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WW1 Centennial News for Wednesday September 13, 2017 - Episode #37

Lusitania sinking shift American anti-war sentimentLusitania sinking shift American anti-war sentiment

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WWI Centennial News SPECIAL
PART I: The Great Debate

This week and next week, we are going to break format as we present a 2-part special podcast version of  “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace”.

This two part special is an adaptation from a live staged event the Commission produced on the April 6, 2017 centennial of America’s entry into: The war that changed the world.

Edward Bilous as the artistic director, and Chris Christopher as the US WW1 Centennial Commission’s executive producer pulled together an amazing group of artists, historians musician, actors, and others for a live performance staged outdoors at the National WWI Museum and Memorial  in Kansas City to an audience of over 3,000 attendees.

For this 2-part special we have excerpted key moments from the story that unfolds, the music that was performed and the readings from a cast of amazing actors, orators, musicians and other luminaries.

Part 1 examines the great debate in America about getting into the war.

View the PDF transcript

Talent Credits

This podcast was adapted from the live event

In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace:

Centennial Commemoration of the US entry into WWI


Credits for the live event include:


Edward Bilous

Artistic Director

John Rensenhouse


Michelle DiBucci

Music Director

Sarah Outhwaite

Video Designer


Carlos Murillo

Script and Adaptation

Greg Kalember

Music Producer, Mix Engineer, Sound Design


Portia Kamons

Executive Artistic Producer

For Virtua Creative

Shelby Rose

Producer, Media and Special Events

For Virtua Creative


Dale Morehouse



Carla Noack



David Paul

Pre-Recorded Speaker


Janith English

Principal Chief of the Wyandot Nation of Kansas


Sergeant Debra Kay Mooney

Choctaw Nation


Col. Gerald York

Grandson of Sergeant Alvin C. York


Deborah York

Great-Granddaughter of Sergeant Alvin C. York


Noble Sissle Jr.

Son of Noble Sissle


Featuring Musical Performances by

1st Infantry Division Band

Michael Baden

John Brancy

Francesco Centano

Billy Cliff

Peter Dugan

Ramona Dunlap

Lisa Fisher

Samantha Gossard

Adam Holthus

Christopher T. McLaurin

Chrisi Poland

Aaron Redburn

Reuben Allen

Matt Rombaum

Alan Schwartz

Yang Thou

Charles Yang

Alla Wijnands

Bram Wijnands



(In Alphabetical Order)

Freddy Acevedo

Yetunde Felix-Ukwu

Jason Francescon

Khalif Gillett

Emilie Karas

Chelsea Kisner

Christopher Lyman

Marianne McKenzie

Victor Raider-Wexler


Artillery Master

Charles B. Wood


National World War I Museum and Memorial:  TheWorldWar.org

Library of Congress: LOC.gov

New York Public Library: DigitalCollections.nypl.org

National Archives: Archives.gov

National Historic Geographic Information System: NHGIS.org

State Library of New South Wales: SL.nsw.gov.au

Imperial War Museums: IWM.org.uk

National Museum of African American History and Culture: NMAAHC.si.edu

The Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation and the York Family: SgtYork.org

Australian War Memorial: AWM.gov.au

National Media Museum: NationalMediaMuseum.org.uk

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Archive: WoodrowWilson.org

Mathers Museum of World Culture: Mathers.indiana.edu

Front Page Courtesy of The New York Times Company




WW1 Centennial News is brought to YOU by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. I’m Theo Mayer - the Chief Technologist for the Commission and your host.

Before we get into the main part of the show - - Let me try to set this up:



We’ve gone back in time to June 28, 1914. Today, a 19 year-old radicalized teenage Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip guns down Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie - ON their wedding anniversary no less. So this was all kicked off by a misguided kid - after all - what does anybody know about consequences at 19, and gunning down celebrities - is - pretty dumb and definitely misguided. And the archduke was a celebrity - he was in line for the throne of the Austro-hungarian empire.

Things are already pretty tense in Europe!

