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WW1 Centennial News for February 02, 2018 - Episode #57

Base Hospital No. 59, Rimaucourt in France where Josephine Heffernan served. Base Hospital No. 59,  in France where Josephine Heffernan served.

 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.


  • Feb. ‘18 overview - Ed Lengel, Katherine Akey, Theo Mayer | @01:40
  • War In The Sky 1918 preview - RG Head | @11:20
  • Fighting in Russia - Mike Shuster | @18:20
  • Harlem’s Rattlers - Dr. Jeffrey Sammons | @22:40
  • A Century in the Making - The maquette arrives in DC | @30:00
  • Speaking WWI - Attaboy! | @35:40
  • Nurse Josephine Heffernan - Dr. Marjorie DesRosier | @37:30
  • 100C/100M Beaverton Michigan - Ed Rachwitz & Scott Govitz | @43:25
  • WWI War Tech - Gas Masks | @47:55
  • Articles & Posts - Dazzle Camo & S.S. Tuscania sinks | @49:45
  • The Buzz - WWI Social Media - Katherine Akey | @51:55


Welcome to World War 1 centennial News - episode #57 - 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 February 2nd, 2018 and our guests for this week include:

  • Dr. Edward Lengel, in our February 1918 overview
  • RG Head, with a full year look at the War in the Sky
  • Mike Shuster, from the great war project blog looking at the chaotic situation in Russia
  • Dr. Jeffrey Sammons speaking about the Harlem Rattlers and the African American soldiers’ experience in WWI
  • Dr. Marjorie DesRosier telling us about nurse Josephine Heffernan
  • Ed Rachwitz and Scott Govitz, from the 100 Cities/100 Memorials project in Beaverton, Michigan
  • Katherine Akey, with some selections from the centennial of WWI in social media

All that and more --- this week -- on WW1 Centennial News -- which is brought to you by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, the Pritzker Military Museum and Library and the Starr foundation.

I’m Theo Mayer - the Chief Technologist for the Commission and your host. Welcome to the show.


NEW - Monthly Preview Roundtable

Overview Chat with Ed, Katherine and Theo


Before we jump into our wayback machine and look at 100 years ago this week, we are going to try something new.

You know we have editorial meetings twice a week where we define the content for each week’s show. For the history section - which is one of the most popular parts of the podcast - we get into these great conversations about “what was really going on 100 years ago this week”. We look at the politics, the Official bulletin, the NY times, history book references and of course we have our own little band of experts and researchers -

It occurs to us that having a short version of one of these conversations -- in front of YOU at the top of each month…  might be a great way to provide context and overview. In other words  - from an overview perspective and of course with 20/20 hindsight - what is the next month all about in the War the changed the world? - and what are the themes we are going to hear about this coming month…

So the other day, Dr. Ed Lengel, Katherine Akey and I sat down (virtually of course - Ed was in Dublin, Katherine in DC and I am in LA) --- and we talked about February 1918 - Here is how it went….


Ed… it seems like the big theme in February is all about troop movements and preparation - The Americans to Europe and prepping for engaging the enemy - the Germans from the eastern front - leaving Russia for the western front and prepping for a knock-out spring offensive… so what are some of the specifics?


[ED Lay out the basic outlines and punctuate with the “topic headers” of some specifics -

-America sending ever larger numbers of troops over - New rounds of training as arriving divisions get embedded with British and French troops

-Loss of the tuscania

-German armistice and peace with Russia withdraw from the Eastern front, leave Russia and red/white armies to their internal divisions - While Germans can concentrate forces to counter American support

-Germans want to “school” fresh US troops, and want US Media to report on it; Germans being very strategic with their aggression


-month dramatic climax with the German COUNTER Gas attack on 1st division Ansauville near Metz/Nancy Feb 26/27th


Katherine you came up with some great references and article that illustrate Ed’s points - can you give us some of the datelines, headlines and gist of some of these? NOTE: Katherine - based on the articles you are picking - If I know what they are - we might break up ed section with references rather than having them all at the end.

-French and British (publically) very optimistic about outlook, skeptical of the strength of German attack on west







War in the Sky

For our War In The Sky segment, we are joined today by RG Head, retired Air Force Brigadier General, former fighter pilot, military historian, and author

Welcome RG

[greet one another]

[RG - thank for joining us again. I wanted to bring you on to help us with an overview of the War in The Sky for 1918. Of course it has to be in context of the other key events of the year, but what should we expect for 1918 in the the War in the Sky?]



