How Did World War I End?

did-world-war-end Credit: Travelpix Ltd/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

World War I ended with an armistice signed on November 11, 1918, followed shortly by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. These documents ended four years of bloody battles that left 10 million soldiers dead.

Before the armistice that signaled the end of the war, several forces had already capitulated. Bulgaria, Turkey and Austria-Hungary had each surrendered in the preceding months, leaving the German forces unsupported in the campaign. As the United States had only recently entered the war with fresher forces, Germany had no choice but to admit defeat. They did this at 11 a.m. on November 11, leading to the famous quote that the war ended at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month."

This armistice served as a temporary cease-fire for the armies, and it was intended as a brief placeholder until the powers could agree upon more permanent terms. The armistice was renewed repeatedly for nearly a year until the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. This treaty levied extreme sanctions against the Germans, including total dissolution of their military forces and massive financial reparations to be paid to countries they had attacked. As a result of these penalties, Germany plunged into a major economic recession, which Hitler would later use as a rallying cry to unify German forces for World War II.