Austria-Hungary, blames the Serbian government for the attack and sees this as great justification for settling the question of Slavic nationalism once and for all - with a little war action.

BUT….  Russia supports Serbia, SO… Austria-Hungary asked Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm to back them in the event of a Russian intervention… An intervention that would probably suck in Russia’s ally, France, and maybe Britain too.

So - Just a month later on July 28, 1914 Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and a big burning match gets tossed on the very dry tinder of european tension… the tenuous peace between Europe’s big powers goes up in flames. Within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia line up against the Austria-Hungary and Germany, and World War I begin.

But remember - no one knows at the time that this is a global war. It’s just a little imperial action which Germany sees as a great opportunity - Remember - in German the word Kaiser means EMPEROR - so emperor Wilhelm thinks that this is a good time to expand German imperial holding with a rush west -  across Belgium - to deliver a quick and decisive blow to France for an imperially profitable end to a simple, messy little conflict.

BUT….at the First Battle of The Marne, 90 miles from Paris, the German plan falls apart and the Germans suffer a defeat at the hands of the Allies – over a million soldiers face off and fight over 6 days, and sadly more than 100,000 die.

This is where we join up with the live production beginning with a quote from Barbara Tuchman from her book - The GUNS OF AUGUST:

“After the Marne, the war grew and spread until it drew in the nations of both hemispheres and entangled them in a... world conflict no peace treaty could dissolve. The Battle of Marne was one of the decisive battles… not because it determined that Germany would ultimately lose or the Allies ultimately win the war, but because it determined that the war would go on…. The nations were caught in a trap… from which there was… no exit.”



Even with the United States remaining resolutely neutral, many young Americans needed no persuasion to join the War effort.

Mary Gladwin, a nurse from Akron, Ohio, was among the first American Red Cross nurses to go to Europe during the War, serving as the supervisor of nurses at the American Hospital in Belgrade. She wrote:



The cannonading lasted all the time. There was no time during twenty-four hours in the first six months  that  some of the guns were not fired. My room was a little whitewashed one. Every time

one of the big French guns would fire.... It would illuminate all the wall and then... I would hear the boom of the guns. That kept up night after night, until the time came that we did not hear them any more…



Eugene Bullard, the only African American pilot to fly in World War I, did so not for the United States, but for France. The son of a freed slave, Bullard stowed away to Europe in 1912, determined to escape racism in the US. After working as a boxer and vaudeville performer in England, Bullard settled in France. When hostilities broke out, he joined the infantry of the French Foreign Legion, earning the Croix de Guerre for bravery at the Battle of Verdun. After sustaining injuries and declared unfit for infantry service, Bullard earned his wings with the Aeronautique Militaire of France, and joined the Lafayette Flying Corps in 1916. His plane was decorated with the slogan” “All Blood Runs Red.” When the US entered the war, Bullard tried to enlist as a flyer for the Americans:



“I was more and more puzzled until it suddenly came to me that all my fellow countrymen who had transferred were white. Later, I learned that in World War I Negroes were not accepted as flyers in the United States Army. This hurt me, deeply.”



When hostilities broke out in Europe, thousands of Americans touring the continent descended on London hoping to find safe passage home, only to find themselves unable to obtain accommodations or tickets for the few ships sailing.

A forty year old mining engineer and financier from Iowa by the name of Herbert Hoover was living in London in 1914. Hoover organized an American relief committee that provided food, shelter and financial assistance to over 100,000 Americans.

Hoover’s leadership earned him the respect of the US Ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Hines Page. Ambassador Page tapped Hoover to lead a relief mission to Belgium.

After the Battle of Marne, Belgium faced starvation. Germany had invaded, but refused to take responsibility for feeding the populace. On the other side, Britain’s Naval blockade prevented ships from entering Belgian ports. So in October of 1914, Herbert Hoover established an organization to procure and deliver food to the starving Belgian population, rescuing a nation from certain ruin. Herbert Hoover wrote:



"...there was no former human experience to turn for guidance. It would require that we find the major food supply for a whole nation; raise the money to pay for it; get it past navies at sea and occupying armies on land; set up an agency for distribution of supplies for everybody justly; and see that the enemy took none of it. It was not ‘relief’ in any known sense. It was the feeding of a nation.