1918 opened gloomily for the Allies. The aerial war in 1917 had introduced massed fighter tactics, close air support of ground forces and some strategic bombing. For the Allies, their many concentrated 1917 offensives failed and resulted in high losses on the ground and in the air. The Allies were on the defensive.

  1. 1. On the other hand, Germany instituted "The Amerika Plan," which featured five major offensives in an attempt to win the war before the Americans can make a meaningful contribution. Part of this plan was for the German Air Force to double its size in eight months in the hope of winning back air superiority, which it lost in the months after "Bloody April" 1917.
  2. 2. In February, the German Air Service forms two more Fighter Wings based on the success of Manfred von Richthofen's Jagdgeschwader I.
  3. 3. In late February, the German Army launches Operation Michael against the British, the first of the major offensives in the West, advancing 30 miles in eight days. The Germans mass 750 aircraft against the English 580, including 38 ground attack squadrons. The air battle is one-sided: the British lost 478 aircraft in 10 days, and by April 29 had lost 1,302. Britain was only saved by their high production rate of aircraft and pilots.
  4. 4. On March 3, The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk certified the Russian surrender, and the Germans initiate a massive transfer of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and aircraft from the Eastern to the Western Front.
  5. 5. On the first of April, Britain forms the Royal Air Force, the first independent air arm of any nation. The RAF also includes an Independent Air Force performing the first strategic bombing missions on a large scale.
  6. 6. The same day in April, German Sergeant Weimar is the first combat pilot to escape his aircraft using a parachute. The British would not issue parachutes to its aviators until September 1918.
  7. 7. In the Spring, the major achievement in air operations must be the organization, training and combat performance of the US Air Service. From its status in April 1917 of only 65 officers and 1,100 men, the Air Service grew to 7,700 officers, 51,000 men, with over 75 percent of them deployed to France, supporting 45 fighting squadrons.
  8. 8. In June and July, the Germans launch two offensives for the Marne River, the last of their five 1918 desperate attacks. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) contributes to the Allied victory at Chateau-Thierry in preventing the Germany Army from crossing the river.
  9. 9. September is the costliest month of the war for the Allied Air Forces as they lose 580 aircraft to the Germans 107 (over a 5:1 ratio). The US Air Service makes its first big contribution. The German Air Force, led by 80 fighter squadrons, is the only force that significantly impacts the Allies, making the month forever known as "Black September."
  10. 10. On the 12th of September the Americans take the offensive in the Battle of St-Mihiel, a distinctly US operation involving seven Army divisions and 665,000 men. Brigadier General Billy Mitchell assembles a force of over 1,400 Allied aircraft, the largest air operation in history, and the Americans are victorious.
  11. 11. On the 26th of September, Americans began their most important battle of the war, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. With over 1,200,000 men we break through the Hindenberg Line, supported by the US Army Air Service.   
  12. 12. Finally, the Armistice comes on the 11th of November.


Thank you RG

RG Head, Retired Air Force brigadier general, fighter pilot, military historian and author. His latest book is a biography of Oswald Boelcke, often referred to as the father of combat aviation. RG Head is also the curator a comprehensive - nearly day-by-day “War in the Sky” timeline on the Commission website at ww1cc.org/warinthesky - all lower case - one word. We have links to the book, timeline and RG’s facebook page in the podcast notes

Link: https://www.facebook.com/rg.head/




Great War Project

Now on to the Great War project with Mike Shuster - former NPR correspondent and curator for the Great War project Blog….

Mike: So the Russians stopped fighting the German - but the Russians now  sure seem to be fighting each other! Or the Germans are still fighting them - or something - What’s the story Mike?


Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog.




The Great War Channel

Here are this week’s new videos our friends at  “The Great War Channel” on Youtube.

One is about Russia’s internal wars - Civil War in Finland and Ukraine

And - Trenches at 10,000 feet - Fighting on Mount Lagazuoi

And Finally  British Special Forces

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!

Remembering Veterans DONE

February is African American History month - so over the next few weeks we will be bringing you a series of guests and stories that highlight the African American experience in WWI. It is an important, complex and sometimes horrific story of brave patriots fighting not only a war, but also a very racist culture.

