perusal”.  Howard “beheld an official telegram, signed by Commander Jackson of Admiral Wilson’s office in Paris and naval attache at our Paris embassy”, announcing an 11:00 am armistice and 2:00 pm cessation of hostilities.  The admiral agreed to let Howard “use” the armistice report; and with Ensign Sellards “to assist him in arranging things” Howard hurried out of Navy Headquarters heading for the postes [“post-and-telegraph office”]. 

[Hornblow, ‘Amazing Armistice’, November 1921, pp93-94]

Contentious allegations about Admiral Wilson and Ensign Sellards helping Howard with his cablegram

As a result of the Admiral’s comments, Hornblow had replaced an unambiguous statement in ’Fake Armistice’ that Sellards went with Howard “to assist him in getting his message past the local French censor” with the ambiguous sentence above that Ensign Sellards went with Howard “to assist him in arranging things”.

The allegation that Howard received help from Admiral Wilson’s office with the actual transmission of his cablegram first arose in 8 November 1918 reports from Paris to the US State Department about the false armistice news.  The reports, with other official wartime documents, were only made public in 1933. 6  But Roy Howard most probably knew about them and their contents in November 1918 and may have given some of their details to Hornblow.  After the Armistice, Hornblow moved to G-2 in Paris for a time, so he may also have become aware of the reports there.  Had he not changed the ‘Fake Armistice’ version, the allegation would have made its first public appearance in ‘Amazing Armistice’ in November 1921.

(Further discussion about the allegations later in the article.)

Roy Howard’s only comment on the ‘Fake Armistice’ version of events in Wilson’s office was that Hornblow’s “quotations of the armistice message” were not “literally correct”He was referring to Hornblow’s omission of the detail about American forces taking Sedan, and offered, for the sake of accuracy, to provide him with “an exact duplicate” of the message he received from Admiral Wilson.  Evidently, Hornblow failed to correct the omission for ‘Amazing Armistice’.  Whether Howard subsequently contacted Hornblow to comment on the published article is not known.

Captain Jackson’s name on the false armistice news from Paris

It is interesting that Hornblow claimed Howard saw that the armistice message was signed by Captain Jackson, the US Naval Attaché in Paris.  Admiral Wilson told Hornblow in 1921 that, when he announced it to Cook and Howard in his office and gave Howard a copy of it, he did not disclose who had sent him the armistice news.  But Howard appears to have known on 7 November who sent it: that evening, he telegraphed Phil Simms in Paris suggesting he try to talk to Jackson about it.  (Further details later in the article.)

How Howard knew this detail on 7 November is not certain.  But if he knew, perhaps Major Cook also knew it at the time.  When or how, before 1921, Hornblow became aware that Jackson’s name was on the armistice message is also not certain, but ‘Amazing Armistice’ seems to have made it public.

When Fred Cook left the army, he returned to his job with the Evening Star in Washington, DC.  He wrote two articles for the newspaper about the False Armistice: a short item for the 11 November 1924 issue, in which he avoided identifying Howard by name; and a much longer, more detailed account published on 11 November 1925 for the seventh anniversary.

In the latter, he recalled the following events between 4:00 and 5:00 pm in Brest on 7 November 1918:

“It so happened that I was present, a listener and close observer, when the historic episode occurred.”

As the liaison officer between the US Army and Navy Bases, Cook first met Howard during the “early afternoon” of 7 November in General Harries’ office at the Army Base.  The General explained that Howard was hoping to meet Admiral Wilson that afternoon and told Cook to accompany him.  Cook and Howard went straight to Navy Headquarters, “a tall building” facing President Wilson Square and “about five city blocks” away from Army Headquarters.  The Admiral’s office was on the “fifth deck” of the building; access to it was through a room occupied by Ensign Sellards, Wilson’s “personal aid, confidential secretary and interpreter.”

Cook introduced Howard to Sellards, who then left the room to inform the Admiral of their arrival.  A short time later, Wilson came out of his office holding a piece of paper in his hand.  Before Cook “could utter a word”, the Admiral told them it was a telegram from Commander Jackson, the US Naval Attaché at the embassy in Paris, saying that “the armistice was signed at 11 o’clock this morning, effective at 2 o’clock this afternoon”.  There was an “absolute silence” in the room lasting “a second or two” until Howard asked if he could use the information.  After some hesitation, Wilson consented, whereupon Howard uttered “a hasty ‘I’ll see you later’” and rushed out of the building. 

From the open window, Cook watched Howard run across the square to the Post Office, where the Atlantic-cable transmitter was located, and saw crowds gathering to read the Admiral’s news now displayed outside the La Dépêche building.  Inside the office, he witnessed instructions being given for the peace news to be announced to people listening to a US navy band in the square and for a huge flag to be hung across the Headquarters building.  As “pandemonium” started spreading outside, he left Navy Headquarters and made his way back to give General Harries the news.  Army Headquarters believed the news, but because they had heard nothing yet from US Army authorities about it, the base “attended to business and continued quietly at work”.

[The Evening Star, Wednesday, November 11, 1925, p4, under ‘Real “False Armistice” Story Is Now Told By Eyewitness’.]

As in his 15 November 1918 statement written for Howard, Cook recollected here that Howard asked Admiral Wilson for permission to use the news from Paris, left alone with a copy of it and went towards the cable office.

In the article, though not in his 1918 letter, Cook claimed the Admiral informed him and Howard that the armistice news had arrived in a telegram from Commander Jackson, the naval attaché at the US Paris Embassy.

Like Hornblow, Cook omitted the detail about Sedan from his version of the armistice message sent to Admiral Wilson.

Howard read the article and wrote to Cook about it several days later, criticizing his account of events as being “at variance”, in several respects, with his own “remembrance” of them.

“Not with any desire to be meticulously critical … I want to check up with you on ….”

Howard considered that Cook’s account created “two erroneous impressions”.  

One was that Admiral Wilson’s armistice message “was the first news” they had received that day about an armistice.  “You will recall”, Howard insisted (as he had to Hornblow in 1921 on the same matter) that “the rumor … the armistice had been signed was current all over Brest” during Thursday 7 November.  He maintained that he was told about it by “an M.P.” who met him at the railway station, and then by Lieutenant Hornblower [sic] “at G-2”; that he and Hornblow “tried to get something from French headquarters” but all they had was  “the same vague rumor”, and reminded Cook that General Harries had “stated that it was quite possible … the report was true”.  Indeed, “our surprise” when Admiral Wilson announced the news, Howard asserted, was not “that the armistice had been signed”, but rather that Wilson had received the news “ahead of everyone else”.

The other erroneous impression given by Cook’s account, Howard felt, was that it was “only a matter of seconds” after Wilson told them the news before he rushed off, “jumped down the stairway” and ran to the cable office [in the Post Office building] to send his cablegram.  “Let your mind run back again” Howard suggested, and “you will recall that we stood and talked to Admiral Wilson for at least several minutes” during which time “I interrogated him” to make sure the message was “actually an official announcement”; that “I delayed long enough to secure a copy of the dispatch Admiral Wilson held in his hand”.

As pointed out earlier, in his 1921 comments on Hornblow’s ‘Fake Armistice’, Howard revealed a sensitivity to criticisms that on 7 November 1918 he had “filed a wild rumor that did not have any semblance of official justification”.  Seven years after the events, the sensitivity is apparent in Howard’s criticisms here; it seems to have remained with him throughout his career.

[See above, ‘The rumours’ under Thursday 7 November: 9:00 am to about 4:00 pm]

Howard also corrected Cook’s statement that he had seen him “run across the square to the cable office” after he dashed out of Wilson’s office on his own. 

This was another “instance” of Cook’s memory having failed him, he remarked, noting that “as a matter of fact”, having given him “permission to use” the armistice message, the Admiral then asked him if he spoke French “with any fluency” and, being told he did not, “ordered Ensign Sellards to go with [him] to the cable office and help expedite the dispatch through the Censor”; and that while they were waiting for Sellards, Wilson assured them again that the dispatch was official.  Outside, he and Sellards did not go straight to the cable office, but went first to La Dépêche to type the peace news on a cable blank used for sending United Press bulletins from Paris to the “cable head”.  “I am taking the trouble to bring these points to your attention” Howard explained “not with any intention of appearing critical of your article, but rather because I believe that on second thought you will recall conditions to have been as I have stated them”.   

[Roy Howard to Fred Cook, 28 November 1925, pp1-3. Howard Papers.]

Howard had not drawn attention to any supposedly faulty observations or important omissions in Cook’s ‘witness’ statement of 15 November 1918.  But now, as well as ignoring armistice-signed rumours in Brest that day, Howard claimed Cook had forgotten that Ensign Sellards went with him “to the cable office” having been ordered by Admiral Wilson to “help expedite the dispatch through the Censor”.  This is the same detail Hornblow included in ‘Fake Armistice’ but then withdrew for ‘Amazing Armistice’ after Admiral Wilson objected to it. (See ‘Contentious allegations’, above)

Perhaps Howard was prompted to emphasize the points about Admiral Wilson and Sellards by the following comments elsewhere in Cook’s 1925 article: “In my judgment, the most remarkable incident of the ‘false armistice’ was the fact that the message filed by Mr. Howard was dispatched immediately, and without question.  There was no demand, so far as I am aware, that it be censored and approved ….”  For he was also sensitive to remarks like these which queried how he actually managed to get his armistice cablegram out of Brest on 7 November.   At the time and later, he offered various explanations.  Hornblow dealt with the subject at some length in ‘Amazing Armistice’, as will be seen.

It is not known whether Cook responded to Howard’s criticisms of his article, or to an invitation to have lunch with him in Washington, DC, “sometime in the near future”.

Howard’s own, published, recollections of what happened at Navy Headquarters appeared some eleven years after Cook’s.

“The Armistice has been signed …. It’s the official announcement.”

