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WW1 Centennial News for Wednesday November 8, 2017 - Episode #45

Prisoners of war in a German prisoner campPrisoners of war in a German prisoner camp

The player below allows you to share and download the show from here as well. See buttons on the top right. Contact us if you have any questions.


  • POWs in WW1 | @01:30
  • The war on the eastern front is over - Mike Shuster | @11:15
  • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Gavin McIlvenna | @15:50
  • Speaking WW1 “Dingbat” | @22:40
  • 100C/100M, Wheaton IL - Nancy Flannery & Rob Sperl | @24:15
  • The Millionaire’s Unit - Dr. Marc Wortman | @30:50
  • North Dakota WW1 Centennial Committee - Darrell Dorgan | @38:00
  • Warrior in Khaki - Native American Warriors - Michael and Ann Knudson | @44:15
  • WWrite Blog - Pierre Lemaitre’s, The Great Swindle | @51:20
  • The Buzz - Native American History Month | @52:25



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 November 8th, 2017. We have a big lineup of guests for you this week… 9 in all! including:

  • Mike Shuster from the great war project blog,   
  • Gavin Mcilvenna, President of the Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Nancy Flannery and Rob Sperl from the 100 cities/100 memorials project in Wheaton, Illinois
  • Marc Wortman, author, historian and journalist
  • Darrell Dorgan, Chairman of the North Dakota WW1 Centennial Committee
  • Michael and Ann Knudson, authors of Warriors in Khaki
  • And Katherine Akey the shows line producer and the commissions social media director...


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.


World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week


This week 100 years ago in both the Official Bulletin, the US government's daily war gazette and the New York Times,  there are stories about the first American Prisoners-of-war captured by the Germans.

This got us thinking about the subject of POWs in WWI.

What were the rules? I mean, the Geneva convention that we usually think of, when we think of prisoner of war “treatment” today generally refers to treaties from 1949 after WWII. Those were updates from 2 treaties pulled together in 1929 -

And prior to the 20th century, the treatment and rights for combatants was pretty harsh - There were attempts to develop some kind of humanitarian standards through much of the second half of the 1800’s after the Crimena war.

What WAS the story with POWs in WWI? How many were there? Did the Red Cross play a role? What about American POWs?

So that’s the theme we are going to explore in today’s WW1 Centennial News THEN…   what was happening this week 100 years ago..

in the war that changed the world.



It’s the first week of November, 1917. The Europeans have been at war for over three years, but early this week, as they are training in a relatively quiet area of the western front, a company of American Soldiers gets raided by a German force. 3 are killed , 5 are wounded and 12 Americans get captured by the enemy.


Dateline Sunday November 4, 1917
The headline in the New York Times reads:
Attack Before Daylight
Forces in Training Held Small Salient of the Front Line Trenches
Pershing tells of loss

And the story reads:

Armed forces under the American flag have had their first clash with German soldiers---  in an attack which the Germans made on first line trenches, which the United States troops had taken for instruction ---
three Americans were killed, five wounded and twelve captured.


The Germans respond to the incident with a taunting article in Berlin’s Lokal Anzeiger newspaper


Dateline Sunday November 4, 1917

Another headline in the New York Times reads:

Berlin Rejoices Over American Prisoners; Lokal Anzeiger newspaper extends a “Welcome”

The story goes on to read:

The Berlin newspaper played up the capture of the Americans in their headlines under the captions:

“Good Morning Boys” and goes on to include:

Three Cheers for the Americans. Clever chaps they are! It cannot be denied. Scarcely have they touched the soil of this putrified Europe when they are already forcing their way into Germany!

It is our good fortune that we are equipped to receive and entertain numerous guests and that we shall be able to provide quarters for these gentlemen. However, we cannot promise them doughnuts and jam, and to this extent they will be obliged to receed from their former standard of living.

Above all they will find comfort in the thought that they are rendering their almighty president, Mr. Wilson, valuable services in as much as it is asserted that he is anxious to obtain reliable information concerning conditions and sentiments in belligerent countries.

As Americans are accustomed to travel in luxury and comfort, we assume that these advance arrivals merely represent couriers for larger numbers to come. We are sure the latter will come and be gathered in by us.


And the propaganda war is in full swing from all sides as exemplified in an article published in the US Government’s Official Bulletin.


Dateline Tuesday November 6, 1917


German Soldiers, Forced to murder their helpless foes and prisoners. Germans tell terrifying details in letters


In the story it reads:

The Committee on Public Information makes public herewith three letters taken from one of its forthcoming pamphlets “ German War Practices”


Here is the protest of a German soldier, an eye-witness to the slaughter of Russian soldiers in the Masurian lakes and swamps:

“ It was frightful, heart-rending, as those masses of human beings were

driven to destruction.

