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WW1 Centennial News for Wednesday October 25, 2017 - Episode #43

American troops move to the Western Front - still fresh faced and innocentAmerican troops move to the Western Front
still fresh faced and innocent

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  • US troops quietly begin deployment to the western front | @01:15
  • British troops near mutiny - Mike Shuster | @06:55
  • Zeppelin L-49 captured intact - War in The Sky | @10:50
  • Announcing Ceremonial groundbreaking for America’s WWI Memorial in Washington DC -Facebook Live stream coming | @15:30
  • All about America’s WWI Memorial in DC - Edwin Fountain | @16:15
  • Junior Master Gardener Poppy Program update - Lisa Whittlesey | @24:10
  • Speaking WWI - the word is Nark! | @29:35
  • 100C/100M project profile - Borough of Danville, PA - Jamie Shrawder | @31:00
  • International Caparetto, Kobarid and Karfreit - Commemoration | @36:10
  • First three American combat casualties - from 16th infantry | @37:35
  • The Franco-American links - US Centennial Commissioner Seifried | @39 :00
  • About Aline Kilmer’s poetry - Peter Molin on WWRITE blog | @39:35
  • Buzz on Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and selection of the Unknown Soldier | @40:45


View the PDF transcript


Welcome to World War 1 centennial News - 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 October 25th, 2017 and our guests this week are:

  • Mike Shuster from the great war project blog,   
  • Edwin Fountain, Vice Chair at the US WW1 Centennial Commission
  • Lisa Whittlesey, Director of the International Junior Master Gardener Program
  • And Jamie Shrawder, the Administrator of Governmental Affairs for the Borough of Danville, Pennsylvania

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.


This was a big week 100 years ago in the War that changed the world.

Looking back - --- America declares war 6 months ago and the first American troops arrive in Europe 4 months ago.

This week 100 years ago, the Army’s 1st division quietly deploys to Sommervillier -  in france - a village near the western front almost directly between Belgium and Switzerland.

We put a link in the podcast notes to some National Archive footage showing the the soldiers of the 1st division moving their horse drawn wagons, mechanised trucks, artillery and men to the fighting front.

This is in the midst of a lots of controversy, conflicting agendas… opinions, and a very dire situation in the war “over there”.

So let’s jump into our wayback machine to see what going on and how things play out 100 years ago this week.

World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week


We are nearing the end of November 1917 and in the US, speculation is high about “Our Boys” getting into the fight.

The official bulletin says NOTHING about this, the Wilson administration is being obscure, but the public press is sensing that something is up.

[Sound Effect]

Dateline: October 22, 1917

The headline in the New York Times reads:

Hints Our Army is Near Action….

Secretary Baker’s guarded review is taken to mean that soldiers soon will be in the trenches.

In the story it reads:

In his review to press, Secretary of War Baker emphasized  the status of the Pershing expedition by giving it the most prominent position in his analysis of the military equation.

He declares that “our men in France, after three months of intensive training, are in splendid physical condition and efficient fighting trim” and that they “Now feel at home in the war zone”.

The Secretary had no comment to make on the statement, but the interpretation placed on his words, when carefully weighed here tonight, is that they mark the verge of the actual entrance of the American Troops into the fighting line.


Now Over in Europe, the situation is both complex and dire.

We are going to zoom out for an overview of the situation.

The troops on all sides are deeply war weary from the intense multi-year carnage of this unprecedented conflict.

The Russians are effectively falling out of the fight with internal revolution and mass mutinies within their ranks. Everyone is clear that Russia is dropping out.

This will free up a massive resources for the Germans for an expected major spring offensive.


Although the Americans have come to join the fight, and despite having been technically at war since April, the United States has just four infantry divisions in France. These are not seasoned troops. These are young civilians short on training, equipment, modern staff techniques and without combat experience. This raises a contentious concept called Amalgamation.

Amalgamation would have the United States insert its men directly into existing British and French units at the company level. This, argue the europeans, would compensate for the American officers and NCOs lack of familiarity with modern staff arrangements and technologies like aviation, armor, machine guns and heavy artillery.

American troops would thereby be commanded at the tactical level by American junior officers, but the operational and strategic direction of American forces would be handled by more experienced Europeans.

