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WW1 Centennial News for January 12, 2018 - Episode #54

Renault FT tanks being operated by the US Army in France.Renault FT tanks being operated by the US Army in France. Light tanks with a crew of only two, these were mass-produced during World War I

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  • 1917 key events in review |@ 01:30
  • Wilson’s 14 points |@ 07:50
  • Crisis for the allies - Mike Shuster |@ 11:45
  • A Century in the Making - Sabin Howard |@ 16:45
  • Speaking WW1 - Tank |@ 25:00
  • The Education Program - Dr. Libby O’Connell |@ 26:30
  • 100 Cities / 100 Memorials Round #2 deadline |@ 32:40
  • The Chaplains Corps in WW1 - Dr. John Boyd |@ 33:15
  • American Women Physicians in WW1 |@ 39:10
  • PAFA at Frist |@ 40:30
  • The Buzz - Katherine Akey |@ 41:15

View the PDF transcript


Welcome to World War 1 centennial News episode #54 - It’s about WW1 THEN - what was happening 100 years ago this week  - and it’s about WW1 NOW - news and updates about the centennial and the commemoration.


Today is January 12th, 2018 and our guests this week include:

  • Mike Shuster discussing the situation facing Allied forces at the outset of 1918
  • Master sculptor Sabin Howard telling us about how, meeting a man named Richard Taylor is transforming his approach to creating the sculpture for the National World War One Memorial in Pershing Park
  • Dr. Libby O’Connell speaking with us about the commission’s Education program
  • Dr John Boyd with the history of chaplains in the Armed Forces during WWI
  • And Katherine Akey, with the Buzz - with some great selections from the centennial of WWI in social media

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. Welcome to the show.



You know---- Our way-back machine not only travels in time,

but also in space

so as we roll back 100 years, but are also going up to 10 thousand feet to get a high level view of what happened in 1917 and a glance into the future for what to expect for this upcoming year ---  in the war the changed the world!



World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week


Looking back across 1917 from way up here,  we can see:

Wilson being sworn in as the President who promises to keep us out of the war,

but events early in the year,

pressure from the allies,

aggressive and presumptuous actions by Germany, builds up by spring to a declaration of war.

We see a massive rush to mobilize for war.

We see our allies struggling with ever more massive and devastating loss of treasure and men - standing on the brink of devastation -

and we see the eastern allie - Russia - go through two revolutions in one year -

the first - which collapses the Tsarist government -

the second - late in the year -- when Lenin and the bolsheviks take over and effectively drop Russia out of the war,

This is to Germany’s great delight, anticipating the freeing up of massive resources -- with which Germany can deal the allies - a knock-out punch - in an upcoming spring.


Let’s zoom down for a bit closer look at 1917


In late January, early February Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare - reneging on promises made to Wilson after the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania. The US severs diplomatic ties with Germany.


In an attempt to draw the US into the fight, Britain passes along a secret telegram showing an offer by Germany to Mexico promising great rewards including Texas and New Mexico - if Mexico will toss in with Germany - and help take down the US. This does not sit well.


By March with Germany attacking shipping everywhere - the Wilson asks congress to put Navy armaments and sailors aboard US merchant ships. Congress doesn’t go for it - so he issues an executive order to the same effect.


While over in Russia - Revolution #1 -

and Tsar Nicholas II abdicates..


By the end of march, Germany’s blatant aggression against the US gets Wilson’s cabinet to vote unanimously in favor of declaring war.


April is big…

On the 2nd Wilson delivers a war address to congress, and four days later -  on April 6th -- congress votes to go to war.


Over in Europe - French Commander in Chief General Robert Nivelle cranks up a strategic plan that is so flawed and costly in french soldiers lives --- it sets up a French army mutiny ----  NIvelle gets the boot - and the French forces come back online.


In May America cranks up the war machine in a big way!


Wilson appoints George Creel to head the Committee on Public Information.. Creating a historic government propaganda machine.


Congress also passes the selective service act and all men between 18 and 32 have to register. Meanwhile - John J. Pershing is appointed to head of the American Expeditionary Force and goes over to France to assess the situation.