Ensign James Sellards, “personal aide, secretary, and interpreter”, met Howard and Cook when they arrived and took them through to Admiral Wilson’s office, where the Admiral “was standing by his desk holding in his hand a sheaf of carbon copies of a message”.  From here, Wilson sent an orderly [not Sellards] to give some of these copies to La Dépêche for a bulletin, and to the bandmaster of a US navy band playing in President Wilson Square for him to announce to the crowd.  The orderly was also instructed to tell the duty officer to hang out the “biggest flag we have” across the headquarters building.

In reply to Major Cook’s enquiry about the news, the Admiral informed them that the Armistice had been signed.  He handed Cook a copy of the message “just received … over my direct wire from the Embassy”, told them it was official, had come “direct from G.H.Q. via the Embassy” and was “signed by Captain Jackson, our Naval Attaché at Paris.”

“Howard and I have been chasing this rumour all day”, Cook remarked.  And Howard asked whether the Admiral had “any objection to [his] filing it to the United Press”. 

“Hell, no … this is official.  It is direct from G.H.Q. via the Embassy.  It’s signed by Captain Jackson, our Naval Attaché at Paris.  Here’s a copy of what I have just sent to Dépêche. Go to it”, replied Wilson. 

The Admiral then instructed Ensign Sellards to take Howard to the cable office – “See that he gets this message cleared through the censorship … stay with Mr. Howard until he gets his message through, then bring him back here”.  

[Howard 1936, pp80-82]

In Howard’s archive there is a handwritten copy of the Jackson armistice message, possibly the one he said (above) that Wilson gave to him or the one Wilson handed to Sellards. It reads (unclearly in parts): “Armistice signed 11 AM Hostilities ceased 2 PM today Sedan taken this AM by US Army”.  Who wrote it down is not certain.  Beneath it, in pencil and also not clear in parts, is the explanation that the message is a copy of the note Admiral Wilson sent to the La Dépêche newspaper.  Howard presumably added this comment at some later date. III.7

Pencil message jpg

Here, in 1936, Howard, like Cook in his 1925 newspaper account, stated that Admiral Wilson told them the armistice message was from Captain Jackson in Paris; but neither Howard in his November 1918 letter to Simms, nor Cook in his November 1918 ‘witness’ statement for Howard had intimated this at the time.

And here, Ensign Sellards, as in Cook’s account, was already present in Admiral Wilson’s offices when they arrived, not – as Howard had told Simms in November 1918 – returning “rather out of breath” from the La Dépêche building having failed to leave the armistice bulletin with the editor and then being told to take it back.  Howard now states that Wilson instructed an orderly to take the news to La Dépêche and to the navy band master in the square.

Earlier accounts by Howard, Hornblow, and Cook noted that Howard asked Wilson for permission to “use” the armistice information.  But here, Howard had enlarged this to permission specifically to “file” it “to the United Press”, that is, for permission – which Wilson allegedly granted – to send the armistice message to United Press for it to be published in the American newspapers.

Cook gave the impression in his ‘witness statement’ and 1925 article that Howard left Navy Headquarters alone, and not, therefore, with Ensign Sellards accompanying him to the La Dépêche building or to the cable office in the Post Office.  Howard told Phil Simms in his 9 November letter that he went only to La Dépêche with Sellards, who was returning there with the armistice news.  Several days later, in a press statement of 20 November 1918, he  stated that Admiral Wilson “sent his personal aid with me to assist me in filing the dispatch, as I do not speak French fluently”, but did not suggest that Admiral Wilson ordered Sellards to go with him to make sure the armistice bulletin passed the censors. III.3

As pointed out above in ‘Contentious allegations’, claims that Wilson intervened in some way to make sure Howard’s cablegram was not held up by the censors appeared for the first time on 8 November 1918, in reports sent to the US State Department from Paris.  Before the reports’ publication in 1933, Howard had made the allegations to Cook in his November 1925 letter; and publicly avowed them here in his 1936 memoir.  But he is the only participant in the 4:00 to 4:20 pm events in Brest to do so.  Cook’s evidence does not support the claims.  Hornblow removed them from ‘Amazing Armistice’.  Both Admiral Wilson and John Sellards flatly denied them.

For what occurred after Howard left Navy Headquarters with the armistice message, the only available first-hand evidence seems to be Howard’s – in his 9 November letter to Simms and his 1936 narrative.  These relate that before going to the cable office in the Post Office building, Howard and Sellards went first to the La Dépêche building where Howard wanted to have the message typed out.

In the La Dépêche building

In his letter to Phil Simms, Howard described in just three sentences what happened when he stopped off at La Dépêche:

“I excused myself from Major Cook, hustled over to la De Peche with the Ensign and looked up the operator of the leased wire.  I tried to find a typewriter and a cable blank but could not.  The Ensign told my trouble to the operator who printed my message out on his tape printer [and] pasted it up on a P.Q. blank ….

[Letter to Phil Simms, November 9, 1918, pp1-2. Howard Papers.]

Simms would have understood Howard’s references to “leased wire”, “cable blank”, “P.Q. blank” and “tape printer”. III.5  But how the La Dépêche telegraph link (leased wire) to Paris together with its apparatus and stationery were involved in the story of Howard’s armistice cablegram (crucially as it turned out) requires some explanation.

The La Dépêche telegraph 

UP’s access to the La Dépêche telegraph was a key factor in the spread of the 7 November 1918 peace news to the United States: without it there might well have been no False Armistice in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Webb Miller, who was with United Press in France at the time, described the main features of their arrangement with La Dépêche as follows:

“[It was] a contract for the exclusive use of the only private leased wire between Paris and Brest, the cable head.  Louis Coudurier, owner of the newspaper Dépêche de Brest, held all rights.  The utility of this wire lay in the fact that messages did not have to pass through the Bourse [Stock Exchange] telegraph office and censorship in Paris, where most of the delay en route to New York occurred.  Sometimes urgent-rate messages [the highest charge for fast delivery] … were an hour getting through the red tape at the Bourse, while our messages over the leased wire were transmitted instantly, and taken across the street in Brest to the cable office.

[John de Gandt and Lowell Mellett of the UP Paris office] concluded a private arrangement with the chief censor, who permitted us to telegraph over the leased wire without Paris censorship anything from the American front which had already been censored by the American military censors, anything that appeared in the Paris newspapers, and any official communiqués issued in Paris, but nothing else.  We furnished the censor copies of everything sent over the wire afterward.  Of course, we did our utmost to keep these arrangements secret.” [Webb Miller, pp54-55]

Among the telegrams in Howard’s archive is one from John de Gandt about La Dépêche‘s telegraph.  There is nothing to show when de Gandt sent it to Howard or where Howard was at the time, but it seems from the message that de Gandt was outlining, for Howard’s approval, the “private arrangement” Webb Miller attributed to him and Lowell Mellett (above).  De Gandt wrote:

ALTHOUGH I DO NOT KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOUR PLANS ARE I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT IT STRUCK ME SOME TIME AGO THAT THE BREST PAPER GETTING A FULL NEWS SERVICE (ALREADY CENSORED) FROM PARIS IT MIGHT BE INTERESTING FOR US TO BE ABLE TO REWRITE THE STUFF IN CABLE STYLE IN BREST AND FLASH IT FROM THERE PROVIDED WE SHOULD HAVE SOME BODY IN THE PAPER OFFICE WHO WOULD DO IT AND SEND IT THE PUBLISHER WOULD LIKELY ACCEPT SUCH AN ARRANGEMENT AND IT WOULD SIMPLY REQUEST [REQUIRE?] PERMISZION FROM BOTH HEAD CENSORSHIPS IN PARIS THE AMERICAN AND THE FRENCH THERE NIGHT [MIGHT] BE ALSO A QUESTION RE THE OPPOSITION BUT I WOULD RATHER WRITE [WAIT?] ON THAT SUBJECT

[28/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers]

Howard himself referred to the arrangement only briefly, giving the impression that the telegraph was mainly a United Press concern:

“At specific hours of the day the U.P. operated a leased wire between Paris and Brest.  In addition to carrying a news report for Dépêche, this wire handled cable dispatches for the United Press in New York, which were relayed to Brest via this wire after being censored in Paris.”

[Howard 1936, p83]

Arthur Hornblow publicised the arrangement and provided details about how the La Dépêche telegraph apparatus was used to prepare Howard’s dispatch for transmission.  It presented a lengthy explanation not just of what happened but also of why the armistice message was cleared for transmission to the United States.

“Probably, … Roy W. Howard was the only man in the world who could have sent the message as it was sent or who could have sent it at all.”

Howard and Sellards left Navy Headquarters with a copy of the armistice news and headed for the postes [“post-and-telegraph office”].  However, “desiring to file a typewritten message so there would be no possible misunderstanding or misreading by the French cable operator [in the Post Office] Howard dived en route into the nearby telegraph room of ‘La Depeche’ and demanded a type-writer, explaining hurriedly his reason”. 

The “telegraph editor” – an “obliging Frenchman” – took over and printed the armistice message for Howard.  Using the newspaper’s “telegraph instrument”, he typed the message onto paper tape with his local telegraph key – it was possible to “type on the ribbon with the local telegraph key as well as with the transmitting-key in Paris”.  Having done so, the telegraph editor tore off the tape and pasted it on a “telegraphic form” so that the “message was clear and ready for immediate filing”.

The result, crucially, was a document identical in appearance to United Press telegrams that arrived in Brest from Paris: it looked “exactly as though it had been transmitted from Paris as were all other United Press messages and had been censored there!”  [Hornblow’s italics.]  Moreover, in his “generosity” Howard had signed the message “Howard-Simms”, wanting to “share the glory of his ‘beat’” with Phil Simms – “the man who signed all the messages that came from Paris” and whose name was the “stamp of proper procedure”.  Consequently, the Brest censors in the Post Office readily accepted the cablegram which was then speedily transmitted to New York CityHere, the American censors passed it in the belief that it had been cleared through France. 

Hornblow insisted that Howard had not deliberately had the cablegram put together to look like one sent from United Press in Paris, with its message already approved by the censors – that he had not committed some telegraphic artifice in order to be first to the American papers with the peace news.  “It was [an] unintended strategy of Howard’s that enabled him to get his cable past the local censors … ‘unintended’ because it is inconceivable that … any man, however alert, could have thought up so extraordinarily clever a devise”. 