Though this sounds practical, many Americans including General Pershing look at the enormous casualty levels on the western front and recoil against the thought of our young men being used as cannon fodder by European generals.

Pershing believes that the Europeans have become too tied to trench warfare. He has a different concept embodied  in his "open warfare" doctrine, which, he argues, will restore mobility to warfare by emphasizing American aggressiveness and marksmanship.

Politically, Wilson and his advisors also recognized that amalgamation of American forces will not allow for a distinctive American presence on the western front.

Wilson believes that he will need to be able to point to an American contribution to victory if he is to represent American interests in any post-war peace conference.

Yet it is obvious that the Americans are not yet ready to fight on their own.

Americans have virtually no experience in this new modern warfare. They need time to learn about it, trench warfare and modern tactics. They also need time to build relationships with their French and British allies and to overcome the crazy inefficiencies of their own mobilization.

There is great confidence that we can do it. The question is whether we can be trained, blooded, and effective in time to stop the German spring offensive.

So on October 21, the first of the doughboys pack up, and General John J. Pershing leads the 1st Division to Sommervillier - a relatively quiet part of the western front to take the men of the American Expeditionary force to the fight 100 years ago this week!

We want to thank Michael s. Neiberg and Harold K. Johnson professors of Military history at the US Army War College for their great and insightful article on the subject.

That link and other sources are in the podcast notes.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfeHCj7yQa4






Great War Project

From the Great War Project Blog - we are joined by Mike shuster, former NPR correspondent and curator for the Great War project.

The endless carnage, devastating conditions and futile progress at Passchendaele is taking its toll on men and morale - especially with the British troops under a seemingly uncaring British commander - General Douglas Haig. Discontent  is boiling up in the ranks. Mike - please tell us the story…


[Mike Shuster]


Thank you Mike. That was Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog.



War in the Sky

This week in the great war in the sky we go to Bourbonne - les- bains - in France - interestingly not too far from Sommerviller where the 1st Division is heading.

The Associated press has a reporter that gets to see a intact captured german Zeppelin.

[Sound Effect]

Dateline: Sunday October 21, 1917

The Headline in the NY times reads:

“Americans Inspect Captive Zeppelin”

“French also throng to see the great airship that was brought down intact!

Germans Tried to wreck it… Prevented by victorious French Aviator who showed great pluck!”


In this illustrative story we learn many things about these giants of the sky what were sometimes referred to as Baby Killers or Pirates because of their bombing of civilian areas.

The story reads:

The crews of the Super-Zeppelins L49 and L50 have been interrogated and their replies confirm the supposition that they made up part of a single expedition against England.

The Pirate fleet numbered twelve and left their stations separately. The prisoners say that when they reached the English coast, they were much bothered by anti-aircraft guns and even more by searchlights.

L-50 quickly dropped its bombs and then rose to a height of three miles where they were caught by strong winds.

Zeppelin L-49 came down near Bourbonne-Les-Bains---  intact, as were its machinery and its instruments.

When the Zeppelin’s commander saw that it was impossible to save his ship, he destroyed the wireless apparatus and tried to explode the airship by firing his pistol into it.

An opportunity was given to some American Officers to inspect the craft with French flying men.

The whole body of the Zeppelin is painted black except the top, which is silvered. There is a small German Cross on each side amidships.

The German airmen seemed surprised to see the Americans who had an opportunity to talk with some of them, and also with the Zeppelin commander, a slight blonde Lieutenant, speaking excellent english.

A young French aviator told how he flew in pursuit of the Zeppelin to such an altitude that his cheeks froze and how he succeeded finally in forcing the craft down with his machine gun. When he saw they were about to land, he dived to earth. Other french aviators landed near. At the point of his pistol, the germans were prevented from damaging the craft further and were made prisoner.

This is from an Associated Press report and a  newspaper article published in the New York Times - and it is a story that unfold in the great war in the sky one hundred years ago this week.

The link to the original article in the New York Times is in the podcast notes.



The Great War Channel

We are really happy that you listen to our podcast  - but If you’d like to watch some videos about WW1, we’d like to recommend that you see our friends at the Great War Channel on Youtube -

New episodes for this week include:

  • Operation Albion Concludes - Allied Failures in Belgium
  • Their second episode is a bit unique --  it is Interview is with rocker Pär Sundström from the hard metal band Sabaton who write and perform a lot of WWI themed songs. Here is a clip of the interview.
  • The third video is called: German defense strategy and tactics at Passchendaele

Follow the link in the podcast notes or search for “the great war” on youtube.



