November 11th, 1918

James S. Alexander, Jr. (Class of 1917) is one of the first Americans to hear of the signing of the Armistice.  Alexander, a staff member of Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Foch’s headquarters and the American Mission, was wakened at 5:45 a.m. and spent the entire day and evening “translating for General Pershing the annexes to the armistice agreement.” Alexander wrote to his mother following the cessation of First World War hostilities telling of the celebrations along with descriptions of his encounters with the great damage done by the war: “To see whole villages pounded to powder is appalling.” James first arrived in France with 13 other men from Williams and many others from American schools who had volunteered for ambulance service. He subsequently joined the A.E.F. and was a Headquarters secretary and a liaison officer. It was in this position that he became one of the first Americans to hear of the signing of the Armistice. Alexander’s first-hand account and observations (drawings, maps, conversations) of his enlistment, training and service in the War are among the collections of the Williams College Archives.