Above the terrible thunder of the cannon could be heard the heart-rending cries of the Russians…


But there was no mercy. Our captain had ordered: ‘The whole lot must die; so rapid fire.’

As I have heard…. five men and one officer on our side went mad from those heart-wrenching  cries. But most of my comrades and the officers joked as

helpless Russians shrieked for mercy while they were being suffocated in the swamps and shot down.

The order was: ‘ Close up and at it harder!’

For days afterwards those yells followed me, and I dare not think of them or I shall go mad.

There is no God; there is no morality and' no ethics any more. There are no human beings any more, but only beasts. I say Down with militarism.

This was from a letter by a Prussian soldier as reported by the US government.


From a wikipedia entry entitled: World War I prisoners of war in Germany, it states

From the beginning of the war, the German authorities find themselves confronted with an unexpected influx of prisoners. In September 1914, at the beginning of the war, 125,000 French soldiers and 94,000 Russians are made captive.

Early the following year in, 1915, the number of prisoners being held captive in Germany reaches 652,000 and then rises even more quickly. From February to August 1915, it goes from 652,000 to 1,045,000. One year later, in August 1916, it reaches 1.6 million, and then reaches just over 2.4 million prisoners of war by October 1918.


This experience gives Germany a strong foundation in the implementation, operation and exploitation of large POW and labor camps, know-how they will employ again in the future.


Preparing to deal with American POWs, the US government makes plans with the US Red Cross to help care for our captured doughboys.



Dateline: Wednesday November 7, 1917

The headline of the Official Bulletin reads:


The story reads:

Arrangements for supplying food and clothing to American prisoners of war in Germany have been worked out in detail by the War and Navy Departments and the American Red Cross. Since the beginning of the war, England and France have met Germany’s inadequate care of its prisoners by sending supplies of their own, and in the main the system has operated successfully.

To support American soldiers and sailors who may be captured and confined in German prison camps, the disbursing agent of the Red Cross at Berne, Switzerland, will be supplied with 4,500 tons of food immediately. This will comprise 1,800,000 individual rations, or enough to feed 10,000 men adequately for six months.


Now… Surprisingly, these preparations are over specified. The fact is, that the US POW count winds up being pretty low at just above 4,100 soldiers - even with over 2 million soldiers in the field. This may speak to the nature of the American Expeditionary Force’s campaign style and few battles where the forces are captured wholesale.

Contrast this with the currently on-going Battle of Caporetto - where 265,000 italian soldiers are captured by the Prussians.

And speaking of the Battle of Caporetto -

Two names pop up connected to that battle --- that  our listeners may be familiar with.

Supporting the Austrians is a young German Captain - who will emerge in WWII as a major military strategist - Field Marshal Erwin Rommel - the Desert Fox.

On the US side, there is a young ambulance driver who will emerge after the war as one of the giant figures of literature - Ernest Hemingway, who was wounded in this battle and used his experiences as a basis for his 1929 novel, A Farewell to Arms.

These notes on the battle of Caporetto were sent in to me by my cousin Michael who is a military cryptologist  and who wanted to point out that the use of SIGINT or signal intelligence - strategic decoding of battlefield radio communications - played a key part in Caporetto - used by the Austrians to wipe out and capture Italy’s artillery!

Links: www.ww1cc.org/bulletin








Great War Project

But perhaps the biggest and most impactful story 100 years ago this week is the end of the war on the eastern front --- as Russia formally drops out of the fight!

Mike Shuster, former NPR correspondent and curator for the Great War Project blog is here to tell us about it.

Welcome Mike.


[Mike Shuster]


Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog.




The Great War Channel

If you need a little WWI video action - we recommend the Great War Channel on Youtube hosted by Indy Neidell.  

This week’s new episodes are:

Battle of Beersheba and Canadian Frustration

Breakthroughs and Setbacks - Fall 1917

And as we covered last week -  Zionism during WW1

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




World War One NOW

Now we are going to fast forward into the present to WW1 Centennial News NOW - and explore what is happening to commemorate the centennial of the War that changed the world!


Events: Veterans Day

Interview with Gavin McIlvenna - Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

On this veterans day weekend, we are going to start with a special guest, Retired Sergeant Major Gavin Mcilvenna, President of the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

One of the most iconic images of remembrance during any Memorial or Veterans Day is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guards at attention, rain or shine, honoring our fallen with the serious, heartfelt solemnity and devotion to the duty that they are performing.

Gavin has been one of those guards and it is our privilege to have him here today to give us some insight into those men and women, that life and the job they do.

Welcome Gavin!



[Gavin, how did the tradition of honoring an Unknown Soldier begin - and what is the idea behind it? ]


[For those who stand guard over the unknown soldier - what does it mean to them?]