This will later earn Herbert Hoover the job of heading the united states food administration… and of course he also becomes the 31st President of the United State


Dateline May 8, 1915

Headline of the NY times reads:






A thousand more, who sailed from our shore, Have gone to eternity.

The Statue of Liberty high

Must now have a tear in her eye. I think it's a shame--

Some one is to blame,

But all we can do is just sigh!



Some of us lost a true sweetheart; Some of us lost a dear dad;

Some lost their mothers, sisters, and brothers; Some lost the best friends they had.

It's time they were stopping this warfare If women and children must drown.

Many brave hearts went to sleep in the deep When the Lusitania went down.



Many brave hearts went to sleep in the deep When the Lusitania went down.



US neutrality faced numerous tests. Vying for control over shipping lanes across the Atlantic and through the North Sea, Germany and Britain both found themselves on a collision course with the United States. Britain, in their effort to blockade commerce from the US reaching Germany, seized American ships.

Germany, in retaliation to US shipments, introduced a new weapon of war – the U-Boat – which could strike without warning. In 1915, German U-Boats sank over 90 ships.



Leading up to the Election of 1916, many Americans favored the Allies in the War, yet embraced President Wilson’s urging to remain “impartial in thought as well as in action.” At the time, one third of US citizens were either born in Europe or were descendants of European immigrants.

Sympathy for both countries on both sides of the conflict ran high.

The descendants of German immigrants found themselves torn, on the one hand identifying firstly as Americans, yet on the other, sympathizing with their relatives abroad. When the US entered the War, German-Americans were labeled “alien enemies” and faced severe restrictions on their civil liberties. Irish Americans preferred neutrality as well, as the prospect of the U.S. entering the War on the side of the British was an anathema to Irish nationalist sentiment.

The sinking of the Lusitania led many Americans to call for an immediate reprisal against Germany. Wilson proceeded with caution, demanding an apology, compensation for the victims and assurances that Germany would cease unrestricted submarine warfare. In a speech delivered at a Citizen Naturalization Ceremony on May 10, 1915, Wilson affirmed the anti-War US stance:



“America must have this consciousness, that on all sides it touches elbows and touches hearts with all the nations of mankind. The example of America must be the example not merely of peace because it will not fight, but of peace because peace is the healing… influence of the world....

There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.”



Wilson’s measured response faced opposition from figures like former President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed Germany’s aggression warranted a strong military response:



“I am pretty well disgusted with our government and with the way our people acquiesce in and support it. I suppose, however, in a democracy like ours the people will always do well or ill largely in proportion to their leadership. If Lincoln had acted after the firing on Sumter in the way that Wilson did about the sinking of the Lusitania, in one month the North would have been saying they were so glad he kept them out of the war and… that at all hazards fratricidal war must be averted.”



Theodore Roosevelt’s words were not mere bluster. He would eventually see three of his sons off to war. Two would return alive. His youngest son, Quentin, died when he was shot down over France in 1918.



The conflict  about  US neutrality  didn't just rage in Washington, but was reflected throughout  american society and culture  - Here is the great debate playing out as musical counterpoint in two popular songs of the times sung from the hearts of two mothers.



MEDLEY: “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier” - “America, Here’s My Boy”


Verse 1

There’s a million mothers knocking at the nation’s door

A million mothers, yes and they’ll be millions more,

And while within each mother’s heart they pray Just hark what one brave mother has to say:


America, I raised a boy for you

America, you’ll find him staunch and true Place a gun upon his shoulder

He is ready to die or do

America, he is my only one;

My hope, my pride and joy,

But if I had another,

He would march beside his brother; America here’s my boy


Verse 2

There’s a million mothers waiting by the fireside bright

A million mothers waiting for the call tonight And while within each heart there’ll be a tear She’ll watch her boy go marching with a cheer



America, I raised a boy for you

America, you’ll find him staunch and true Place a gun upon his shoulder

He is ready to die o

My hope, my pride and joy,

But if I had another,

He would march beside his brother; America here’s my boy.


