Many of the most impactful armistices in history are still celebrated as world holidays. But for every well-known declaration of peace, there are dozens of truces about which no one knows. Most recountings of military truce facts are rather dull. Every so often, though, the past surprises us with a ceasefire tale worth telling.
Shared holidays, mutual threats, and strange circumstances all play a part in making enemies agree to a ceasefire during combat. On certain occasions, opposing armies find themselves working together - even if arrangements don't last for long.
The Conflict: The Battle of the Bulge was among the most devastating WWII conflicts. The German troops, in their last major offensive attempt, tried to counter Allied incursions through France and Belgium and into Germany.
The Truce: The holiday season inspired a moment of peace amid the destruction of this fight. Lost in the Hurtgen Forest on Christmas Eve, three American soldiers knocked on the door of a rural German home. The family readily invited the Americans inside to share in a Christmas dinner. When a group of four German soldiers showed up later, the homeowner welcomed them too, provided no one fired at each other.
Both sides accepted the truce, ate together, and parted without any incident. The Germans even helped the Americans plot a path back to their own frontline.
The Conflict: The Battle for Castle Itter is often described as the last conflict of WWII’s European theatre, and it occurred three days before Germany’s official surrender. With Adolf Hitler deposed, many German troops ceased fighting. Some, however, still found motivation.
The Truce: Used as a concentration camp extension, Castle Itter housed a group of high-profile French POWs. A still-loyal SS group planned to recapture the Austrian castle and its inhabitants, but nearby American troops and German soldiers rallied together to oppose the plan.
The soldiers' collaboration was the only time the two opposing nations joined forces. The allies protected the prisoners until reinforcements arrived.
The Conflict: The German forces fought the Russians in satellite regions like Lithuania and Belarus during WWI, and fighting continued through the winter of 1917.
The Truce: After an intense campaign of attrition in a heavily forested area, the participants all briefly agreed to halt the fire to take on an unexpected mutual enemy - roving bands of gigantic Russian wolves. The conflict displaced the beasts, and extreme hunger partially caused by the harsh winter prompted the animals to be more aggressive during their interactions with humans.
The wolves progressed from raiding villages to taking corpses to accosting groups of soldiers outright. Fearful for their lives, both armies agreed to a temporary truce and went on a joint campaign of destruction.
They slew hundreds of the animals before resuming their fight.
The Conflict: The Italian Campaign of WWII may not be widely discussed, but it was vital to the conflict's eventual outcome. Some of WWII’s most vicious fighting occurred across the harsh Italian terrain, and Rapido River became the site of numerous fatalities.
The Truce: American troops crossed the Rapido River to divert their German enemies, but the location was ill-suited. Soldiers attempted to cross the Italian body of water three times, but each time a multitude of troops lost their lives or sustained serious injuries. In fact, the situation became so tragic the Germans signaled across the river to offer a two-hour truce, allowing the Americans time to remove the bodies.