[Are there unknowns from multiple conflicts, or just World War One?]


[So You’re the president of the Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. What is the Society’s mission?]


[The Society is preparing for the centennial of the very first Unknown Soldier selected in 1921 -- can you tell us a bit about what those commemoration plans look like?]


Thank you so much for being here with us today!




Gavin McIlvenna is the President of the Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

We have links for you in the podcast notes to learn more...


Link: http://tombguard.org/


Speaking WW1

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

In ww1, Australian soldiers earned an outstanding reputation. They fought in many of the great theatres of war: Gallipoli, Damascus, Gaza, the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele.

Right from the beginning, though, they were seen as trouble by the English Officers… They were brash, boisterous, undisciplined, they dressed improperly -- some didn't even shave everyday. But they fought like tasmanian devils and if you ever hung out with australians you’ll know that they were just being their very cool and very natural Aussie selves - considering the English officers as uptight arses.

The Australians were also masters of slang, in their gruff-but-goofy style,

so it’s no surprise that they came up with a wonderfully nonsensical yet descriptive term for an uptight arse: A dingbat! A bit of an insult: A bit of a description…

The word itself - Dingbat - has earlier origins, being used since the early 19th century much like the word thingamajig, a placeholder for when you don’t quite know what to call something.

Today, the word’s main use is

as a computer type font filled not with letters but with symbols, shapes and objects - So if you always thought of Dingbat as a fancy asterisk...

in world war 1 it was simply a different kind of arse... Terisk.

See the podcast notes to learn more!


link: https://www.amazon.com/Tommy-Doughboy-Fritz-Soldier-Slang/dp/144563




100 Cities/100 Memorials


Wheaton IL 100 cities

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.

To start -  we just have to plug the fact that we are taking grant applications for the second round - we have matching grants to give away but you need to submit the application before January 15, 2018 - go to ww1cc.org/100Memorials to learn all about it.’


Now this week we are profiling the WWI Obelisk in Wheaton Illinois-- one of the first 50 awardees of the 100 available grants ---

with us tell us about their project are Nancy Flannery, Chair of the City of Wheaton Historic Commission, and Rob Sperl, Director of Parks and Planning, Wheaton Park District.

Welcome to both of you!

[exchange greetings]


[Nancy, in your grant application for 100 Cities / 100 memorials you said - Quote” The US participation in World War I not only changed the population of Wheaton, Illinois; it defined

Wheaton as a community willing to fight for its beliefs.Unquote

What did you mean by that?]


[Nancy - how did the obelisk come about?]


[Rob, I noted that your project is scaled well over $50,000 - and that the park board of commissioners committed to covering the rest - how did the city decide evolve?]


[ Is the project finished? Do you have plans for a rededication?]


[exchange thanks]


Nancy Flannery, is the Chair of the City of Wheaton Historic Commission, and Rob Sperl, is the Director of Parks and Planning Wheaton Park District.


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. We are very proud of this program that is stimulating communities all over America to rediscover and re-address their heritage. A HUGE thank you to all participants!

You can go to ww1cc.org/100 memorials or follow the link in the podcast notes to learn more about participating in this program!

Link: www.ww1cc.org/100memorials



Spotlight in the Media

Marc Wortman - The Millionaire’s Unit

Today, we are combining our Spotlight in the Media and our War in the Sky segments by speaking with Dr. Marc Wortman, historian, journalist and author, about his book The Millionaires' Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power.

The book inspired a recently released award winning documentary.

Welcome, Marc!


[So Marc, The Millionaire’s Unit recounts the history of the First Yale Unit. Can you give us an introduction to who this unit was and what they did during the war?]


[Katherine wanted to put in this question --- How did this group end up in the Navy Air Service rather than in the Army Air Service?]


[We’ve provided a link for our listeners to learn more about your books and your audiobook on audible… but let’s talk about the documentary, tell us about it…]


[here is a clip from the film’s trailer that just came out last week]


[Marc - it’s a fascinating story about young men who used their privileged position in life to do - what they clearly believed - was the right thing - their duty - and they had an impact that still echoes today.

Thanks so much for bringing us the story! ]




Dr. Marc Wortman is a historian, journalist and author. The Millionaire’s Unit and accompanying documentary are linked in the podcast notes.


Links: marcwortmanbooks.com





Updates from the States

North Dakota WW1 Centennial Committee

This week in our Updates from the States, We want to congratulate the WWI Centennial Committee from the Roughrider State, North Dakota. They have just launched their website at ww1cc.org/northdakota  all on word and lower case!

We invited North Dakota WWI Centennial Committee chairman Darrell Dorgan to join us.

Welcome, Darrell!




[Darrell, tell us about your state WWI Committee. How did it get established in North Dakota?]


