The fascinating graphic recording shown above depicts artillery sounds from the American front during World War I. It was recorded just moments before and after the ceasefire that would led to the end of the war.
On the left of the recording you can see heavy fire occurring right up until the official end of hostilities, with near total silence thereafter. The spike on the second line post ceasefire was said to have probably been caused by celebratory pistol firing by an American close to the microphone's location.
This moving treasure of visual history was recorded by American artillery ranging equipment near the River Moselle just before 11 AM on November 11th, 1918, the time and date that the fighting came to a close. Six months later the Treaty of Versailles would officially mark the war's end.
Artillery sound ranging technology was considered a secret weapon of the allies towards the end of the war. It was primarily used to locate enemy cannons and classify their caliber and type for counter-attack. Think of it as a very early passive counter-battery sensor of sorts.
Over the four years of World War I, some 16 million human beings were killed, with an even larger number being wounded. It was supposed to be the 'war to end all wars' because of the advent of new technologies that were so deadly many thought fighting would be futile in future wars and because of the war's heavy human toll. Sadly, this was not the case.
Just a couple of decades later the world would be plunged into yet another massive and brutal conflict, with even deadlier weapons being developed for combat. That war ending with the most destructive weapon of all time being used, the atomic bomb. It too was a weapon so powerful that many thought it would make conventional warfare irrelevant in the future. In retrospect, that was an incredibly inaccurate prediction.
This piece of obscure history, a visual representation of another medium no less, is just fascinating as it illustrates man's ability to kill his fellow man based on fabricated social conventions and timetables. Even going so far as fighting to the death right up to the predetermined end of hostilities, a truly futile and puzzling action. Yet above all else it stands as a clear and emotional reminder of the contrast between the audible chaos of war and the calm silence of peace.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com