World War One NOW


We have moved forward in time to the present…

Welcome to WW1 Centennial News NOW  - This part of the program is not about history but how the centennial of

the War that changed the world

is being commemorated today.

Commission News

Interview with Edwin Fountain

In Commission News we want to invite you to a very special live streaming event on November 9 at 11am Eastern.

You’ll be able to tune in to Facebook live to watch the ceremonial groundbreaking for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington DC.

It may surprise our listeners to learn that in Washington DC there is no national WWI memorial honoring our doughboys, their sacrifice and their victory in WWI. It’s true! There is a memorial for WWII, for Korea and for Vietnam but none for WWI.

With is today is a man who has passionately been addressing this issue for the better part of a decade - maybe longer. He is also the Vice Chair of the World War One Centennial Commission - Edwin Fountain. Edwin welcome to WW1 Centennial News!


[Edwin  - Why is it important that we build a national WW1 Memorial in our nation’s capital.]


[Edwin -  tell us about America’s WWI Memorial in Pershing Park what is it going to be like?]


[We will post a link to that sculpture design in the podcast notes.]


[How can our listeners help build this memorial for our doughboys?]


Thank you Commissioner Edwin Fountain.

That was Edwin Fountain - the vice-chair of the US World War One Centennial Commission.


[Sound Effect]

Junior Master Gardener Follow Up with Lisa Whittlesey

In Episode #28, we introduced you to the Junior Master Gardener Program a 4H project. It’s an international youth gardening program that engages children in novel, “hands-on” learning experiences that provide a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment, and cultivates not just the earth but young minds.

This Fall, the Junior Master Gardener program partnered with the US World War One Centennial Commission’s Poppy Seed Program to raise money for the program and America’s World War I Memorial in Washington DC.

So as a reminder to our listeners, the WWI Poppy Program lets you Raise money for your organization, While helping us build the National WW1 Memorial in Washington DC.

The red poppy is an internationally recognized symbol of rememmbrance for veteran sacrifice.

It works like this...

for a donation of around 60 dollars, we send you a box of 60 Red Poppy seed packets in a kit. Your organization sells the poppy seed packets for $2 (or anything you want) and you keep the second dollar.

So you can raise money for your local veterans organization, school, church, scout troop or master junior gardener team - learn more about WWI and help us build the memorial in DC all at the same time -

With us to give us an update is Lisa Whittelsey,  Director of the International Junior Master Gardener Program. Hi Lisa - good to have you with us again!


[Lisa: how are our gardeners doing?]


[Lisa, what are some of the reasons the kids and their schools should get involved with the poppy program?]


[some of your kids really got into it  -- even making their own video commercials. Let me play a clip from a group of enterprising junior master gardeners from the lone star state of Texas!]

[what are some of the stories you’ve heard about the program?]


[So flowers and poppy growing seems like a springtime activity - What happens now? Does the program go through the winter?]


Thank you Lisa! That was Lisa Whittlesey, Director of the International Junior Master Gardener Program. Learn more about the Program and the collaboration with the Commission by following the links in the podcast notes.

Update/Reminder on how the poppy program works







Speaking WW1

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

There were many things you didn’t want to be called in the trenches -- a coward, a deserter, a “client for Rouen”, aka a man with a venereal disease -- but one of the worst possible things to be called in the trenches was: a Nark!

Really… So was there a drug culture in the trenches and informants to the military narcotics vice squad?? - well no -

Contrary to popular belief, the word “nark” -- spelled n-a-r-k -- doesn’t come from the word “narcotics” at all. In fact, it’s origin comes from the word for nose, “Nak”, N-A-K in Romany, the language of the Romany or Gypsy people.

It’s original use in pre-war England was in relation to people who stick their nose in other people’s business - informers, or perhaps because they sniffed out trouble!

During the war, the word was brought into the trenches and spread into the American and ANZAC vocabularies. It came to mean a soldier who would reveal other private’s secrets, usually in order to improve his own standing.

Nark -- the last kind of soldier you want to be! And this weeks word for speaking World War One!