Verse 1

Ten million soldiers to the war have gone Who may never return again

Ten million mothers’ hearts must break For the ones who died in vain

Head bowed down in sorrow in her lonely years I heard a mother murmur thro’ her tears:



“I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,

I brought him up to be my pride and joy.” Who dares place a musket on his shoulder To shoot some other mother’s darling boy? Let nations arbitrate their future troubles, It’s time to lay the sword and gun away. There’d be no war today

If mothers all would say:

“I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier.”


Verse 2

What victory can cheer a mother’s heart When she looks at her blighted home? What victory can bring her back

All she cared to call her own?

Let each mother answer in the years to be, Remember that my boy belongs to me!



“I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,

I brought him up to be my pride and joy.” Who dares place a musket on his shoulder To shoot some other mother’s darling boy? Let nations arbitrate their future troubles, It’s time to lay the sword and gun away.



At the other end of the political spectrum, the editors of the conservative North American Review

argued for U.S. participation:



We know now… what this war is. It is the last of the great battles for Freedom and Democracy. America fought the first a century and forty years ago. France followed through seas of blood and tears. But lately the Great Charter has passed… from the barons to the people of England. Japan has ceased to be a monarchy except in name. China as a Republic defies the power of might…. Can anyone doubt that the beginning of the end of absolutism is at hand….?



Legendary newspaper reporter Walter Lippman offered this third-way assessment of the role America could play in the War:



In May 1916, the President made a speech which will be counted among the... decisive utterances of American foreign policy…. The speech was an announcement that American isolation was ended, and that we were prepared to join a League of Peace….. …it was intended to make clear to the world… that if America has to fight, it would fight for peace and the order of the world. It was a great portent in human history, but it was overshadowed at the time by the opening of the Presidential campaign.”



The United States, like Canada and the British Empire, absorbed a massive influx of immigrants from the end of the 19th Century through the war. Capitalizing on the idea that immigrants traveled to distant shores seeking freedom from tyranny, recruitment efforts in all three countries appealed to immigrants’ indebtedness – in exchange for their freedom, and their children’s freedom, they were urged to show their patriotism by enlisting in the fight.





Verse 1

To these broad shores my fathers came From lands beyond the sea

They left their homes they left their friends To breathe an air more free

To them an alien land it seemed With customs strange and new

But my heart knows just one dear flag The Red, the White, the Blue



There is no hyphen in my heart It can’t be cut in two

Oh flag of bars and silver stars I’ve given it all to you


Verse 2

Columbia to me you’ve been A mother fond and true

My heart’s best love and loyal trust I gladly offer you

Let others sing of native lands Far o’er the ocean’s foam

The spot where floats the stars and stripes Shall ever be my home



There is no hyphen in my heart It can’t be cut in two

Oh flag of bars and silver stars I’ve given it all to you



The 1916 election hinged on the question of America’s neutrality in the War. Wilson, running for a second term, built his candidacy around the idea that America ought to prepare for the possibility of war, yet the campaign slogans “He Kept Us Out of War” and “America First” persuaded the American public that a vote for the Republican candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, would be a vote for war. While many embraced the slogans, others criticized them. Teddy Roosevelt:



President Wilson’s ignoble shirking of responsibility has been mis-clothed in… the phrase of a coward, “He Kept Us Out of War.” In actual reality, war has been creeping nearer. . . and we face it without policy, plan, purpose, or preparation.



In September 1916, Wilson accepted the Democratic nomination for President:



“We have been neutral not only because it was the fixed and traditional policy of the United States to stand aloof from the politics of Europe… but also because it was manifestly our duty to prevent

… the indefinite extension of the fires of hate and desolation kindled by that terrible conflict and seek to serve mankind by reserving our strength and our resources for the… difficult days of restoration and healing …, when peace will have to build its house anew.”