Hornblow also dismissed the possibility that anyone in Brest “of whatever exalted rank” could have influenced the local censors to clear Howard’s cablegram and its “so portentous a message” without first obtaining permission to do so from the Ministry of War or the censorship office in Paris to do so.

[‘Amazing Armistice’, November 1921, pp92-95] 

Hornblow’s account here is essentially second-hand, shaped presumably by what he learnt from Howard and any additional information he may have picked up in Brest during the days that followed – for instance, from the La Dépêche editor, M. Coudurier, whom he later met officially on behalf of General Harries, the US Army Base commander. 22

He did imply that Sellards went to the Post Office with Howard after leaving La Dépêche.  But he pointedly challenged any suggestion that, acting on Admiral Wilson’s instructions, Sellards made sure the censors allowed the peace news to go to the United States.  In ‘Fake Armistice’ Hornblow actually declared that “not even the Admiral in person” could have persuaded the censors to pass the armistice cablegram without specific authority from Paris, then changed it slightly for ‘Amazing Armistice’ (above) to read “no one in Brest, of whatever exalted rank” could have done so.  The only reason the cablegram cleared from Brest, Hornblow emphasised, was that it seemed to the censors it had arrived already censored from United Press in Paris.

(A full account of Hornblow’s comments about Wilson in his 1921 ‘Fake-’ and ‘Amazing Armistice’ articles is offered in ‘Admiral H. B. Wilson and Roy Howard’s Armistice Cablegram’ on this website.)

What Howard called the newspaper’s “tape printer” and Hornblow described as its “telegraph instrument” was most probably a version of the Hughes Type-Printing Telegraph, “one of the earliest forms of printing telegraphs which use a separate key for each letter of the alphabet”.  The machine’s keyboard was not like a typewriter keyboard; it resembled a piano keyboard and consisted of “28 keys arranged in two rows of black and white keys”.  Apart from two blank keys (‘space’ and ‘shift’) each of the others produced a separate letter of the alphabet or, alternatively, a separate digit or symbol.  The sender used the keyboard “to directly input the text of the message.  The receiver would then receive the instantly readable text of the message on a paper strip … in contrast to the telegraphs that used Morse Code dots and dashes which needed to be converted into readable text”.  The machines, apparently, were “very popular in France”. III.4

Howard’s ‘secret’ about the armistice cablegram 

In June 1921, in his lengthy letter criticising ‘Fake Armistice’, Howard made a short, cryptic, comment about Hornblow’s account of the armistice cablegram.  Referring to the “printer tape element in the story”, he told Hornblow:

“Your outline … is off in a slight way that would considerably alter your story.  Inasmuch as no harm and no injustice is done to anyone by your record of this detail as you remember it, I am not going to be a spoil sport by going into this matter. What you don’t know on this point won’t hurt anyone and you can have a clear conscience.” 

[Roy Howard to Arthur Hornblow, San Diego, June nineteenth, 1921, p4.  Hornblow Papers.]

Why Howard made this comment is open to conjecture.  He evidently refused to explain it, and Hornblow perhaps never found out what he was hinting at, why his story was “off” and who might have been hurt if the full details of what happened in La Dépêche were publicised.

In his own account fifteen years later, Howard related briefly how the armistice message was typed out for him; showed how it was set out as a cablegram; and clarified some of its features.

“It was my intention to retype the message … on the regular form of cable blank.”

On the way to the Post Office, he and Sellards stopped at La Dépêche, “which was a client of the United Press”.  Howard wanted to use one of the newspaper’s typewriters to print the armistice message on an ordinary blank cable form, address it to United Press in New York City, and make a carbon copy for his records.  But he had difficulty using the typewriters, which did not have “a standard keyboard”.  The “telegraph operator handling the U.P. wire” [La Dépêche’s telegraph to Paris] took over and typed the message for him, not directly onto a blank cable form, but onto the “regular tape used for Press telegrams”.  This was then pasted onto a “regular cable blank”.

The message read:

UNIPRESS NEWYORK

URGENT ARMISTICE ALLIES GERMANY SIGNED ELEVEN SMORNING HOSTILITIES CEASED TWO SAFTERNOON SEDAN TAKEN SMORNING BY AMERICANS

HOWARD SIMMS

Howard explained that:

  • “UNIPRESS” was the “cable address of United Press”.
  • “SIMMS” was the surname of William Philip Simms, the United Press manager in Paris.
  • He had also put on the form Simms’ official Press Card number, which was needed for “collect messages filed to United Press”.
  • The only difference between his and Admiral Wilson’s bulletin was the deletion of the word “this” and its replacement by an “s” at the beginning of the words “morning” and “afternoon”.

[Howard 1936, pp82-83]

Howard’s ‘secret’ revealed?

In the collection of telegrams in Howard’s papers, there is one that shows clearly that La Dépêche had its own pre-formatted telegram forms for messages sent from Paris over its leased telegraph wire – its “fil télégraphique spécial et direct de Paris à Brest”.

The distinguishing features of the forms are an image of the newspaper’s building, and a header containing the newspaper’s name, postal and telegraphic addresses, and name of its editor, Louis Coudurier, as shown:

Cablegram top half

The creased form has been folded outwards and copied in two halves.  This is the top half.

The bottom half carries Howard’s printed armistice message, illegible in parts because of pencil-deletions.  And added in pencil are “Simms” (positioned after a crossed-out four-digit number) “Collect” and “4.18 PM Thursday Nov 7”.

Cablegram bottom half

[29-30/34 in the collection at 7 November 1918.  Howard Papers. The form has been folded outwards and copied in two halves.]

This is taken here to be the original, amended, typed version of the handwritten armistice message Admiral Wilson gave to Howard or Sellards, together with other details for his cablegram to New York City, retained by him along with the handwritten message.

For the cablegram itself, the armistice message is assumed to have been typed on printer tape (as Hornblow and Howard explained) and then pasted onto one of these La Dépêche telegram sheets.  In his 1925 criticisms of Fred Cook’s armistice article, Howard had disclosed to Cook, unwittingly it seems, that “[the armistice message] was filed on one of the regular blanks used for the Paris dispatches of the United Press”.

Earlier, in 1921, Howard had told Hornblow, in the comments he made on ‘Fake Armistice’, that the “printer tape element” of his account was “off in a slight way that would considerably alter your story”.  But he accepted Hornblow’s explanation that it was the message on printer tape that gave the cablegram its appearance of having arrived, already censored, from Paris.  What Howard seems to have been hinting was slightly “off” in Hornblow’s story was that the armistice message on the printer tape was not pasted onto just an ordinary “telegraphic form”, as Hornblow described it, but onto a special La Dépêche telegram form that would be automatically cleared for transmission to New York City by the censors in the Post Office building.

Disappointingly, the La Dépêche telegram form evidence does not identify the person Howard was trying to shield from “harm” and “injustice” (as he stated to Hornblow) by concealing it.  If the telegram form, printer tape and machine were deliberately used to make sure the armistice message would be accepted for immediate transmission then he may well have been shielding himself, the La Dépêche telegraph operator, and perhaps Louis Coudurier, the editor for being responsible for or complicit in the use of the three crucial cablegram materials.

In the Post Office building

Hornblow assumed in his 1921 articles that both Howard and Sellards took the armistice cablegram from La Dépêche across the square to the Post Office.  Howard insisted to Cook in 1925 that this was so and emphasised it in his 1936 memoir (as will be seen).  However, on 9 November 1918, just two days after the eventsHoward told Phil Simms that a La Dépêche employee took the cablegram to the Post Office, and, by implication, that he and Sellards did not: “the operator who printed my message out on his tape printer [and] pasted it up on a P.Q. blank … sent it to the wire by the newspapers messenger.”

[Letter to Phil Simms, November 9, 1918, p2. Howard Papers.]

Soon after his return to the United States, he made the point again: “I suggested to the admiral that I would probably encounter some linguistic difficulties, and asked if Ensign Sellards might accompany me to get my cable off.  To this he readily assented, and after I had typed a verbatim copy of the admiral’s dispatch the message was filed at the cable office by messenger from La Depeche.” III.3b

And the following early references by him to what happened to his cablegram inside the Post Office convey the impression that he was not there, in person, to witness events:

In a postscript to his letter to Simms, he added that he had been informed on 8 November – the following day – that the local censors did not see his cablegram until two hours after it had been sent to New York City.  This, he noted without elaboration, was because people in the Post Office “were so excited” by the peace news.

[Letter to Phil Simms, November 9, 1918, p3. Howard Papers.]

The same information is in a message he sent the same day for W. W. (Bill) Hawkins, general manager in New York City and a United Press vice-president:

“I WAS TOLD YESTERDAY THAT IN THE EXCITEMENT IN THE BREST POST OFFICE DUE TO THE LOCAL NEWS PAPERS BULLETIN ANNOUNCING THE ARMISTICE MY MESSAGE DID NOT REACH THE CENSORS UNTIL MORE THAN TWO HOURS AFTER THE MESSAGE HAD BEEN CABLED TO NEW YORK”.

[11/17, in the collection at 25 April 1957. Howard Papers]

And in his 23 November Editor & Publisher article, he explained that the “head of the French Bureau at Brest, Capt. Gambey” informed him that “the news of the armistice had reached the cable and censorship office sufficiently ahead of my bulletin to allow the celebration to get under way there.  In the excitement my urgent message was shot through to New York, and more than two hours later the operator bethought himself and sent the message to the censor!!!” III.3b  

That Howard was informed the following day about these events strongly suggests he was not present in the Post Office on Thursday afternoon to deliver his armistice cablegram for transmission, and so knew nothing at the time of any peace celebrations that may have been taking place in the building.

However, in his 1925 letter to Fred Cook, Howard placed himself and Sellards unequivocally in the Post Office building carrying his armistice cablegram, and added details about what happened when the cablegram was transmitted:

“We subsequently went to the cable office on the opposite side of the square from the newspaper office.  By the time we reached the cable office censors, telegraph operators and most everyone in the place was either engaged in or watching the demonstration in the Place President Wilson …. It was, of course, due to this ensuing confusion and the fact that [the armistice message] was filed on one of the regular blanks used for the Paris dispatches of the United Press that caused the cable operator, of his own volition, to affix a Paris date line to my message which I presumed would carry a Brest date the same as any other message filed from that point.”  [My italics]

[Letter: Roy Howard to Fred Cook, 28 November 1925, p2.  Howard Papers]

The story now is that Howard and Sellards arrived in the middle of great excitement and disruption in the Post Office caused by the peace news and that, without Howard’s knowledge, the transmissions operator – not the censors – assumed from the cablegram’s appearance that it had arrived from United Press in Paris.  For this reason, the operator gave it a Paris dateline and, by inference, decided to transmit it without waiting for the censors’ approval.  The otherwise-engaged censors played no part in the matter, whereas the cablegram’s deceptive appearance certainly did.

 

Having alleged that Admiral Wilson instructed Sellards to take him to the cable office and “see that he gets this message cleared through the censorship”, Howard went on to assert that Sellards succeeded in making sure the cablegram went off unhindered and undelayed, even though the censors were absent at the time:

When they entered the building, “the censor room was deserted, the entire personnel having poured into the streets to join in the mass celebration … in the Place du Président Wilson”.  At Sellards’ suggestion, Howard waited in the deserted censor room while the Ensign took the armistice cablegram to the “operating room at the cable head”.  Known to the operators as Admiral Wilson’s “confidential secretary”, Sellards was able “to expedite” the cablegram’s dispatch.  He stayed in the cable room until the message had “cleared into New York”.  The time was “approximately 4.20 p.m.”

Afterwards Howard learned that “no French censor ever passed on the message” and that his cablegram had arrived in New York City “with a Paris dateline”.  This error, he explained, was because of “confusion” on the part of the cable operator who probably assumed that Simms’ name and Press-card number printed on the form meant it had come from “the Paris office of the United Press”[My italics]

Howard concluded his version of the cablegram story with echoes of Hornblow’s 1921 assessment:

“The impossible had happened.  A fantastic set of circumstances which could not have been conceived of in advance combined unintentionally and unwittingly to circumvent an air-tight military censorship which no amount of strategy and planning had ever beaten ….  The dispatch, not by design but by the purest accident of my being unable to use a French typewriter resembled in all its physical appearance an ordinary United Press bulletin passed by the American Press censor in Paris, and relayed via the United Press-Dépêche leased wire to Brest.  Furthermore, its authenticity was vouched for by the highest American naval commander in French waters, through the medium of his own personal and confidential aide, Ensign Sellards.  The combination was more perfect than if it had been planned ….”  [My italics]

Towards the end of his chapter, Howard quoted from the 8 November 1918 reports to the US State Department which implicated Admiral Wilson in the spread of the armistice rumour to the United States.  He was using the report ostensibly to substantiate a theory about the source of the false armistice news being a German spy in Paris, but it also served to corroborate the claims he was making publicly that Admiral Wilson and Ensign Sellards assisted him with cablegram.       

[Howard 1936, pp83-84;93]

Based on Howard’s details, only about ten minutes elapsed between his and Major Cook’s arrival at Admiral Wilson’s office around 4:10 pm and the cablegram’s transmission by about 4:20 pm.  About ten minutes therefore, to obtain a copy of the armistice message from Admiral Wilson, have the cablegram prepared in the La Dépêche building, taken from there to the Post Office, and sent off.  Hornblow’s accounts have Howard arriving at Wilson’s office ten minutes earlier – “promptly” at 4:00 pm – which would have given him about twenty minutes to receive the peace news, have his cablegram put together and transmitted.

It took six minutes for the cablegram to cross the Atlantic, Howard told Hornblow in 1921.  By the time it had been cleared by US military censors and forwarded to the United Press office in New York City, it was about midday local time.  Within minutes, UP offices around the United States were alerting well over four hundred newspapers to the peace news, and Americans began celebrating on an unprecedented scale.

From 4:20 pm to about 6:30 pm

Howard told Phil Simms that, after the La Dépêche messenger had taken his cablegram to the Post Office, he returned to Navy Headquarters (no mention of Sellards) to see Admiral Wilson.

When he arrived at the headquarters, Admiral Wilson was “engaged”, and so he “went down” to call on Major Cook [no further details].  “A little later” he sent another cablegram to United Press in New York City, this one about Brest being the first French city to receive the armistice news.  “In the meantime” he had also wired [John] deGandt [United Press staff correspondent in Paris] reporting “fully as to what [he] had sent to New York”.  Then, he went out to dinner “with a couple of Intelligence officers ….” 

Meanwhile, he continued, the peace news had been displayed on La Dépêche’s bulletin board, a “huge American flag” was hanging outside Admiral Wilson’s office, the US navy band “played the Star Spangled Banner and the Marcellaise and the stuff was off ….  Everyone went bugs”.

[Letter to Phil Simms, November 9, 1918, pp2-3. Howard Papers.]

Arthur Hornblow recalled that he was in his office at the US Army Base when he was told about the armistice news:

In ‘Fake Armistice’, he wrote that around 4:30 pm he heard “a great shout go up” from the direction of President Wilson Square.  He ignored “the racket”, but a few minutes later Howard, “hatless, and literally wild-eyed”, rushed into his office, “exclaimed breathlessly, ‘Boy! I’ve scored the biggest beat in history!’” and in a “maze of excited explanations” told him what had happened.

[‘Fake Armistice’, pp7-8]

Howard objected that the passage was “somewhat at variance with the facts”.  He denied rushing to Hornblow’s office immediately after sending the armistice cablegram, stating he had “first returned to Admiral Wilson’s headquarters with Major Cook [sic] … in the hope of getting some further details”.  As Wilson was out, he decided to return to General Harries’ headquarters “to ascertain if the army wires had carried any additional details”; and “kept scurrying around right up to the hour of [their] dinner appointment” trying to pick up information that could be expected to follow the “official announcement”.  

He also denied being “hatless” and “wild-eyed” but admitted claiming he had “scored the biggest beat in history”.  On the latter point, however, he asked Hornblow to alter the statement, “to soften [it] a bit”, in order to make his “declaration sound less egotistical”.  The “courtesy would be appreciated”, he added.

[Roy Howard to Arthur Hornblow, San Diego, June nineteenth, 1921, pp2-4.  Hornblow Papers.]

Again, Hornblow obliged and changed the passage to accommodate Howard’s comments and request.

“If the news was true, Howard probably had scored the biggest news beat of history.”

Hornblow heard about the news “at four-thirty or thereabout”.  One of his men reported that Navy Headquarters had announced, as official, that an armistice had been agreed and the fighting was over.  “Astounded at the suddenness with which truth had been given to the odd rumor that had hovered over Brest all day”, Hornblow “started inquiries that quickly disclosed what had occurred”.

It took “some time” for him to find Howard, who was with Major Cook “going from one official bureau to another” looking for more information about the end of the war.  Howard told him that Admiral Wilson had declared the news to be official and that he – Howard – had sent a cablegram to the United States announcing the war was over.  Back in Hornblow’s office, Howard produced a copy of the cablegram and described what had taken place in the Admiral’s office and La Dépêche building.  He reckoned his cablegram would arrive “in time to catch the afternoon editions” and remarked “There’s a day in history for you”.

Hornblow was “torn between believing and not believing” the peace news, primarily because G-2 Headquarters in Paris had not so far informed him of the momentous developments and ordered him to tell General Harries that the war was over.  He therefore telephoned Paris [no time given] and to G-2’s “apparent astonishment” explained what was happening in Brest.  “No word of any armistice had reached [them]”, only that German delegates were “expected to meet Marshal Foch that afternoon at five”. 

Hornblow asked them to make immediate inquiries at the French Ministry of War and report back to him. 

G-2’s failure to confirm the news did not seem to have worried Howard unduly.  He simply refused at that point to believe that misinformation about an armistice with Germany could have been sent to Admiral Wilson from his “office” in Paris; and argued that the American Embassy must have received the news ahead of G-2 Headquarters.     

General Harries telephoned Hornblow and told him that only when verification of the armistice news came through either from Paris or General Pershing’s AEF Headquarters at Chaumont would he believe the war was over; and that before then there would be no peace celebrations at the Army Base. 

[‘Amazing Armistice’, November 1921, pp93-94 and 96]

Thus, instead of having Howard rush into his office to tell him about his “beat”, as in ‘Fake Armistice’, prompted by Howard, Hornblow stated in ‘Amazing Armistice’ that after hearing about the peace news he went to look for Howard, eventually found him and Major Cook enquiring around Brest for more information about the armistice, and then took Howard back with him to his office from where he contacted G-2 in Paris and was told that no German armistice had yet been signed.

“There’s a day in history for you” was obviously Hornblow’s ‘softer’ and ‘less egotistical’ alternative to Howard’s actual exclamation of “‘Boy! I’ve scored the biggest beat in history!’”

The sentence “Astounded at the suddenness with which truth had been given to the odd rumor that had hovered over Brest all day”, and a remark at the end of the article that the rumour “was present in Brest before Admiral Wilson’s receipt of the message from Paris”, were the other rumour-insertions Hornblow made in ‘Amazing Armistice’ following Howard’s insistence in his ‘Fake Armistice’ comments that peace rumours were widespread in Brest hours before Admiral Wilson’s announcements that the war was over.

By the time Hornblow said that he telephoned G-2 in Paris – sometime after 4:30 pm seemingly – false armistice rumours had been spreading around the capital and to other parts of France since shortly before midday.  And G-2 had been investigating them and reporting them to AEF Headquarters in Chaumont and Services of Supply Headquarters in Tours. III.1b), d)

In a sense, what they allegedly told Hornblow – that “no word of any armistice had reached [them]” – was true, in that they would not have received any official notification of a signing of the German armistice on 7 November.  However, they certainly knew about the armistice rumours, though they may have been surprised to hear they had reached Brest as well.  It seems very odd, therefore, that they did not tell Hornblow there were similar rumours in Paris and warn him they were unconfirmed.