June -

To deal with strong war opposition at home -  congress passes the US Espionage Act - A massive attacks on “freedom of speech” that makes {QUOTE) all false statements intended to interfere with the military forces of the country or to promote the success of its enemies (UNQUOTE)  illegal. In other words - if you speak up against the draft or the war - you are going to prison. And people do.


Same month,

the first US troop arrive in France - but not yet to fight - they are there to prepare the way for our army.


In July Pershing makes a request for an army of a million men - then just a few weeks later --- revises his request upwards to 3 million.


On the fighting front, July, August and september see the first use of Mustard Gas on the battlefield

--- and campaigns in the Belgic regions of Ypres and Passchendaele.

America is busy building and equipping the largest fighting force of its young history. Money is raised, Industries are nationalized, units are mobilized, the population is galvanized by Mr. Creel and his minions.


October marks a disastrous war effort for the italians at the battle of Caporetto

--- and in November -  Revolution #2 - the bolsheviks take over  under Lenin and end the battle on the Eastern Front.


November also sees the expanded use of a new war machine in the battlefield - the Tank!


And at the end of the year - the Brits bring home a little holiday surprise as they finally turn around their struggle with the ottoman empire and defeat the Turks, taking Jerusalem in December.


Wow -


Ok… now we’re gonna  zoom back up and look forward at 1918 from overview.


Germany’s kaiserslacht, is their big offensive - hoping to deal the allies a death blow… it includes five major offensives over the spring and early summer; The allies lose ground - then gain it back with help of Americans who are coming online


Things turn around --- and over the fall, the central powers admit defeat -- one by one so that in November, an armistice is declared…


The fighting stops and now some of WWI’s most fascinating stories emerge - as the aftermath of the war, the negotiations, and America’s war cranked economy try to settle on and into a new world order.

Wilson’s fourteen points

It all actually starts this week. On January 8, 1918 President Woodrow Wilson addresses the U.S. Congress with what would later become known as his "Fourteen Points" the fundamental to America's War Aims.


Inconceivably … up until now, there has been no explicit statement of war aims by any of the nation’s who engaged in this mad destruction.  

At his request, a team, led by Walter Lippmann --- and longtime Wilson advisor Colonel House generate a memorandum called “The War Aims and the Peace Terms it Suggests.” from which Wilson crafts one of his most important and influential speeches of his administration - the Fourteen Points.

The first six enumerate the causes of world war, and urge:


  1. The elimination of secret treaties in favor of open agreements
  2. Free navigation of the seas
  3. Removal of all economic barriers and established equal trade between nations
  4. The reduction of armaments
  5. The adjustment of colonial claims and the self-determination of colonized populations in regard to their own sovereignty
  6. The evacuation of all Russian territory by the German armies


The next seven proceed to rearrange the map of Europe, effectively eradicating the old imperial borders of specific territories and creating independent states. This included:


  1. the evacuation of Belgium,
  2. the release of French territory, (particularly Alsace-Lorraine),
  3. the readjustment of the frontiers of Italy into “clearly recognizable lines of nationality,”
  4. the autonomy of Austria-Hungary,
  5. the release of occupied territories in the Balkan states, the establishment of political and economic independence along “historically established lines of allegiance,” as well as access to the sea -  for the Serbs
  6. Assured sovereignty of Turkey from the Ottoman empire, as well as the right of other nationalities to develop autonomy
  7. The establishment of an independent Polish state, with access to the sea


And, finally, his fourteenth point -- the creation of a world organization that would provide a system of collective security for all nations - the foundations of the League of Nations.


An auspicious beginning for 1918, establishing  a world changing doctrine in what TRULY IS

the war that changed the world!


[poignant audio hit]


All year, we will be bringing you with us,. on an incredible journey through these amazing times for our national and our global heritage.


There are stories of suffering and heroism, humanity and technology, defeat and triumph, diplomacy ...and diplomatic failures.


Introducing Dr. Edward Lengel

So --- To help us understand all this, starting next week, we will be joined regularly by Dr. Edward Lengel.

Dr. Lengel is an American military historian, Chief Historian of the White House Historical Association and sits on the US WWI Centennial Commission’s historical advisory board.

