In 1918, everyone knew someone.

Carrie Hellums, of Lockhart, knew Wilbur Callihan, who had gone to grade school with her stepson Grover. John Cameron knew John Roy Fisher, who worked on a farm at Manchaca. A lot of people knew Gabriel Larson from his father’s café on Congress Avenue in Austin. In Blanco, the Fosters and the Yanceys had watched Valentine Lawson grow up. Willis Hutto, a constable, and his wife raised her orphaned nephew Horace McCormack in Williamson County. And nearly everyone knew Albert Sneed MacDonnell, who grew up in a house on West 5th street in Austin. Indeed, in 1918, every adult in Central Texas knew at least one of the thousands of men who entered the army to go over there, to war in France, something no American had ever done before.

President Wilson had won the presidency in 1916 on the platform of keeping the United States out of the war in Europe. But Germany announced unrestricted submarine warfare to sink the food and arms shipments that the United States was sending to support England, then tried to lure Mexico into the war by offering to return Texas and the American Southwest. The United States declared war.

America threw up 37 training camps and built an army. More than 2,800,000 men were drafted and another 2,000,000 volunteered to fight, not only for patriotism, but to wage the war that would end all wars.

American troops stopped the German advance 60 miles from Paris in June-July, 1918 and had begun to push German divisions back along the Marne, Somme, and Aisne rivers, but at terrible cost: in just four months the United States suffered 26,000 combat deaths and over 110,000 wounded. Valentine Lawson was killed at Belleau Woods. Horace McCormick and Charlie Hayslip of Bastrop were killed in August, both fighting near Soissons.

These tragedies were a forecast of worse to come.

In late September the new soldiers from Lampasas, Caldwell, Giddings, and Martindale found themselves alongside men from the rest of the United States, all of them crowded in among more than 1 million Americans fighting the Germans in a tiny wedge of river and forest between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest. That battle would define the American army and end the war.

It also was the deadliest battle in American history. In just six weeks, more than 27,000 Americans were killed and another 95,000 were wounded in an area smaller than Travis County. And not only did everyone in Central Texas know a soldier in that battle, they also knew someone who was killed there. Rommie Savage of Austin died October 8, 1918, in a tangle of barbed wire in front of Saint-Étienne-à-Arnes, fighting alongside John Deutsch of Caldwell, who was killed there the next day. John Roy Fisher, who served with the famed Sergeant York, was killed at St. Juvin on October 12.

The last days before the armistice were even worse. Wilbur Callihan and Gabriel Larson were killed on November 2, nine days before the end of the war, fighting side by side. Silas Wooten, a bookkeeper from Caldwell, and Simon Gonzalez were killed securing a bridgehead at Stenay on November 4. Ben Northington, who had sailed to France with his Lampasas classmate John Jackson, lost his life only two days before the end of the war. And Albert Sneed MacDonnell, an officer in the Wild West Division, wounded in a bombardment west of the river, died three days before Christmas.

Now, one hundred years later, they seemingly are forgotten. Why?

Perhaps because their war did not end all wars, or because of other catastrophes that followed, the Spanish flu, Prohibition, the Depression, and World War II. But they went over there, fought there, and died there, honorably, heroically, and victoriously.

Remember each one of them on November 11, one hundred years after the end of the war they fought to end all wars. It’s the least we can do.

London is an author and historian living in Austin. His novel, French Letters: Children of a Good War, will be published this month.