Hornblow had altered his ‘Fake Armistice’ article to say that he found Howard with Cook, sometime after 4:30 pm, looking for more information about the armistice news – as Howard had insisted was the case.  Fred Cook gave the impression that, after leaving Navy Headquarters and returning to the US Army Base (alone) to give General Harries the peace news, he did not see Howard again until the following day – Friday 8 November – in the La Dépêche building using the telegraph to Paris. I. Main Sources, Fred Cook

In his 1936 memoir Roy Howard said nothing about spending time during the afternoon looking for more armistice information with Fred Cook.  Nor about going to Hornblow’s office, telling him what had happened and being told a telephone call to G-2 in Paris had dismissed the possibility of an armistice having already been signed with Germany.

He stated only that Admiral Wilson was not in his office by the time he and Sellards had made their way back from the Post Office through crowds celebrating the peace news; that he returned to his hotel where he prepared a “follow” to his armistice cablegram [no details]; and then waited until it was time to go to dinner with Hornblow and “two or three of his officer friends”.  

At first, he thought it was unlikely he had succeeded in getting the peace news to the United States ahead of American correspondents in Paris.  But then, because Captain Jackson’s message had travelled by military wire from Paris, he reasoned that there was “an outside chance” it had arrived in Brest very soon after the news had broken in Paris.  The advantage of being in Brest, he concluded, may well have helped him beat the competition in Paris to be the first to get the peace news to New York City.

[Howard 1936, p85]

Information from the 7 November telegrams in Howard’s archive presents an entirely  different account of what he did between 4:20 pm and about 6:30 pm, the two hours or so after the dispatch of his armistice cablegram.

Almost immediately after sending it , Howard telegraphed John de Gandt at the UP Paris office to tell him what he had done:

“NOTE TRES URGENTE … DEGAND UNIPRESS PARIS “

“GETTING NEWS FROM ADMIRAL WILSON HERE I FILED THE FOLLOWING URGENT VIA PQ AT 4.18 QUOTE ARMISTICE ALLIES GERMANY SIGNED ELEVEN SMORNING HOSTILITIES CEASED TWO SAFTERNOON SEDAN TAKEN SMORNING BY AMERICANS HOWARD SIGNED SIMMS UNQUOTE    WHAT TIME DID YOU FILE STOP SUGGEST INTERVIEW HOUSE DON’T HESITATE FULL RATE DESCRIPTION PARIS TONIGHT STOP AM AT HOTEL CONTINENTAL FOR FEW DAYS HOWARD 

[2/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers]

Not surprisingly, Howard acted quickly to let Paris know about his armistice cablegram.  He expected to hear that the peace news had already been released there and that the UP office had already sent it to the United States; suggested they interview President Wilson’s Special Representative Edward House about the news and send a bulletin about how Paris was reacting to it.

Waiting for confirmation that the armistice had been signed

Twenty-five minutes later, according to a similar pencil note – “4.45 PM” – Howard received de Gandt’s reply.

The contents of Howard’s telegram had “surprised everybody” at the Paris office, de Gandt said.  The signature of an armistice with Germany was being “persistently rumoured”, but it was “impossible [to] get any confirmation”.  During a Senate meeting earlier in the afternoon, it was stated that “Parliamentaries” [German armistice delegates] were on their way towards the Front; but when de Gandt telephoned the French Press Bureau and Foreign Office just before he sent his reply to Howard, they refused to say whether the delegates had arrived. 

De Gandt signed off, advising Howard that he was going to the War Office where an official announcement of “some sort expectable”, and would instruct “operators” to keep the wire open that night “between 8 and 10” [the La Dépêche wire to Paris presumably].

Five minutes later, a follow-on note from de Gandt arrived saying he had called the War Office: they had no word yet but were “expecting news from GHQ any minute”.  He added that he was planning to “stay on job until midnight”.  

[3-5/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers]

By 5:00 pm therefore – around forty minutes after sending his armistice cablegram – Howard was fully aware that the news Admiral Wilson had received from Paris around 4:00 pm had not yet been announced there – some sixty minutes later.  But he was assured that an announcement could be expected soon.

From Paris, Fred Ferguson, UP’s chief war correspondent, also responded to Howard’s news about his armistice cablegram:

Like de Gandt, Ferguson told Howard there were “unconfirmable” armistice reports circulating in Paris; but cautioned that, during the afternoon, Special Representative House had reported to Secretary of State Lansing that no armistice had been signed. See III.1c).  He added that “nothing [was] being passed” [by the censors presumably].  And ended his message: “DO YOU KNOW WHETHER YOUR CABLE CLEARED”. 

[12/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers]

A pencil annotation on the form – “about 11PM Thursday” – may denote the time Howard received the message, or read it, or both.  (It would have been received after 6:00 pm – the time the report to Lansing was sent to the State Department. III.1c)

Fred Ferguson evidently had valuable contacts in House’s entourage, for he remarked that the information about House’s report to Lansing had come from “RUE UNIVERSITE FRIENDS” – a reference to House’s Paris residence and base at 78 Rue de l’Université.  The following day, Friday 8 November, in a separate report to Lansing about the rumours, House stated that it was “perfectly clear that United Press was not at fault in this matter”, information that was also passed on to Howard (as detailed later).

After what appears to be an hour’s interval, another message, presumably from de Gandt, arrived for Howard.

He had spoken by telephone to Phil Simms who told him that at 6:00 pm Ferguson had contacted Gordon Auchincloss [Edward House’s son-in-law and personal assistant in Paris, and obviously one of Ferguson’s “Rue Universite friends”]; that Auchincloss said they had no news about the arrival of the German delegation; that the American GHQ “knew nothing about it either”; and that Simms felt House would say “the same as” his son-in-law.

[6/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers]

Confusingly, there is a pencil note on the message-sheet reading “about 5 PM Thursday”.  This or the “6:00 pm” stated in the message must be an error –  as there was no time difference between Brest and Paris, Howard could not have received or seen the message before 6:00 pm – the time Ferguson reportedly spoke to Auchincloss.

There is nothing to suggest where Howard was or what time it was when he did see the message.  But around 6:30 pm, he went to La Dépêche to prepare a cablegram about peace celebrations in Brest.  This was the second one he sent to New York City that day; it also had a Paris dateline.

His handwritten version of it reads:

“Urgent Unipress New York

By HOWARD BREST 07183 [7 November, 18:30 hours] BREST PROBABLY FIRST CITY WORLD LEARD ARMISTICE NEWS REACHED ARMYERS NAVYERS SHORTLY AFTER FOUR COMMANDERS ADMIRAL WIL COMMANDERS COMMUNICATED NEWSPAPER DELA DEPECHE WHICH BULLETINED EXTRAED TOWN WILD YANKS KISSED CHEERED BOATS FACTORIES SIRENED   HOWARD SIMMS”

[7-8/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers]

Again, confusingly there is a pencil annotation reading “about 6 PM Thursday” – half an hour before the filing-time stated in the message.

Confusing annotations aside, this 18:30 hours cablegram to New York was probably  prompted by the telegram from Paris about Ferguson’s 6:00 pm talk with Auchincloss.  It is assumed here, therefore, that Howard became aware from his own sources sometime between 6:00 pm and 6:30 pm that no information had yet been released in Paris about the German armistice delegation, or therefore about an armistice having been signed.  Although he was not told that Admiral Wilson’s armistice news was false, he may have begun to feel it was a distinct possibility.  And this would help explain why he decided to send the ‘celebrations in Brest’ message.  (It is possible that the telephone call about the armistice news Hornblow claimed to have made (after 4:00 pm) to G-2 in Paris might fit somewhere into this picture of events, but this is only conjecture.)

The New York City office labelled Howard’s 18:30 hours cablegram the “07183 confirmatory Brest bulletin”, which was probably how Howard intended it to be interpreted.  Feeling a little anxious at this point about the accuracy of the armistice news, Howard would have realised that he and United Press might need to prove later that they had not fabricated the news or acted irresponsibly by reporting mere rumours.  That Brest had also been given the news and was wildly celebrating the end of the war would be a major factor in such a defence.

 

An Interrupted Dinner

Both Howard and Hornblow described having dinner at Brest’s La Brasserie de la Marine restaurant, but neither stated at what time they arrived there or left.  It is proposed here that they were in the restaurant after 6:30 pm, that is, after Howard sent his ‘Brest celebrating’ cablegram to the New York City office.  As he stated to Phil Simms in his 9 November letter, after filing “a little item re Brest being the first city in France to get the news … I then went to dinner with a couple of Intelligence officers whom I had met”.

Their respective recollections of what happened at dinner differ sharply, even though Hornblow changed his original, vivid, account in ‘Fake Armistice’ (in full below) to suit Howard’s comments on it.

“At Howard’s request, and growing constantly more infected by the spirit of the great victory, I rounded up a band of cronies for a dinner party to be given by Howard by way of celebrating his ‘scoop’….  Six of us gathered around the tiny table that Howard had managed to wangle at La Brasserie de la Marine, Brest’s Delmonico, and, that evening, a pandemonium of gaiety. [With Howard and Hornblow were the latter’s assistant intelligence officer, two navy headquarters officers, and a French liaison service officer.]

Through the windows poured the din of rejoicing in the streets.  The Brasserie was alive with flags, confetti and streamers that had all leaped suddenly into being from nowhere, and the usual clatter of dishes was replaced by the yells and songs of several hundred unrestrained throats.  Two pretty girls danced recklessly on a narrow table packed tightly against ours, while their Yankee escorts roared a jazz accompaniment.  On our table danced nothing less solemn than a collection of magnums – Moët, 1904.  I do not recall seeing any food anywhere ….  As a matter of fact, we had ordered some, but the restaurant could find neither the means of serving it nor the place to put it!  What a setting for a celebration of the ‘greatest beat in history’!  With the whole world seemingly helping us celebrate!

Then suddenly came the crash, just as it had to come ….  I had left word for any wire from Paris to be sent to me immediately.  In the midst of a din that was getting louder momentarily, a signal corps orderly entered the room unnoticed and made for our table.  A feeling of grave apprehension seized me as I grasped and opened the message that was handed me.  I felt Howard’s eye on me as I read, and the blood marched to my head.

The communication was in intelligence code, and the process of translation was slow and fearful.  Finally it was done ….  The message said: ‘Armistice report untrue.  War Ministry issues absolute denial and declares enemy plenipotentiaries to be still on way through lines. Cannot meet Foch until evening. Wire full details of local hoax immediately.’

It was signed by Major Robertson, my immediate superior at Paris.

I shall draw a swift curtain over the cruel scene of reaction.  Howard’s white, drawn face as he realized what he had done, as he read in the words I handed him his own doom and that of the United Press.  His exclamation that he would give a million dollars to recall his cable to New York.  Our filing out with him back to the Continental, leaving behind us, undisillusioned, the tragically joyous throngs celebrating a peace that wasn’t a peace ….  We stayed with Howard as long as we could that night, with the pitiful hope of cheering him up or, at least, trying to keep his thoughts off the suicidal!” 

[‘Fake Armistice’, pp12-13]

Howard objected to the impression created at the start of the account that he had organized a party to celebrate his armistice “scoop”, and that they all went out to “paint the village pink”.  He reminded Hornblow he had invited him to have dinner after their lunch at the Navy Club – hours before “either of us had any intimation of what was to transpire”.  And asked him to change it “for the sake of having the record written straight”. 

He disliked Hornblow’s description of the effects on him of the denial of the armistice news: “I really think that you swung one a little bit low in your reference to suicide.  It isn’t the Irish way, old top.  I might have contemplated murder that night – but never suicide”.  He felt Hornblow could still “bring out all the dramatics” of the arrival of the message “without having it quite so heavily at [his] expense”.

[Roy Howard to Arthur Hornblow, San Diego, June nineteenth, 1921, pp4-5.  Hornblow Papers.]

Hornblow again altered the text for ‘Amazing Armistice’.  He tactfully avoided the impression that the dinner was a celebration of Howard’s ‘scoop’ by stating, “During our luncheon and before the storm had broken, Howard had asked me to dine with him that night, little thinking that he was, in effect, asking me to an ‘armistice celebration’”; extended his description of the hectic, joyful scene in the crowded restaurant; removed the names of his associates and references to their champagne purchases; and omitted the remark about Howard and suicidal thoughts – “I shall draw a swift curtain over the cruel scene of reaction: Howard’s white, drawn face as he realized what he had done, as he read in the words I handed him his own doom and that of the United Press …. “ 

[‘Amazing Armistice’pp95-97]

When Howard came to write about the dinner scene, he gave it just a short paragraph:

“We had not yet ordered our dinner – not even the drinks which were to precede it.”

He claimed that an orderly arrived at the restaurant with a message for him from Admiral Wilson.  The message stated that the Admiral had received a second message from Paris, “via his direct signal-corps wire”, that the armistice news was “unconfirmable”, and that he had been unable to “get in touch … personally” with Howard because he had left Brest for the evening.  Accompanied by Hornblow, Howard “went immediately to the office of La Dépêche ….”  [My italics]

[Howard 1936, pp 85-86]

The orderly’s message

In his 1921 letter about ‘Fake Armistice’, Howard had acknowledged that the orderly brought the message denying the armistice news to Hornblow.  Above, in 1936, he now claimed that Admiral Wilson sent an armistice-unconfirmed message to him.  The Admiral, however, sent no such message; Howard’s claim is baseless.  The orderly’s message was for Hornblow, though it may not have been in code or phrased as he stated it.  But whatever its wording may have been, it was clearly bad news for Howard.

Remainder of the Evening

After receiving the orderly’s message

To Phil Simms, Howard had written in November 1918 that, immediately after dinner (about which he said nothing) he went to the La Dépêche office [no reason given] where he was told that “the French officers in Brest had received a report that the armistice was not ‘confirmed’. He then went to Admiral Wilson’s “apartments”, but he and Ensign Sellards were having dinner with “the French Admiral”.  He “hunted him up, got Sellards out of the dinner” and learnt that Wilson had been informed that the peace news was “unconfirmed”.  Howard was “stunned”; but it occurred to him that if “the thing” was not true, either the French censors in Brest would “kill” his armistice cablegram or, if not, the American censors in New York City would “snag it”.  He nevertheless sent another cablegram saying that “Admiral Wilson who had given the first news out had now stated that the report was unconfirmed”.  It was 10:00 pm “by this time”, Howard noted – nearly six hours after his armistice cablegram had “cleared about 4:20 P.M.”  He stayed in the La Dépêche building – “at the leased wire” – until midnight.  “You can imagine what a sweet night I had of it.”

[Letter to Phil Simms, 9 November 1918, p3. Howard Papers.]

In his November 1918 article for Editor & Publisher, he wrote that while he was at dinner with some officers another officer went to their table and told them “the French army people were saying the armistice announcement was not officially confirmed” and that he “went immediately to Admiral Wilson’s office”, which was closed.  He eventually located him “at dinner with the French Admiral in command at Brest”, was told he had “received later word that his dispatch was not official”, and immediately sent off another cablegram stating that Wilson’s message was not “official and was not confirmed”.

In ‘Fake Armistice’ Hornblow said nothing about accompanying Howard to La Dépêche after they left the restaurant, and Howard did not complain about the omission.  Consequently, there is nothing about it in ‘Amazing Armistice’ either.

On the other hand, Howard did complain to Hornblow for not mentioning in ‘Fake Armistice’ that the two of them went to find Admiral Wilson after dinner.  He reminded him that when they left the Brasserie de la Marine:

“… while I naturally felt that an element of great doubt had been injected into the [armistice] story by this denial, I was by no means yet satisfied that the report was untrue.  As a matter of fact my confidence in its authenticity was not seriously shaken at any time until you and I having failed to locate Admiral Wilson at his office or at his home, called at the house where he was attending a dinner party – as I recall it was either the Mayor of Brest [or] the French Admiral commanding the base – and there had sent out to us the Admiral’s own report that the information was (not untrue, please recall [but]) ‘premature’”. 

And added, showing some annoyance: “I am considerably at a loss why it was that you entirely eliminated mention of this feature of the evening, one which to me has always seemed significant”. III.9

[Roy Howard to Arthur Hornblow, San Diego, June nineteenth, 1921, p5.  Hornblow Papers.]

Thus reproached, Hornblow included the information in ‘Amazing Armistice’:

“Howard spent most of the night trying to get information ….”

On leaving the restaurant, they went with Howard back to the Continental.  “A revival of hope, an inability to believe [the denial of the armistice news] impelled Howard to go in search of Admiral Wilson.  The two of us finally located him dining en famille with a French local official”.  Here, Sellards came out and told them that the Admiral had subsequently heard from Paris that the armistice news he had released earlier was “premature”. 

Howard seized upon this, desperately hoping that “premature” meant “true, but not properly released” and that the armistice news would be officially confirmed later on.  He spent “most of the night trying to get information from his own Paris office”.  But when he succeeded, all hope evaporated: “‘premature’ meant untrue”, and “the world collapsed about Howard’s ears”.  His “biggest ‘beat’ in the history of journalism had turned cruelly into its biggest ‘bloomer’.”  

[‘Amazing Armistice’, p97]

Surprisingly then, when Howard came to write his own version of what he did after leaving the restaurant he said nothing about going to find Admiral Wilson, omitting the very details he had criticised Hornblow for overlooking and which he had noted in his November 1918 accounts to Phil Simms and for Editor & Publisher.  In just a few sentences, he related that:

Having read the message he claimed was for him from Admiral Wilson, he and Hornblow left the restaurant and “went immediately to the office of La Dépêche, where [he] wrote another dispatch, stating that Admiral Wilson’s first bulletin had been followed by a second stating that the original statement was now held to be unconfirmable”.  It was transmitted to New York City “approximately two hours after the first one”.  [This would have been around 6:20 pm by Howard’s timings.] 

 [Howard 1936, pp85-86]

As Howard did not receive any ‘unconfirmable’ news from Admiral Wilson during dinner at the Brasserie de la Marine, he could not have gone straight to La Dépêche with it and sent it to New York City “approximately two hours after the first one”.  He did send a cablegram from La Dépêche to United Press around that time: his 6:30 pm one which, he told Phil Simms, was “a little item re Brest being the first city in France to get the news”.  And he did send a cablegram reporting that the armistice news was “unconfirmable”, though not until much later that evening – around 10:00 pm, he told Simms, and not until  after he had located Admiral Wilson at his dinner with the French Admiral, he stated in his Editor and Publisher article.

Howard’s reasons for misreporting what happened

Howard had obviously not made a mistake about the orderly bringing him the message during the dinner, about going straight to La Dépêche to send the message off, or about the sequence in which he sent the two cablegrams.  He misreported these events in order to support claims made initially on 8 November by Bill Hawkins at the New York City office, claims that his “unconfirmable” dispatch was his second cablegram and was held up by American censors until the following day, thereby delaying United Press’s withdrawal of the armistice news for many hours.

[An Addendum explaining the misreporting is at the end of Part Two.]

French denials of the armistice news

As noted earlier, two days after the events, Howard told Phil Simms that, following his dinner, he learnt in the La Dépêche building that some French officers in Brest had “received a report that the armistice [news] was not ‘confirmed’”.  And in his article two weeks later for Editor & Publisher, he wrote that while he was at dinner with some officers another officer went to their table and told them “the French army people were saying the armistice announcement was not officially confirmed”.

Similarly, in a 9 November cablegram to Hawkins at United Press in New York City, he stated that while the celebrations in Brest were at their “height” he was told that “French Army Officers” had questioned the accuracy of the armistice news, and that he then went to check with Admiral Wilson.