The Debate reached every corner of American society. Voices for and against the US joining the war included not only politicians, but men who would likely be called to serve, women, African Americans and Native Americans fighting for an equal role in American Civic life.



American Arthur Bullard, who had lived in war-time France and England, wrote in early 1917:



Whatever the diplomats may like to call it, this is War. And we do not know how to fight…. We have no American general who ever commanded an Army corps, not one of our naval officers ever fought against a Dreadnought, none of our artillery men ever fired a real shot at an enemy aircraft. We must learn….

The war is upon us and we... must decide what we are going to do about it… We who love peace ought to keep out of war as long as possible and when we are forced to go in – go in hard!



For women, the prospect of war also provoked debate. Many nurses of the American Red Cross nurses had experienced the tribulations of War first hand. Jane Delano, founder of the American Red Cross Nursing Service, wrote in the winter of 1915:



We have learned that women can be mobilized without confusion; that their chances of illness when ... seem to be no greater than men’s; that they face danger with equanimity…. Out of this experience we should be…. able to guarantee a satisfactory nursing personnel not only for national relief in time of calamity, but for efficient service should our country be confronted with that greatest of all disasters – War.



A year later, Bessie R. James of the National League for Women’s Service wrote:



On November 8, 1916, the foresight of the women… is something which cannot but arouse admiration. That anyone should organize to prepare half the populace of the country for war while a president was being put back into office because of a supposed peace policy would seem ridiculous. This however, was exactly what happened.



The first years of the War coincided with the beginning of The Great Migration, a transformative period for African Americans who fled the entrenched racism of the south for better wages and

living conditions in northern cities like Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit and New York. At the outbreak of war, many African Americans viewed service in the military as an opportunity to show their willingness to serve and improve on their standing as second-class citizens. Others were more skeptical. In a 1917 issue of The Messenger, Chandler Owen and A. Phillip Randolph challenged the hypocrisy of American democratic ideals in relation to African American struggle:



Patriotism has no appeal to us; justice has. Party has no weight with us; principle has.



In his 1914 editorial, “World War and the Color Line,” W.E.B. Dubois drew connections between the crisis in Europe and the conditions experienced by African Americans at home:


Many colored persons… may easily make the mistake of supposing that the present war is far removed from the color problem in America…. This attitude is a mistake. The present war in Europe is one of the great disasters due to race and color prejudice and it but foreshadows greater disasters in the future….



As the likelihood of war increased in early 1917, DuBois again unleashed his pen to reflect on the institution of segregated training camps:



We must choose then between the insult of a separate camp and the irreparable injury of strengthening the present custom of putting no black men in positions of authority

here is only one thing to do now, and that is to organize the colored people for leadership and service, if war should come. A thousand commissioned officers of colored blood is something to work for.



Diplomat, lawyer, and official of the NAACP James Weldon Johnson called for an end to what he termed the “Excess Patriotism” which had led the world’s nations to war:


It is this hot, high-tempered, foolish, bad-mannered patriotism that keeps farther away the day for which all lovers of humanity pray; the day when men shall not hate each other because of the boundaries of domain or the differences of race, but when universal brotherhood shall be established and a lasting peace shall reign.




Verse 1

As they sit in consultation

Seeking peace for the wide, wide world

I wonder if their thought e’er turn to me.

I was at the concentration of the troops that stopt the whirl Of the Kaiser in his dash to the sea.

As I sit in meditation Seeking solace from on high

I wonder if they see I stand in awe,

As they plan the federation for the races far and nigh Are they equal in the eyes of the law?



Are they equal in the eyes of the law?

The black man faced his death and cried, “Hurrah?” His soul was pure and white,

He fought a manly fight,

No more patriotic sons you ever saw Are they equal in the eyes of the law?

The black man faced his death and cried, “Hurrah?” They were the same in no man’s land,

Tell me how so they stand?

Are they equal in the eyes of the law?