Ed gives historians a good name! He is smart, well spoken, an author, and a devout storyteller. We look forward to his contributions to WW1 Centennial News THEN…

State of the war front end of 1917: http://today-in-wwi.tumblr.com/post/169156769262/state-of-the-war-end-of-1917



Great War Project


Back with us now is Mike Shuster - former NPR correspondent and curator for the Great War Project Blog. Mike - first of all - welcome back - we missed you over the Holidays -  so… your January post CRISIS FOR THE ALLIES is a great setup piece for 1918 - what are they facing as they roll into the new year?

[Mike Shuster]

Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog. We also put some links in the Podcast notes to the articles we missed from Mike over the Holidays.








The Great War Channel

Over to the Great War Channel on Youtube - They have been producing videos about WW1 since 2014  from a european perspective.

A bunch of new episodes were released over the last weeks, including:

  • Transcaucasia in World War One
  • The Sopwith Snipe - WW1 Pilot’s Gear
  • Machinations in the British High Command
  • Inside the Rolls Royce Armoured Car
  • German Anti Tank Units
  • And more.

To see their videos about WWI Follow the link in the podcast notes or search for “the great war” on youtube.




World War One NOW

It is time to fast forward into the present with  WW1 Centennial News NOW -


this section is not about history, but rather - it explores what is happening now to commemorate the centennial of the War that changed the world!

A century in the making

For 2018 we are introducing a new segment - It’s called: A century in the making - America’s WW1 Memorial in Washington DC.

As our regular listeners know, we are building a   national WWI Memorial at Pershing Park in the capitol. It’s a big project. It’s complicated. It’s hard. It’s been a long time coming.

So over the coming weeks, we are going to be bringing you along on an insider’s journey that explores this grand undertaking and adventure.

The centerpiece of the memorial -  located in this urban park -  just two blocks from the White House -  is planned as a massive bronze bas-relief sculpture that tells the story of both the human and the national experience of the war that changed the world.

Joe Weishaar - our brilliant young visionary, who won the international design competition for this memorial -- brought in an incredibly talented artist and sculptor onto his team - Sabin Howard… a traditionally trained - modern classicist sculptor -

Sabin has taken on the challenge of telling the American WWI story at scale, in bronze, and for posterity.

Sabin Howard - Meeting Richard Taylor

So we are going to kick off this series with an interesting story about how Sabin - the traditionalist - has gotten hooked up with Richard Taylor - a tech visionary who has helped Directors Peter Jackson and James Cameron manifest their visions for Lord of the Rings and Avatar….

Welcome, Sabin!

Sabin, You are a traditionally trained sculptor - a Modern Classicist - you work with the human form - in a very traditional way - but for this project you are combining classic sculpture with some very high tech.

How did that happen, and how are you using cutting edge technology in creating this master work for America?




That was the first installment of “A century in the making - America’s WW1 Memorial in Washington DC”

Next week, Sabin will tell us how he is integrating his traditional sketch and clay sculpture process with 3D imaging, programmable milling and additive manufacturing technologies to literally cut years into months for the test / iterate / and retest process in creating a maquette - a 9 foot manifestation of the sculpture.

Only YOU can build this memorial

“A century in the making” has another part to it that is unique for our weekly podcast. You are more involved in this project than you may realize. Congress - who authorized this memorial - made it the LAW that the National WWI memorial has to be built with individual and corporate funding - no government funding allowed!  

Only you can build this memorial -- So I’m going to be asking you to go to WW1CC.org/memorial --- to help honor the memory of those who shaped the world we enjoy today -- with their honest and genuine commitment to our American ideals --- and their personal sacrifice of effort and blood - Now Wer’e not asking you to jump into a bunker with mud and lice ---- all we are asking you to do is to go to wwicc.org/memorial or just pick up your cell phone - heck- it’s probably in you hand right now! Go to your texting app and text the letters ww1 to the number 91999. You can give any amount - Give once or “subscribe to the project” with a monthly gift ===  because you see - this really IS America’s WWI Memorial. Thank you -






As we enter 2018, many commemorations, both big and small, are coming up to remember and honor the service of America and Americans during WW1. You’ll find many of these in the U.S. National WW1 Centennial Events Register at ww1cc.org/events. There are events all across the US and we are now beginning to add key events from abroad as well.