[15/17, in the collection at 25 April 1957. Howard Papers]

He did not say anywhere who informed him the French were denying the armistice news, where he happened to be when he heard it, or what the time was.  And these three November 1918 references to French denials seem to be the only ones he made.

There are no similar references in Hornblow’s articles.  But Fred Cook described in his November 1925 newspaper feature how Colonel Maurice Laureau, the French Government’s liaison officer with the US Army in Brest, suddenly arrived at the Army Base during the late afternoon of 7 November, began protesting loudly that the peace news was not true and demanding that the celebrations in the town be stopped.

Colonel Laureau reported the matter to his superiors in Paris the next day.  He stated that around 5:30 pm on 7 November the Brest Maritime Prefect’s Headquarters contacted him and advised that the armistice news had come from an official French source but was “fake”.  He immediately telephoned the information to the American Army Base, then went over there to speak to General Harries, who eventually decided to contact the American authorities about the news.  Around 9:00 pm – three and a half hours later – these informed Harries that no German armistice had yet been concluded. III.10

This suggests that Fred Cook was at the Army Base at 5:30 pm (having earlier left Navy Headquarters without Howard).  Where Hornblow and Howard were when Laureau announced his news is not certain: neither reported the event in their accounts.  But from what is in their accounts, Howard could either have been with Cook at the time, with Hornblow in his office at the Army Base, at the Continental Hotel waiting to go to dinner, or still at the telegraph in the La Dépêche building (as indicated in Howard’s telegrams).

Where, then, do these references to French denials of the armistice news fit into the broader story of events in Brest on 7 November 1918?

It was probably this French intervention that shaped the rest of Howard’s and Hornblow’s evening after their interrupted dinner.  For the message the Signal Corps orderly handed to Hornblow in the Brasserie de la Marine is more likely to have been the reply to General Harries’ enquiry, prompted by Colonel Laureau’s denial of the armistice news, than a reply to the enquiry Hornblow claimed he had made not long after 4:30 pm to G-2 in Paris.  In other words, the message which induced them to leave the restaurant to find Admiral Wilson and ask him whether he knew anything about it was the result of Colonel Laureau’s intervention at US Army Headquarters rather than the result of an enquiry Hornblow claims to have made to G-2 in Paris soon after Admiral Wilson released his armistice news from Paris.  In which case, it seems that Howard and Hornblow left the restaurant to find Admiral Wilson sometime after 9:00 pm.

Admiral Wilson’s papers confirm what Howard wrote about interrupting his dinner with the French Admiral.  He was at the latter’s house and had already received a wire from Paris cancelling the armistice news, though he seems not to have released this later information to the town.  He may also have already known about Colonel Laureau’s news when Howard located him. III.8

It is worth noting here that, over thirty years later, Donald L. Stone, the principal US Army Press Censor in Paris in November 1918 recollected that a “high French naval officer” had sent the “untrue [armistice] news” to Naval Attaché Jackson in Paris; and that Jackson “in complete good faith telephoned this information” to Admiral Wilson in Brest, who “in equal good faith” allowed the news to be released.

Unfortunately, Stone did not explain how he knew that a French navy source had sent the false armistice news to Jackson.  But assuming his recollection of this detail was accurate after all those years, it is possible that the “untrue [armistice] news” sent to Jackson was the same “fake” armistice news from an official French source that the Brest Maritime Prefect’s Headquarters alerted Colonel Laureau to during late afternoon on 7 November 1918. III.11

Howard’s cancellation of his armistice news

There is nothing in Howard’s or Admiral Wilson’s records to help ascertain at what time in the evening Howard turned up at the French Admiral’s house.  But after speaking to Wilson there, Howard returned to La Dépêche to communicate with his New York City and Paris offices.

In his third cablegram for Hawkins that day, Howard finally withdrew his afternoon armistice bulletin.  The handwritten draft of it reads (excluding some crossings-out on the draft):

“Urgent  Unipress  New York           10:50 PM Thursday

Brest Admiral Wilson who ANNOUNCED to Brest newspaper 16:00 Armistice been signed later notified ANNOUNCEMENT unconfirmable meanwhile Brest riotously CELEBRATING HAWKINS DID MY ORIGINAL BULLETIN ANNOUNCING ARMISTICE REACH YOU HOWARD   SIMMS”

It would seem from the layout that Howard either sent the message to Simms in Paris for him to relay it to Hawkins or sent it directly from Brest with Simms’ name again attached as the sender.  And it seems that he was as yet (10:50 pm) unaware his armistice cablegram had reached New York and, therefore, was still oblivious of the effects it was having across North America.  But he was probably hoping – against the odds – that something had happened to stop his false armistice news being delivered to Hawkins – hoping perhaps that the American censors had ‘snagged’ it, as he remarked in his letter to Phil Simms. (Above)

(In 1936, Howard mentioned, without elaborating, that he learned from the Paris office “late on the evening of the seventh” that people across America were celebrating [p89], but this has not been verified elsewhere.)

A separate message, five minutes later according to the time shown on its handwritten draft, is addressed unambiguously to Simms.  It names Captain Jackson as the sender of the false armistice news:

“SIMMS UNIPRESS PARIS              10 55 PM Thursday

ADMIRAL WILSONS INFORMATION [CAME] FROM CAPTAIN JACKSON AMERICAN NAVAL ATTACHE PARIS SUGGEST YOU PHONE HIM UNABLE SAY WHETHER MY FLASH REACHED HAWKINS”

[9 and 10/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers]

How much time elapsed between Howard’s leaving Admiral Wilson at the French Admiral’s house and his filing the ‘unconfirmed’ news at 10:50 pm is not known.  If, as he claimed, the La Dépêche telegraph link to Paris was suspended for part of Thursday evening “for censorship reasons”, he may have had to delay sending it until after the link was restored.  Also, the cablegram, unlike its two predecessors, was given a Brest dateline, and would have been processed by the censors in the Post Office before being passed.  How long this took is not known, nor therefore is the time it was actually transmitted.

Whether Phil Simms spoke to Jackson about the armistice bulletin is also not known, but it seems unlikely that Jackson would have agreed to discuss the matter with him, or any other newspaperman.

What appears to be the last message Howard received from the Paris office on Thursday evening was another one from de Gandt.  It was concerned with the wireless messages to Marshal Foch at Senlis from German Supreme Headquarters in Spa.

De Gandt stated that he had “flashed” reports [not clear to whom; New York logically] about the progress of the German armistice delegates: first, “THE LAST GERMAN WIRELESS ANNOUNCING DELEGATION WOULD ONLY CROSS LINE BETWEEN 8 AND 10 PM”, followed by the ones sent beforehand.  He closed by asking Howard whether he had “ANYTHING ELSE TO SAY FOR TODAY”.

[11/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918. Howard Papers] 

No time is shown for when de Gandt sent the message.  A pencil annotation, “about 11 PM Thursday”, presumably indicates when Howard received it.  Judging by its contents, it was a late-evening telegram because news about the Spa-Senlis messages was not officially released in Paris until 9:00 pm.  At 11 pm on 7 November,  Special Representative Edward House sent a telegram containing details about the messages to President Wilson.  The French newspapers reported the messages and the arrival of the German delegation the following day. III.1a) c) d)

Between Howard’s 6:30 pm “confirmatory Brest bulletin” and the “about 11:00 pm” de Gandt message, around four and a half hours therefore elapsed.  During this time occurred the interrupted dinner with Hornblow, the search for Admiral Wilson, receipt of his news effectively denying an armistice had been signed with Germany , and Howard’s return to the La Dépêche building to use its telegraph to forward Admiral Wilson’s news to the UP Paris office and receive theirs.

At the UP New York City office

Meanwhile by midnight on 7 November in New York, Hawkins had only received Howard’s first two armistice cablegrams, each of which carried a Paris dateline.  Believing the news had come from the Paris office, had been sent by Howard and Simms and passed by the French censors, Hawkins refused to retract it even after the State Department announced during the afternoon that no armistice with Germany had been concluded, and the war therefore had not ended:

In answer to a midnight telephone call to the office about the accuracy of the armistice news, Hawkins made the following statement:

“We stand absolutely on that dispatch [from Howard].  It is authoritative.  We haven’t the slightest doubt of its accuracy.  It was passed by the French censor and the American censor.  It was signed by Mr. Howard and Mr. Simms, two responsible newspaper men.  It was transmitted in perfectly plain English and there is no doubt about what it said.  The event will show that it is correct.”

And earlier that evening he had announced that “a cable message had been received telling of a celebration of the signing of the armistice at Brest” (Howard’s second one) which United Press regarded as confirmation of “the accuracy of the [first] message from Mr. Howard and Mr. Simms”.  Therefore, Hawkins insisted, until the news they had sent was proved beyond doubt to be wrong, United Press would not withdraw it: “it is inconceivable that they could be misled in a matter so important as this”.  United Press was “standing pat” on all its published reports. III.12

At the time, Howard had no knowledge of the stand Hawkins had taken, or of the torrent of condemnation facing himself (in his absence) and United Press over his armistice cablegram and its release across the United States.  Their rivals, mostly but not exclusively the Associated Press (AP), were vilifying him and the agency, accusing them, above all, of egregious unprofessionalism in concocting what some labelled “fake” news and others characterised as “the greatest hoax of recent years”. III.15  It was not until the following day, Friday afternoon, that Howard began to appreciate what huge repercussions his cablegram was having in America.

© James Smith  (August 2019)  (Additional material, May 2020. Re-structured in two parts, November 2021.)

ENDNOTES for Parts One and Two

I. Main Sources

Roy Howard:

  • ‘Premature Armistice – Roy W. Howard Speaking’, presented as Chapter IV in Webb Miller’s, I Found No Peace. The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent. (The Book Club Special Edition, Camelot Press, London, 1937, is used in this article.)

Howard kept a copy of the chapter from the 1936 Simon and Shuster first edition of Miller’s book: images 1-21 at 6 January 1936 in his archive.  There are, though, no letters or other documents relating to it.

A German edition of Miller’s book was published in 1938: Ich fand keinen Frieden. (Rowohlt Berlin.)

