The very last casualty from World War I was a soldier from East Baltimore


Henry Gunther  
June 6, 1895 - November 11, 1918

Henry Gunther was born in Baltimore in 1895, the grandson of German immigrants. His life, though ordinary by most accounts, gained significance because of the tragic circumstances of his death in World War I.  

The United States entered World War I in 1917. Henry Gunther was drafted and assigned to the 313th Infantry, Company A, known as "Baltimore's Own" because it was filled with men from East Baltimore. The unit was formed and trained at Fort Meade, Maryland. 

Henry Gunther with fellow soldiers. He is pictured at the right arrow.

Henry Gunther with fellow soldiers. He is pictured at the right arrow.

In peacetime, Henry had been employed as a bookkeeper at the National Bank of Baltimore, which may have led to his promotion to supply sergeant. He served in this position as the unit moved to France to enter the fighting.

Sometime later, Henry wrote a letter criticizing the war, which was intercepted by a censor reviewing mail sent by U.S. troops from France. As a result, his commanding officer reduced his rank to Private. Perhaps seeking redemption, Henry volunteered for dangerous duties.  

On what was to be the last day of World War I, November 11, 1918, the men of Company A were set to engage a German machine gun position when they were notified that the fighting would end shortly before 11:00 AM. They stood down, except for Gunther, who ran toward the German emplacement with fixed bayonet. Although his fellow soldiers hollered at him to return to the line because the war was about to end, Henry continued to advance and began firing his rifle.  

The German soldiers also screamed to Gunther in broken English that the war was about to end. When he did not heed their warning, the Germans were forced to return fire, killing him at 10:59 AM. World War I officially ended on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 AM, making Henry Gunther the last American soldier killed in the war.

An image of the front page of the Baltimore Sun, dated November 11, 1918. The headline says "Victory!"

Gunther was buried in a military cemetery in France. Posthumously, he was restored to the rank of Sergeant and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His body was returned to Baltimore in 1923 and buried in the family plot at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery.