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WW1 Centennial News for Wednesday December 6, 2017 - Episode #49

Mystery ace, lion cub owner and unable to walk backward with eyes closed - listen to show to learn who this is...He is an ace, has lion cubs as pets, can't walk backwards with his eyes closed and is obviously way cool. Who is this? Listen to the show and find out.

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.



  • The African American saga in WW1 @ | 01:30
  • 11th Engineers Cambrai follow up @ | 08:55
  • Brits capture Jerusalem from Turks - Mike Shuster @ | 09:40
  • Millionaire’s Unit & Lafayette Escadrille documentary film producer - Darroch Greer @ | 13:55
  • AmazonSmile for the holidays @ | 21:35 
  • Speaking WW1- Foxhole, Dugout and Cubbyhole @ | 22:35
  • 100C/100M profile - Carmel By The Sea memorial arch - Ian Martin @ | 23:25
  • The American in Paris documentary - Antony Easton @ | 30:05
  • Mexican born, illegal immigrant most decorated Texan soldier in WW1 @ | 38:15
  • WWrite Blog - German songwriter/soldier found from rediscovering his music @ | 39:05
  • The Buzz - Katherine Akey @ | 40:20


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.

Before we get going - we’d like to send our thoughts and warm wishes to all the people of southern california who are experiencing the devastation of fires raging through your communities. Our thoughts are with you.


Today is December 6th, 2017. Our guests this week include:

  • Mike Shuster, updating us on events in the middle east   
  • Darroch Greer telling us about his films, The Millionaire’s Unit and The Lafayette Escadrille
  • Ian Martin from the 100 Cities/100 Memorials project in Carmel-by-the-sea California
  • Antony Easton sharing his experience making the film The American in Paris
  • And Katherine Akey, the shows line producer and the commission's 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.



The African American saga in World War 1 is both inspiring and terrible …

Less than a generation after the civil war, this is a time where black american men and women are considered second class citizens at best.

Chad Williams is the chair of the African & Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University and author of

“Torchbearers of Democracy: African-American Soldiers in the

World War I Era,”. quote:

"In many ways, World War I marked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement for African-Americans. Their service in the military had dramatic implications for African-Americans. Black soldiers faced systemic racial discrimination in the army and endured virulent hostility on returning to their homes at the end of the war. At the same time, service in the army empowered soldiers to demand their individual rights as American citizens and laid the groundwork for the future movement for racial justice."


So…  let's jump into our wayback machine and learn more about the African American experience in the war that changed the world!


World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week


It's the first week of December 1917 - Just a note to our audience - that the language of the times, which we have kept in our reports, refers to African Americans as negroes and colored.



Dateline: December 4, 197

A headline in the New York times reads

ARMY IS FAIR TO NEGROES - Policy of War Department is to discourage race discrimination.


The article reads -

Secretary of War Baker today announced that he had ordered an investigation of the allegation that there had been discrimination against negro Draftees.

Quote: "As you know, it has been my policy to discourage discrimination against any persons by reason of their race. This policy has been adopted not merely as an act of justice to safeguard the institution which we are now enagaged in defending -  and which any racial disorder must endanger.


The charges stem from accusations that the military is not allowing negro units into combat roles, but relegating them to Service Battalions for labor jobs.

And there is a lot of truth to it.

Racism is as endemic in the armed forces as it is in the rest of America at this time.

Southern Democrats try to block negroes from inclusion in the draft, few colored men served in the Navy and none in the Marine Corps, and the Army’s four segregated units—the 24th and 25th Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments are assigned guard duty on the Mexican border and never go abroad. African Americans comprised 13 percent of active-duty military manpower, but make up only seven-tenths of 1 percent of the officers.

Around 200,000 African Americans are deployed to Europe and serve with distinction in the AEF - the American Expeditionary Forces - as well as with the French Army.

While, as per the complaints, the vast majority of these troops are relegated to Services of Supplies (SOS) units and labor battalions, some 40,000 soldiers see combat in two new black units, the Ninety-second and Ninety-third Divisions.

Fighting alongside the French, the Ninety-third serves heroically throughout the war and experiences greater acceptance and more equal treatment than that found in the U.S. Army.

The division's 369th Infantry Regiment, "the Harlem Hellfighters," spend more than six months on the front lines — longer than any other American unit — in part because General Pershing, contrary to his policy of having American soldiers under American Command, gives the 369th to French commanders who take them to the front immediately -  bypassing much of the training the other combat soldiers undergo...

Regardless.. the 369th distinguishes itself as an awesome fighting force that never surrenders an inch of Allied territory nor loses a single soldier through capture.

From this regiment alone, 171 officers and men receive either Croix de Guerre or Legions of Merit from the French government.

The sacrifice of African American soldiers such as these certainly did not end racism at home or abroad, but it showed the world that their patriotism and heroism unquestioningly matches that of their white counterparts in the war that changed the world!













Dateline December 7

The headline in the NY Times reads:


The story reads:

The United States went to war against Austria-Hungary at 5:03 this afternoon when President Wilson approved a joint resolution, adopted by congress, declaring a state of war exists!


Wait a minute… I thought we did that on April 6!??

Well that is what makes this such an interesting event. On April 6, 2017 we declared war on Germany… but not the other axis powers. Though we declared Austria Hungary an ENEMY through the “Trading with the enemy act of 1917” which we told you about in episode 42… we did not formally declare war on them until 100 years ago this week.







Do you remember the story from last week about the 11th engineers who were caught in a German counter attack during the battle of Cambrai - and went at it with shovels, pick axes and wrenches because they were engineers not set up as combatants - well - this week the story has some interesting fallout as the French, the Engineers and the combat troops each are featured in an article in the NY times with a Rashomon style point of view on the issue.

First the French…

Dateline December 3, 1917

Headline: France gives high praise to our engineers at cambrai

The story reads:

“There is not a single person who saw them at work who does not render warm praise to the coolness, discipline, and courage of these improvised combatants”


From the seemingly - slightly jealous Pershing troops still waiting and ready to fight….


Headline: Pershing’s troops envy the Engineers

And the story includes:

An infantry Sergeant remarked: ‘We stay in these muddy trenches for a spell and let Fritz shoot his artillery at us and have never really had a chance to use our rifles except to snipe and pot at Fritz out in No Man’s Land on dark nights. Meanwhile - These railroaders managed to run their trains right into a good, thick scrap, and if this isn’t luck, I don’t know what it is.’”


And from the somewhat still astounded engineers


Headline: Engineers jest over first battle

In the story they describe the chaos of sudden, unexpected action,

“‘I hadn’t a steel hat handy”

‘so i picked up a petrol tin and put that on my head, and thought it might be better than nothing.”


The  journalist writes, “They are a splendid body of men,”

“Hard, keen and good humored, who made a joke of their thrilling adventure and of their present danger.”


And from another soldier, “‘It was the doggonedest experience I ever had, and a mighty close call!’


And that’s how it was this week, one hundred years ago in the war that changed the world!







Great War Project

Jerusalem is a city with massive significance to all the major religions of the world - Christians, Jews and Muslims. So as 1917 comes to a close, the British determine that they want to - even need to - win the city from the Ottoman Turks - and they wanted to do it before Christmas! They felt that the  psychological impact was desperately needed in these otherwise dark days.


Here to tell us about the campaign is Mike Shuster, former NPR correspondent and curator of the Great War Project blog.

[Mike Shuster]


Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog.


We also came across a very good 7 minute documentary clip about these event in the middle east 100 years ago this week - you’ll find it on Youtube called “Blood & Oil: Jerusalem Falls”  by Janson Media. We have included the link to it in the podcast notes






War in the Sky

The Millionaire’s Unit FILM

And speaking of documentaries -  in a special War in the Sky segment this week, we are speaking with Darroch Greer, co-producer and director of multiple films on aviation in World War One, including the recently released The Millionaire’s Unit and the upcoming documentary The Lafayette Escadrille.


Welcome, Darroch!




[Darroch, we recently had the author of the Millionaire’s Unit book on the show - Marc Wortman. How did you translate the book into a documentary?]


[We had a lot of interest from our listeners after Marc was on - how can people see the documentary? [the dvd is being released shortly and includes special other shorts]


[Your next project sounds great - the Lafayette Escadrille… Probably one of the most interesting pack of adventurers and daredevils of the 20th century - can you give out an overview?]


[So this week, is the in fact, the centennial of the Lafayette Escadrille getting its orders releasing its American pilots from the French Military - in preparation for transferring them to the US forces-- how did that transition go and what role did these guys play in the new US Army Air Service?]


[Darroch - When can we see a trailer and when does the film come out?  ]


[Will you come back and visit us here when the film publishes?]




Darroch Greer is the producer and director on documentary films about the WWI air war. You can find links to his documentaries -- The Millionaire’s Unit and The Lafayette Escadrille in the podcast notes.







The Great War Channel

For weekly videos about WWI  - join host Indy Neidell at the Great War Channel on Youtube.  

The episodes this week include:

  • Invasions, Naval Battles and German Raiders - WW1 in the Pacific
  • All Quiet on the Eastern Front
  • Shell Recycling
  • And finally - Origins of the German Alpenkorps

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 to WW1 Centennial News NOW - this section is not about history, but rather - it explores what is happening to commemorate the centennial of the War that changed the world!



Commission News:

The holiday shopping season is here and as you shop to bring cheer to you and yours --- you can also bring a little cheer to us with AmazonSmile.

What is AmazonSmile?

It’s an easy, simple and automatic way to support our many activities, including this Podcast, the national WWI memorial, our education programs and more…

If you designate United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars (USFCWW) as your charity on smile.amazon.com, Amazon will donate ½ a percent of everything you spend on Amazon to us.

It costs you nothing and it helps us a lot! So thank you… just go to Smile.Amazon.com and remember the US Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars

or even easier -- just follow the link in the podcast notes!



Speaking WW1

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

When people think WWI the image that comes to mind for many is barb wire and trenches.

Life at ground level generally toxic and lethal. So, soldiers spent much of their time living in the ground.

Besides the word Trenches, other related words also came into common use - several of which are still with us today.

Fox hole, Dug Out and Cubby Hole are three of them!

The history of Fox Hole and Dug Out are pretty obvious and the term Cubby was probably derived from the old english word cub - for shed, coop or hutch

Today we still have dugouts in baseball and cubbyholes in the office - terms that got popular 100 years ago when the motto was “get down, dig in and stash yourself in a hole”.

See the podcast notes to learn more!

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


100 Cities/100 Memorials


Carmel-by-the-sea, CA 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.

As you listen to our guest tell us about the project, remember that we are taking grant applications for the second round of awards - the deadline to submit the applications is January 15, 2018 - go to ww1cc.org/100Memorials to learn all about it.’


This week we are profiling the World War I Memorial Arch in Carmel-by-the-sea California-- One of the first 50 grant awardees.

with us tell us about the project is Ian Martin, a resident of Carmel and a member of the Carmel Patriots, the American Legion Post 512's non-veteran volunteer organization.


Welcome Ian!

[exchange greetings]


[Ian, the Carmel By the Sea memorial was designed by a renown resident of the city Charles Greene - can you tell us a little about him and his decision to build this really beautiful arch?]


[The arch is made out of sandstone - instead of granite - and I understand that this has posed some challenges in restoration. Why and What are those? ]


[How did you Patriots and American Legion Post 512 get involved in this restoration?]


[Are you planning a rededication?]


Ian - Thank you and congratulation to your team for getting this incredible WWI memorial designated as a WWI Centennial Memorial!

Ian Martin, a resident of Carmel-by-the-Sea and a member of the Carmel Patriots, the American Legion Post 512's non-veteran volunteer organization

If you have a local WWI memorial project you want to submit for a grant - go to ww1cc.org/100 memorials or follow the link in the podcast notes to learn more about how to participate in this program!

Link: www.ww1cc.org/100memorials




Spotlight in the Media

The American in Paris

For our Spotlight in the Media segment this week, we are speaking with Antony Easton, director of the documentary film The American in Paris-- which tells the story of the L’hopital Americain during the course of the great war.


Welcome Antony!



[So Antony, can you give us a brief introduction to the American Hospital in Paris - which got involved in the war in 1914, three years before America declared war?]


[Antony - give us an overview of the film and how you got involved in it?]


[Here is a clip from the trailer…]

[Run clip]


[In the trailer, it mentions that the French are recognizing the service of the hospital more and more in recent years-- Why is that? ]


[You recently premiered the documentary in both the US and in France? Do you think it is seen differently in each country?]


[So how can I see the film?]


Thank you Antony.