  • Roy Howard Papers (1892-1964). MSA 1, The Media School Archive, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington, Indiana.  Available online.

Telegrams sent by and to Howard while he was in Brest are in different parts of the archive.  The first collection, of 34 items, is under CONTENTS, 7 November 1918:  Armistice documentation.  Next, three separate items, wrongly described as ‘letters’, are at 8 November 1918: To Unipress. From: Roy W. Howard (2 items); and (1 item) at 9 November 1918:  To Captain Stone.  Another collection, of 17 items, is at 25 April 1957: To: Naoma Lowensohn. From: Marshall Coles.  Armistice.

Unfortunately, many of the telegrams have been cropped so that only their messages are left, meaning that essential ‘dates and times’ and other information on the cropped forms has been lost.  Some of the telegrams are mixed up between the two main collections, from which others may have been excluded when they were originally put together.

Roy Howard’s Diaries are not in the Media School Archive, and so have not been consulted for this article.  They are with other family papers still held privately and separately from the Media School Archive.

Another archive of Howard’s papers is in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.  In the ‘Finding Aid’ to it, under Miscellany, 1918-1966, is listed ‘Box 340, World War 1 “Armistice” incident’.  The items in the box, mostly newspaper clippings of reviews of Howard’s chapter in Webb Miller’s book, add nothing to the information provided by the Media School Archive papers.  

Arthur Hornblow Jr:

  • ‘The Amazing Armistice: Inside Story of the Premature Peace Report’. Published originally in The Century Magazine, November 1921, pp90-99.  Available online.

‘Amazing Armistice’ was selected for inclusion in a collection of narrative writing, compiled by J.W. Cunliffe and G.R. Lomer with the title Writing of Today: Models of Journalistic Prose. It is in Part B. Narrative Articles, pp. 67-73.  (Third Edition. New York, 1923.) Available Online. 

Reader’s Digest magazine published a condensed version in its November 1936 issue, the same year Howard’s memoir appeared in Miller’s book.

  • ‘Fake Armistice’, June 1921.

‘Fake Armistice’ is not available in the Hornblow or the Howard archive, but Admiral Wilson kept his copy of it in his ‘False Armistice’ folder.  Extracts given in this article are from the Admiral’s copy.

Roy Howard reasoned that “Inasmuch as the idea of a fake story involves palpable and deliberate intention to deceive, and inasmuch as your article makes clear that there was no such intention on the part of the newspapers or the newspapermen, I feel that your purpose would be better served and an unintentional injustice avoided by the substitution of another term for the word ‘fake’”.  He suggested that ‘false’ should be used instead of ‘fake’, but Hornblow settled on The Amazing Armistice: Inside Story of the Premature Peace Report as his publication title.  Howard’s memoir, published many years later, appeared with the title ‘Premature Armistice’.  Howard was surely correct to assert that the 7 November 1918 peace news was ‘false news’ rather than ‘fake news’ – both as he understood the terms’ meanings then, and as they are still differentiated today.

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

Admiral Henry B. Wilson:

  • Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060. 

Fred Cook:

  • Articles: ‘Real “False Armistice” Story Is Now Told By Eyewitness’. The Evening Star, (Washington, DC,) Wednesday, November 11, 1925, p4; and ‘False Armistice Day Report Vividly Recalled’. The Evening Star, Tuesday, November 11, 1924, p5

 II. Biographical Information

For background details about Roy Howard, Arthur Hornblow, Fred Cook, Admiral Henry Wilson and John Sellards, see Biographical Details on this website.

 III. References to sources; and other explanatory details

1. See the articles on this website about a) the Spa-Senlis wireless messages; b) G-2’s false armistice findings; c) false armistice cablegrams from France; the spread of the armistice news in d) France and e) Britain. And Stanley Weintraub,  A Stillness Heard Round The World (1985) for an account of the spread of the news in the United States.

2. Accompanied by Peg and UP war correspondent Fred Ferguson, Howard reached Montparnasse station just in time for the 9:00 pm train and a twelve-hour journey to the westernmost region of France. He did not mention his wife or Ferguson anywhere else in his account, and clearly intimated that he travelled alone to Brest (“with the hastiest of farewells I … was off … to Brest”, p77.)  Information in cablegrams Howard sent and received while in Brest indicate that both his wife and Ferguson remained in Paris.  Howard was planning to return to Paris in the very near future.

Emmet Crozier wrote that Peg travelled to Brest with her husband: American Reporters on the Western Front, 1914-1918. Chapter XXIII, ‘Too Soon the Good News’, pp259, 260. (New York. 1959.)

Patricia Beard does not mention Peg’s presence in Paris, but states that Ferguson travelled with Howard to Brest, arriving there at 10:00 am on 7 November: Patricia Beard, Newsmaker Roy W. Howard. The Mastermind Behind the Scripps-Howard News Empire.  Chapter 10, ‘The Worst Day: “The False Armistice,” November 7, 1918’, pp70, 71, 72. (Lyons Press. Connecticut. 2016.)

3a. The New York Times, 21 November 1918,under ‘Howard Excuses False Peace Report’. Available through NYTimes.com ‘Free to Read Articles 1918’ website.

3b. Editor & Publisher for November 23, 1918, p18.  Available from Internet Archive.

4. See: Post Office Engineering Department, Technical Pamphlets for Workmen, ‘Hughes Type-Printing Telegraph’ pp5-6 and illustrations pp7-8. (1919) Available online. Also, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Printing Telegraph.  Videos of working examples of the machines can be watched on the (British) Science Museum website.

5. “P.Q.” = a “nickname” denoting “all French companies operating trans-Atlantic cables”, after the initials of Augustin Pouyer-Quertier, founder of the Compagnie Française du Télégraphe de Paris à New York.  See: René Salvador, Underwater Cables in the Brest HarborA Short History of French Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cables from the French Viewpoint.  Available online.

6. See Three False Armistice Cablegrams from France on this website for more details.

7. 1/34, in the collection at 7 November 1918.  Howard Papers. The serrated edge of the note suggests that it was torn, across a strip of serrated metal, from a roll or pad of paper.

8. Apart from a few short references to Fred Ferguson and W. W. Hawkins in the indexes of some books outlining the history of United Press, detailed information about them and their careers with the agency seems not to be available. A publication accessible online, called United Press International Centennial Anniversary, 1907-2007,under ‘Unipressers and UPI Staff’, contains some biographical items about other employees over the years, but Ferguson and Hawkins are not among those remembered.

9. Howard went on to explain to Hornblow that he had “always believed” there was a hidden reason the armistice denial message to Wilson “was not a flat statement that the previous announcement was erroneous, but was a statement that it was ‘premature’”. See Roy Howard’s Search for Information about the False Armistice on this website.

10. Maurice Laureau, ‘Réjouissances publiques à Brest suite à l’annonce de l’Armistice : minute n2729 du 8 novembre 1918.  Service historique de la défense, Fonds Maurice Laureau, Brest 12 S 202.  Unfortunately, the report is incomplete: only the first two pages were available when this article was written.

The Colonel’s words about the armistice news are : « La nouvelle annoncée était controuvée de source officielle française. » 

11. Brown Alumni Monthly, March 1952, ‘The False Armistice’ p17. Available online.

12. The telephone-call statement is reported in the Evening Star (Washington D.C.), 8 November 1918, under ‘”War Over Story” Precedes Events’, front page.  The earlier statement is based on extracts from the New York Times, November 8, 1918, p3.  (May be accessed through the NYTimes.com ‘Free to Read Articles 1918’ website.)  And from the Greeneville Daily Sun, November 8, 1918, p2.  Available online through Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers portal.

13. The Fourth Estate, November 9, 1918, p7.  Available online through the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

14. The New York Times, November 9, 1918, under ‘United Press Admits Peace Report Is False’. Available through NYTimes.com Free to Read Articles 1918 website. And the Ardmore (Oklahoma) Daily Ardmoreite, 22 November 1918, p3 under ‘United Press is Making Admiral Wilson the Goat’. Available online through Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers portal.

15. For an outline of reactions in the American press, see Dale E. Zacher, The Scripps Newspapers Go To War, 1914-18. Chapter 7, under ‘Such an Almighty Fluke’, pp206-208. (USA. 2008)  The newspaper extract is from the Lancaster News (South Carolina), 8 November 1918, front page: “PEACE REPORT WAS HOAX”; “Associated Press Dispatches In This Morning’s Papers Credit United Press With Greatest Hoax Of Recent Years”.  Available online through Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers portal.

16. As featured in the (Kansas) Topeka Daily State Journal, 9 November 1918, p7; the (Oregon) Daily Capital Journal November 9, 1918, p7; and the (Tennessee) Columbia HeraldFriday, November 15, 1918, p3. Available online through Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers portal.

17. As featured in The New York Times, 21 November 1918,under ‘Howard Excuses False Peace Report’. Available through NYTimes.com ‘Free to Read Articles 1918’website.  And in the (Utah) Ogden Standard, 20 November 1918, p6; and the (South Dakota) Saturday News, 21 November 1918, p1. Available online through Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers portal.

18. Dale E. Zacher, The Scripps Newspapers Go To War, 1914-18. Chapter 7, under ‘The False Armistice’, p208. (USA. 2008)

19. Richard M. Harnett and Billy G. Ferguson, UNIPRESS. United Press International. Covering the 20thCentury, Chapter 7, ‘World War Sells News’, p58. (USA. 2003)

20. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, January 1 to December 31, 1951, ‘The President’s News Conference at Key West, November 29, 1951’, p637. (US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1965.)

21. See the False Armistice Conspiracy Theories article on this website.

22. See the False Armistice in France article on this website, in the section under ‘Afterwards’.

23. ‘To file’ is a journalistic term meaning “to send a story to the office usually by wire [telegraph] or telephone”.  The Wall Street Journal. ‘Glossary of Terms: Journalism’.  Available online.

24. Letter to Fred Cook, 28 November 1925, p3. Roy Howard Papers.

25. See Admiral Wilson and Roy Howard’s Armistice Cablegram on this website.