On any given day you’ll find literally dozens of WWI related events listed - small, local commemorations and large, international ones. The register is America’s official record of commemorations of the centennial of WWI

And you can add your OWN WWI centennial event to the register - with the big red SUBMIT MY EVENT button on the page - even including livestream and social media events.

And finally, we wanted to share with you that the American Battle Monuments Commission has published its upcoming commemorative events in France and Belgium. The link to that calendar is included in the podcast notes.

Link: www.ww1cc.org/events



Speaking WW1

And now for our feature “Speaking World War 1” - Where we explore the words & phrases that are rooted in the war  ---

One of most iconic new weapon technologies of WWI is the tank. “They rode into WWI on Horses and rode out on Tanks” is a popular phrase that describes the times. This is the grand evolution of the Armored car,  and every side in the conflict tried to create an effective machine. but the British beat everyone to the punch with their Landship, premiering the Mark I in September, 1916.

Until then - this was a new secret weapon!

The machines were called "tanks" in a ruse describing the big metal things as "water carriers," supposedly for use on the Mesopotamian Front. So in conversation --  the engineers referred to them as "water tanks" or, simply, "tanks."

Interestingly, the British Landships Committee even decided to change its name for the same secretive reason, renaming itself the Tank Supply Committee.

By the time the machines rolled over the fields of Cambrai in the winter of 1917, not only did the tanks get stuck - but so did the name… no one went for the name land ships - they were simply known then and are still today --- as Tanks -- this week’s word for Speaking WW1.

See the podcast notes to learn more!

link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_tank


Interview with Dr. Libby O’Connell

In our Education section  -- As we tell every week in our closing - bringing the lessons of WWI into the classroom is one of the Commission’s prime goals - and here to tell us more about the Commission’s education program is Commissioner Dr. Libby O’Connell.


Welcome, Libby!


To start, could you tell us a bit about the education initiative at the commission?  What’s happening now and what are the goals for 2018?

Libby - I understand you are now tying the education program to the Memorial program - how does that work?

Thanks so much for being on the show again!

Dr. Libby O’Connell, World War One Centennial Commissioner, historian and author. Learn more about the education program at ww1cc.org/edu or by following the link in the podcast notes.



100 Cities/100 Memorials


Moving on to our 100 Cities / 100 Memorials segment

about the $200,000 matching grant challenge

to rescue and focus on our local WWI memorials.

This coming Monday - January 15, 2018 - the submission period for the second and final round of grant application-- closes.

Then we will start the process of selecting the second 50 Awardees to round out the 100 awardees.

Check the podcast notes for a link to the program or go to ww1cc.org/100memorials.

Link: www.ww1cc.org/100memorials

Remembering Veterans

Chaplains in the War

This week in our Remembering Veterans section -- we’re joined by Dr John "Jay" Boyd,  Historian for the United States Army Chaplain Corps. He is here to tell us more about the history of chaplains in the armed forces and their special role during World War One.

Welcome, Dr. Boyd!

Dr. Boyd, just to start us off -- What IS a chaplain and what is their role in the military?

In WW1- we suddenly had an army - and it was made up of a very diverse group of soldiers -  Was any attention given to the increasing diversity of the troops?

There are many stories about the chaplains of World War 1-- does any one in particular stand out to you? Do you have a favorite?

Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. John Boyd is the Historian for the United States Army Chaplain Corps. Learn more about chaplains in the military by following the links in the podcast notes.


Link: http://usachcs.tradoc.army.mil/





Articles and Posts

American Women Physicians

Calling all women doctors - This story is for you!! In articles and posts-- from our rapidly growing website at ww1cc.org -this week, this week there is an article about the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) - Now they have created a remarkable new online exhibit, "American Women Physicians in World War I".

When the United States entered the war in 1917, women physicians numbered less than 5% of all doctors. Many were eager for the chance to serve their country. But when the Army Surgeon General sent out a call for physicians to serve in the Medical Corps, the women who applied were rejected. Women physician leaders across the country protested this decision and petitioned the government, but the War Department didn’t budge.