[thanks and goodbye]

That was Antony Easton--director of the documentary film The American in Paris. Learn more at the links in the podcast notes.




Articles and Posts

Our website at WW1cc.org is the home and archive for lots of things WW1 - with over 3700 articles on WWI, 2,000 locations listed in our map database and nearly 1400 WWI related events in our national events register - its a great place to explore and new articles are published weekly.

This week we will highly a few of them for you.

Brooke Kroeger interview

First from ww1cc.org/news--

A remarkable new book has appeared on the World War I scene, one that traces the origins of the Women's Suffrage movement in America to the war effort 100 years ago.

It explores why, a group of prominent and influential men in New York City, and beyond, came together to help women gain the right to vote.

Brooke Kroeger is the author. She is a journalist, author of five books, a professor of journalism at

the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and director of the Global and Joint Program Studies, which she founded in 2007.

You can read the interview where she speaks about this book, and what she found in writing it, by following the link in the podcast notes.



Marcelino Serna

Next is a story about Mexican-born Marcelino Serna.

When the U.S. entered World War One in 1917, it is estimated that roughly 500,000 people who joined the United States armed services were immigrants. According to the National Park Service, this amounted to 18 percent of U.S. troops.

One of these was a Mexican-born, illegal immigrant named Marcelino Serna, who volunteered to join the US Army and was the first Mexican American to collect a Distinguished Service Cross.

Read more about the heroism and the man who returned from ‘Over There” as the most highly-decorated Texan soldier to serve in World War I by visiting ww1cc.org/news or following the link in the podcast notes.


Link: http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/3779-marcelino-serna-most-decorated-texan-of-world-war-one.html

Wwrite Blog

In our WWRITE blog, which explores WWI’s Influence on contemporary writing and scholarship, this week’s posts reads “Soon, All Too Soon”

When British musicians Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman found and performed German sheet music written by a soldier killed in Verdun, they had no idea the song, "Soon, Too Soon," would also lead to the discovery of the composer's body, which had been buried in an unmarked grave in France's Meuse-Argonne region.

Read about the captivating hunt for a man behind a melody.

Here is a clip from the song performed by Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman

[run clip]

The post including a video are at ww1cc.org/WWRITE or follow the link in the podcast notes.




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?


Hi Theo!

Iron Harvest

This week, we shared an article from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Iron Harvest. It is estimated that more than a billion shells were fired during the First World War, and that as many as 30 percent of those failed to explode. Specialty bomb-disposal units in France and Belgium collect and defuse the unexploded ordinances, which are often found by farmers as they do their work. These local farmers are the ones who coined the name Iron Harvest, as they come across literal tonnes of shells every year. It’s estimated that it will take another 500 years of the Iron Harvest before the area is fully safe again. Read more about this constant reminder of the war, and watch a video of the disposal units in action, by following the link in the podcast notes.



Women Photographers

Finally this week, a story close to my heart. Hyperallergic put out a piece this week which we shared on facebook featuring and reviewing a new exhibition at Impressions Gallery in Bradford, England. The show is titled No Man’s Land: Women’s Photography and the First World War and features the work of some very talented and brave women photographers who served during the conflict. Some of the artists included served as official photographers, while others photographed while serving as nurses or in other auxiliary roles. One photographer was a motorcycle and ambulance driver who volunteered at 18 and whose photos range from graphic and distressing to coy and humorous. Three contemporary artists’ work is shown as well, complimenting the work done by the women a century ago. Follow the link in the podcast notes to see some of the images and to read the stories of the photographers.

And that’s it this week for the Buzz!



Thank you for having listened to WW1 Centennial News for the first week of December, 1917 and 2017


We want to thank our guests...

  • Mike Shuster from the great war project blog,   
  • Director and Producer Darroch Greer
  • Ian Martin from the 100 Cities/100 Memorials project in Carmel-by-the-sea California
  • Director Antony Easton
  • Katherine Akey the shows line producer and the commission's social media director...


Thanks to Eric Marr for his great 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; Your listening to 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.


This week’s featured web page is ww1cc.org/subscribe - where you can subscribe to our various communications products including our weekly newsletter - the Dispatch, the Education newsletter and of course this podcast if you happen not to be a regular subscriber.


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!



I am going to climb into my cubby and pull the blankets over my head!


So long!


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