[Because as chief technologist, I helped support the process, I was interested to learn that the North Dakota website was built by a Microsoft website hackathon -- that’s unique among our state publishing partners - how did that come about? ]


[What was the North Dakotan WWI experience? How did the war affect the state? ]


[What are some of the Committee key projects in the coming year?]


[Thank you Darrell!]




Darrell Dorgan is the Chairman of the North Dakota World War One Centennial Committee. Follow the North Dakota Committee by heading over to ww1cc.org/northdakota or follow the link in the podcast notes.

Link: www.ww1cc.org/northdakota


Warriors in Khaki

For our next story, we are going to stay in the Dakotas…  and look more into the service of the state, and specifically the WWI service by the Native American population.

Michael J. Knudson and Ann G. Knudson are a husband and wife writing team, and authors of multiple books on local World War 1 history in North Dakota.

[Welcome Knudsons!!]


[Michael, how did you two end up writing books about the service of North Dakotans in World War One? ]


[Ann, how does your latest book, Warriors in Khaki, differ from your earlier book, Ransom County’s Loyal Defenders?]


[Did you attend the UTTC Powow? How were you welcomed by the different tribal nations?]


[What kinds of challenges do you encounter when doing this kind of very detailed, very local research?]


[Do you have any upcoming work? [this lets them plug their upcoming book on South Dakota]


[Michael, Ann -- thank you for your time, and your books!]




Michael J. Knudson and Ann G. Knudson write books about the Dakotas and the history of the region. You can find links to their website as well as their books in the links in the podcast notes.





Articles and Posts

Shout out to the Bi-Centennial of WW1


As we were prepping this week’s section on articles and posts, I decided to take a quick look to see HOW MANY articles and posts we now have on our website at ww1cc.org - and just at that very moment, one of our interns, Eric Squazzin hit enter on article number 3 thousand 6 hundred!!!


Now everything that is published on our website is mandated to be preserved in perpetuity by the US Government as a document of interest to the American People - and I am proud to report - we got a LOT OF STUFF ABOUT WW1 gathered there!!!


And since we travel freely in time and space on this show - a little shout out to our friend in the future who are going to be running the bi-centennial of WWI - from all of us here in 2017 and 2018 - who have been contributing to the website - You are welcome!


Wwrite Blog


In our WWRITE blog, which explores WWI’s Influence on contemporary writing and scholarship, this week  the post title is “Pierre Lemaître's The Great Swindle: A Prize-Winning WWI Novel Hits the Screen During France's Great War Centennial”

The book, with the english title “the great swindle”, is not only about a post-war traumatic experience; it is also about the art, and, yes, the money that could be made by making a business out of the millions of dead bodies that had a hard time finding proper graves after the combat ended.

French director, Albert Dupontel, released the film adaptation of Lemaître’s pathbreaking book early in 2017. Read more about the award winning book and its accompanying film adaptation by visiting the Wwrite blog at ww1cc.org/wwrite or by following the link in the podcast notes.

Link: www.ww1cc.org/wwrite


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, what’s going on in the world of social media this week?

[Hi Theo!

Native American History Month

It’s Native American History Month and this week we started to see a swell in posts and articles about the service of Native Americans in the war. I wanted to highlight a few really great facebook pages to follow if you’re interested in learning more about the history and commemorations of Native American service.

The Facebook page “WW1 Native American Warriors” is a fabulous resource, connecting tribes from all across the country and sharing their events, articles and the stories of individuals all in one place.

Additionally, the Choctaw Code Talkers Association has a great facebook page, and you can follow the progress of the Muskogee Doughboy statue restoration at the statue’s official facebook page too.

There’s also the Native American Indian Veterans Page, and of course the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is sharing a ton of amazing stories, photographs and resources over the month.

Check the podcast notes for links to all of these pages, and that’s it this week for the Buzz! ]







And that’s WW1 Centennial News for November 8, 1917 and 2017

Our guests this week were:

  • Mike Shuster with a look at Russia’s revolution 100 years ago this week
  • Gavin Mcilvenna with insight into the service of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Nancy Flannery and Rob Sperl for the 100 cities/100 memorials project in Wheaton, Illinois
  • Marc Wortman with the story of The Millionaire’s Unit
  • Darrell Dorgan from the North Dakota WW1 Centennial Committee
  • Michael and Ann Knudson writers with a great tolerance for cold weather and huge expertise on Native American WW1 Warriors from North and South Dakota
  • Katherine Akey the Commission’s social media director and also the line producer for the show.

Thanks to Eric Marr for his help on our story research.

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.


This week’s featured web page is ww1cc.org/memorial - check it out! Big news there.


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!



Right mate - That’s a fair dinkum show this week - time to belt up and crack a tinnie - ya dingbat!

(with apologies to my Aussie buds for my truly terrible accent)


So long!


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