Despite the stance of the Government, women physicians found ways to participate. Some became civilian contract surgeons in the U.S. Army or served with the French Army. Others volunteered with humanitarian relief organizations. Learn about this amazing story and women physician’s contributions and legacy in WWI by reading the article or by visiting the online exhibit using the links in the podcast notes.

Link: http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/3926-new-online-exhibit-explores-american-women-physicians-in-world-war-i.html


WW1 And American Art: Interview

Also in Articles and posts this week, we recently interviewed the staff of the Frist Center in Nashville, Tennessee, to discuss the landmark exhibition World War One and American Art, which was organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The exhibition has been touring the country for the last year and is on view at the Frist through January 21st. The exhibit includes 140 works in all kinds of media, including the monumentally large John Singer Sargeant piece -- Gassed.

Frist Center curators and directorial staff responded to our questions about the show, about the war, and about impact on the local region. Read the interview by following the link in the podcast notes.

Link: http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/3923-last-chance-to-experience-world-war-i-and-american-art-exhibit-at-the-frist-center-in-nashville.html

The Buzz - WW1 in Social Media Posts

And that brings us to the buzz - the centennial of WW1 this week in social media with Katherine Akey - Katherine, what did you pick to tell us about this week?

[Katherine Akey]

Hi Theo!

Follow up to the Halifax Explosion

Happy New Year, everyone! We’re glad to be back. Before we broke for the holidays in December, we talked a fair amount about the disastrous Halifax explosion of 1917. Recently, we shared an article on our Facebook page with some interesting contemporary news about that very incident. The article outlines the discovery by a Canadian arborist of some odd material lodged in a large pine tree near Halifax -- debris from the explosion 100 years ago. Shards of unidentified flying objects got lodged into the city’s canopy when the explosion occurred and to this day, lumber mills as far as the southern United States still don’t dare touch logs from Halifax, knowing some hidden metal artifact could wreck their machinery. Read more about the history hidden in the trees around Halifax by visiting the article at the link in the podcast notes.



The Poilu Censorship Workaround

Lastly this week, I wanted to share a really amazing article from the Centenaire website, the official national centennial organization in France.

The story comes from the Municipal Archives of Marseille, where one archivist discovered a sneaky and smart strategy to get around the heavy censoring of wartime letters. Jean Bouyala, who went on after the war to become a prominent surgeon, was one of several Poilus who found a way to write secret messages on their letters. It sounds bizarre, but by writing first using their saliva, then having the letter’s recipient brush black ink over the page, the saliva stanzas become legible, a darker black writing in the midst of the ink wash on the page. This way, the Poilu were able to send home messages that would otherwise have been blocked by the censor. A link to the article is in the podcast notes along with photographs of the magic-ink letters. Saliva-- the key to clandestine correspondence!

And that’s it this week for the Buzz!



Thank you all for listening to another episode of WW1 Centennial News.

We want to thank our guests...

  • Mike Shuster from the Great War Project Blog
  • Sabin Howard, master sculptor and artist
  • Dr. Libby O’Connell, World War One Centennial Commissioner, author and Historian
  • Dr John Boyd, Historian for the United States Army Chaplain Corps
  • And Katherine Akey, the shows line producer and the commision’s social media director…

And I am Theo Mayer - your host.


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; this podcast is a part of that…. Thank you!

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

We are helping to restore WW1 memorials in communities of all sizes across our country;

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

We want to thank commission’s founding sponsor the Pritzker Military Museum and Library for their support.

The podcast can be found on our website at ww1cc.org/cn  

on  iTunes and google play ww1 Centennial News, and on Amazon Echo or other Alexa enabled devices. Just say: Alexa: Play W W One Centennial News Podcast.

Our twitter and instagram handles are both @ww1cc and we are on facebook @ww1centennial.

Thank you for joining us. And don’t forget

to share the stories

you are hearing here today

about the war that changed the world!


We’ll the only thing I can think to say is.. Tanks a lot...


So long!


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