Verse 3

God, the Father of creation, Hear, oh, hear my humble plea,

As with contrite heart I call thy holy name. In this land of desolation,

Where they lynch and torture me,

Keep them, Father, from this life of sin and shame. Oh thou God of restitution,

Though with vengeance in Thy hand,

We pray Thee, Keep us from grim hatred’s mighty claw Show them, Lord, that retribution,

Runs its course throughout the land,

To make men equal in the eyes of the law.



Are they equal in the eyes of the law?

The black man faced his death and cried, “Hurrah?” His soul was pure and white,

He fought a manly fight,

No more patriotic sons you ever saw Are they equal in the eyes of the law?

The black man faced his death and cried, “Hurrah?” They were the same to the God of the hosts,

Tell me in your Freedom’s boasts,

Are they equal in the eyes of the law?



America’s native peoples overwhelmingly supported the United States during the Great War, although a few leaders such as Dr. Carlos Montezuma, a Yavapai-Apache, objected. He wrote:



They are not citizens. They have fewer privileges than have foreigners. They are wards of the United States of America without their consent or the chance of protest on their part.



But most Indian leaders saw the conflict as an opportunity to gain recognition and to affirm tribal sovereignty, as did the Onondaga and Oneida Nations that declared war on Germany.


In 1917, Oglala Chief Red Fox, a nephew of Crazy Horse, went to Washington and urged Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, to offer the services of the Indians in the Great War:



From all over the West, we now stand ready--fifty thousand Indians between the ages of seventeen and fifty-five. We beg of you, to give us the right to fight. We guarantee to you, sir, our hearts could be for no better cause than to fight for the land we love, and for the freedom we share.



Chief Red Fox’s sentiments were echoed by the Seneca Arthur Parker, President of the Society of American Indians in 1917, who wrote:



The American Indian has common cause with the Allies.  The Indian fights because he loves

freedom and because humanity needs the defense of the freedom loving man. The Indian fights because his country, his liberties, his ideals and his manhood are assailed by the brutal hypocrisy of Prussianism. Challenged, the Indian has... shown himself a citizen of the world, [and] an exponent of an ethical civilization wherein human liberty is assured.



The outcome of the 1916 election reflected divisions in the country. Winning by a slim Electoral College margin, Wilson’s second term would soon face a series of crises that would determine the fate of his neutral position in the war.



While debate raged in America, the slaughter continued in Europe.

Rapid advances in the technology of weapons of war led to vast devastation. For the first time in history the battlefield saw the use of tanks, chemical weapons, machine guns, long-range artillery and aircraft.

Sixty five million men fought in the War from 40 countries. Twenty one million were wounded.

Eight million died – roughly 3,000 every day.

Six and a half million civilians were killed including two million in Russia alone.

One hundred and ten thousand tons of poison gas was used, killing nearly half a million men.

In Europe alone, approximately 10 million people were displaced by the war, including 1.8 million Armenians forcibly deported to the Syrian desert. 1.5 million Belgians were refugees from the Germans.

In the Battle of Somme, fought between July and November of 1916, 1.2 million men perished for a meager Allied gain of 7.8 miles of territory.

During the Battle of Somme, it is estimated that in the first week of fighting over one and one half million artillery shells were fired… almost three shells per second for 168 continuous hours. (NEED THIS STATISTIC!!)

Never before had humankind unleashed terror on this scale and it’s effects permanently scarred

the landscape and the souls of those who were there.


And that is the end of  part 1 of “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace”

Join us again next week for part II


The US World War One Centennial Commission was created by Congress to honor, commemorate and educate about WW1.

Our programs are to--

inspire a national conversation and awareness about WW1;

Our podcast is a part of that endeavor

We are bringing the lessons of the 100 years ago into today's classrooms;

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and of course we are building America’s National WW1 Memorial in Washington DC.


If you like the work we are doing, please support it with a tax deductible donation at ww1cc.org/donate - all lower case

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Thanks for listening to this special presentation of WW1 Centennial News…

A full list of the many talented people who contributed to this production is in the podcast notes.



So long.


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