See the podcast notes to learn more!

link: https://www.amazon.com/Tommy-Doughboy-Fritz-Soldier-Slang/dp/1445637839/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508848013&sr=8-1&keywords=tommy+doughboy+fritz

100 Cities/100 Memorials


Welcome to our 100 Cities / 100 Memorials segment about the $200,000 matching grant challenge to rescue and focus on our local WWI memorials.

Last month, we announced the first 50 “WWI Centennial Memorials”.

We’ll be awarding another 50 matching grants early next year.

If you live in a town that has a WWI memorial that might want a little attention… now is the time to go to ww1cc.org/100memorials and learn what you can do about it, what others have done and how to apply for the matching grants.

The 100 Cities / 100 Memorials project in Danville, Pennsylvania was one of the first 50 awardees - and here to tell us about the project is Jamie Shrawder, the Administrator of Governmental Affairs for the borough of Danville.  

Welcome, Jamie!

[exchange greetings]

[Jamie - Danville has a memorial park with several monuments - The four sided WWI monuments is really striking with an eagle atop a four sided granite base. When did it get erected?]


[How do you and how does Danville feel about being one of the awardees and your memorial getting designated as a WWI Centennial Memorial?]


[I saw in your proposal that you approached various veterans organizations to support the restoration - how did that work out?]


[Cleaning up one of these historic memorials isn’t done by grabbing a can of brasso and polishing up the brass (BTW - I just felt 1000 conservators cringe at once) - how do you go about it?]


[do you have plans for a rededication?]


[exchange thanks]

That was Jamie Shrawder, the Administrator of Governmental Affairs for the Borough of Danville.

We are going to continue to profile 100 Cities / 100 Memorials projects - not only awardees but also teams that are continuing on to round #2 which is now open for submissions.

So listeners - this weekend - if you are in the United States - take a few minutes look around your town and find your local WWI memorial.

There WILL be one.. And you’ve probably seen it but did not know what it was. You’ll find it near the county court house, in a municipal park, by the old high school building, at the American Legion or the VFW post, or in an area of your local cemetery.

When you DO find it, and if it needs some TLC, please go to WW1CC.org/100Memorials and see how you can start the ball rolling to get that memorial and the doughboys it honors some help.

You can follow the link in the podcast notes.

Link: www.ww1cc.org/100memorials



International Report

Kobarid Museum: Commemorations in Slovenia

In our International report this week, we head to Slovenia, to the Kobarid [ko-bah-reed] Museum located near the eastern border of Slovenia and Italy - There, from October 20th to November 11th-- historians, soldiers and citizens will gather for a series of events commemorating the Battle of Caporetto, also known as the Battle of Kobarid or the Battle of Karfreit.

The Battle was so devastating for the combatant Italian forces that the word Caporetto gained a particular resonance in Italy. It is used to denote a terrible defeat – the failed General Strike of 1922 by the socialists was referred to by Mussolini as the "Caporetto of Italian Socialism".

In 1917 - the Italians lost 305,000 men, 265,000 of those as prisoners of war.

Though not as devastating, the German and Austro Hungarian lost 70,000 men in that battle.

Commemorations at the Kobarid Museum include a new exhibition with the title "Kobarid, Caporetto, Karfreit 1917"; there will also be a ceremony along the Walk of Peace from the Alps to the Adriatic, lighting candles at the memorials and cemeteries on the way.

Many more events are scheduled, including a cross country running event in the region that will join the former combatants as colleagues -

You can find out more by heading to the Kobarid Museum’s website and the Walk of Peace website. Follow the link in the podcast notes to learn more.




Articles and Posts

16th Division

This week in our Articles and Posts segment - where we explore the World War One Centennial Commission’s rapidly growing website at ww1cc.org -

This week we are profiling a great article about the 16th Infantry division -- and how its service in WW1 is being commemorated.

On November 3rd 1917, Corporal James Gresham, and Privates Thomas Enright and Merle Hay, were killed in action during a German trench raid near the little village of Bathelémont (baa-tel-ay-mon) in France. These soldiers -- all members of F Company, 16th Infantry -- were the first three American combat casualties in World War I.

The 16th Infantry Regiment Association will honor Gresham with the dedication of a plaque at his mother’s home in Evansville, Indiana, at 10:00 am, on November 3rd this year.  

The article includes a conversation with the Association's President, Steven E. Clay, about about the 16th Infantry's soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. You can read that discussion by following the link in the podcast notes.

Link: http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/3271-four-questions-for-steven-clay-president-of-the-16th-infantry-regiment-association.html

Commissioner Seefried

Another article reflects on the rededication of the statues of General Pershing and the Marquis de Lafayette in Versailles that we reported over the past weeks . US WWI Centennial commissioner Monique Seefried attended the ceremony at Versailles.

This week at ww1cc.org/news -- she talked to us from France about the event, the statues, and what they mean for the future of the French-American legacy. Read this insightful and touching piece from Commissioner Seefried that illuminates the very special link between our two nations by following the link in the podcast news.


WWrite Blog

And now for an update on our WWRITE blog, which explores WWI’s Influence on contemporary writing and scholarship, this week's post is:

"Are war wives - war poets, too? "

Consider those women who write about the contortions on domestic life and feminine sensibility brought about by war...

Author, veteran, and teacher, Peter Molin, explores the idea this week in a post about poet Aline Murray Kilmer, wife of well-known American WWI poet, Joyce Kilmer, who was killed during the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918.

Aline's poetry conveys the urgency and nuance of a war wife's uncertainty as she finds her tranquility and self-worth vexingly dependent on her husband, even in his permanent absence.

Don't miss this rich, insightful post about the often-overlooked and, yes, war poet, Aline Kilmer! Read it by going to ww1c.org/w-w-r-i-t-e or following the link in the podcast notes.


The Buzz - WW1 in Social Media Posts

That brings us to the buzz - the centennial of WW1 this week in social media with Katherine Akey - Katherine - Hi Katherine!--

Hi Theo!

Old Rhinebeck Aerodome

We’ll start with a Facebook post from the Old Rhinebeck Aerodome. They had a WW1 Airshow on October 15th, the last for their season this year, and someone in attendance shared a bunch of really great photos from the event on Facebook.

Pilots wore WW1 era uniforms, both Doughboy and German, and there was even an old Ambulance and stretcher bearers in case anyone got hurt. The afternoon included a hero, a heroine (Cheer!), the villainous Black Baron of Rhinebeck (Boo!), and pyrotechnics, as well as some really beautiful aircraft, including a Fokker Triplane and, my personal favorite, a reproduction 1910 Hanriot. See the photos, and visit the Aerodome website, at the links in the podcast notes.




Unknown Soldier

Finally this week, I wanted to share an article from History.com that is yet another powerful story as we lead up to Veterans Day: the selection of the Unknown Soldier.

On October 24th, 96 years had passed since the first Unknown Soldier was selected by a US Officer in the French town of Chalons-sur-Marne.

According to the official records of the Army Graves Registration Service, four bodies were transported to Chalons from the cemeteries of Aisne-Marne, Somme, Meuse-Argonne and Saint-Mihiel.

French and American officials then underwent the ceremony of selecting one of the four caskets displayed, each draped with an American flag. Sergeant Edward Younger, the man given the task of making the selection, carried white roses to mark the chosen casket. According to the official account, Younger “entered the chamber in which the bodies of the four Unknown Soldiers lay, circled the caskets three times, then silently placed the flowers on the third casket from the left. He faced the body, stood at attention and saluted.”

The “Unknown Soldier” remains in Arlington National Cemetery to this day, honored among and for the approximately 77,000 United States servicemen killed on the Western Front during World War I.

And with that, we continue the countdown to veterans day. That’s it this week for the Buzz!



Thank you Katherine. And that all our stories for you this week on WW1 Centennial News - Now before you flick off your play button - remember - for those of you who listen to end - we always leave you with a special goody or two!


So in closing - we want to thank our guests:

  • Mike Shuster and his report on discontent within the British Army
  • Vice Chair Edwin Fountain, speaking with us about the National WW1 Memorial
  • Lisa Whittlesey, updating us on the Junior Master Gardener Poppy Competition
  • Jamie Shrawder, telling us the story of the Danville Pennsylvania 100 Cities 100 Memorials project
  • Katherine Akey the Commission’s social media director and also the line producer for the show.

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 program is a part of that….

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 with someone

about the war that changed the world!


Hey man… get your nose outta my business dude - you nark!

So long!


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