Interview with Dr. Sammons

We will start this week in our Remembering Veterans section with Dr. Jeffrey Sammons, historian, professor of history at NYU, member of the commission’s history advisory board and co-author of the book Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality.

Welcome, [Dr. Sammons]


[Dr.  Sammons - The Harlem rattlers - also known widely as the Harlem Hellfighters are famous as a unit and a regimental band, but who they actually were and what they did is much less known  - Can you give us an overview?]

[Dr. Sammons - as we noted at the top of the show - Pershing insisted, for the most part, on troop deployment under American command - but the 369th was under French command operationally until July 1918. Tell us about that please…]

[So when they fighting stopped “over there”, there was another big struggle as these men came home. What kind of situation did the African American soldiers and heroes of WW1 come home to?]


Dr. Jeffrey Sammons is a historian, professor, author and Historical Advisor to the WW1 Centennial Commission.



A century in the making - The Maquette Arrives

Now for: A century in the making - the story of America’s WW1 Memorial in Washington DC.

In this segment we take you on an insider’s journey that explores this grand undertaking, and the people behind it.

This week the Maquette arrived in Washington DC. Sabin Howard, the project’s sculptor, has spent month in New Zealand working with the WETA Workshop to create this first 9 foot long realization of the planned ginormous bronze… late last week he packed it up and shipped it to Washington!

(sound from sabin footage)

This past Wednesday on January 31st, it arrived on the commission’s doorstep!

(more sound)

And the team got a first look!!! Including

US WWI Centennial Commission Chair Terry Hamby...

(first reactions)

around the middle of the month - The machete will be presented to and reviewed by Washington’s Commission of Fine Arts - - they one of the governing and approval bodies for any project in Washington DC…

After their review, the Maquette will be introduced to the nation on a national television show to be announced shortly.

Though we can’t show it to you yet, this is a podcast so we have been able to give you a sneak listen to the maquette arriving in Washington DC!

We are going to continue to bring you an insider’s view with stories about the epic undertaking to create America’s WWI memorial in our nation’s capital. Learn more at ww1cc.org/memorial

Link: www.ww1cc.org/memorial


Speaking WW1

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

We have told you part of this story before -

On the morning of July 4th in 1917, the mounted band of the French Republican Guard arrived with a large crowd before the residence in Paris of the recently arrived Gen. John J. Pershing. He came to the window when he heard the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the crowd respectfully removed their hats for the American general. That morning - Gen Pershing and the men of the 16th infantry marched down the streets of Paris, celebrating the renewed Franco-American allegiance.

Well - turns out that a French newspaper L’Intransigent reported that, A cry was heard to-day by Parisians who acclaimed Gen. Pershing and his men. It was "Atta boy! atta boy!

The phrase is a simple popular contraction for 'That's the boy!' which means 'Here is the man for the situation!" and on our fighting front it soon became a war cry for the American troops. 'Atta boy !'

So Soon the phrase became synonymous with the American Troops. In fact, in 1918, according to the Baltimore Evening Sun , the British took a real liking to the phrase after overhearing it being shouted by American soldiers during a baseball game.

The paper reported that - “All the London papers have taken it up, with the result that in London, at least, the Americans are now almost unanimously called "Attaboys." But ultimately - Doughboys won out!

Attaboy - this week’s phrase for speaking WWI -

See the podcast notes to learn more!

link: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t9t156s17


Spotlight in the Media

For our Spotlight in the Media this week- We have a story about an episode from a French documentary television program called “13h15”. The episode is about an American Immigrant nurse named Josephine Heffernan, who served in France during WW1.

We’re pleased to be joined by Dr. Marjorie DesRosier, who did much of the research on nurse Josephine.

Dr. DesRosier is an international nurse historian and independent scholar specializing in the early history of American Red Cross nursing and nursing challenges of the Great War era in the U.S. and Europe. She, herself is also a Registered Nurse and former clinical professor from the University of Washington School of Nursing, in Seattle.

Welcome, Dr. DesRosier


[DesRosier, can you start by telling us a bit about Josephine? Who was she, and how did she end up in France as a nurse?]

[Would you tell us the story about the bracelet?]

[Are there other stories like Josephine’s-- where you have been able to connect with descendents of the nurses who served in the war?]

[Are you working on any other project about WWI nurses?]

[Thank you so much for being here!]



Dr. DesRosier is an international nurse historian, independent scholar and registered nurse  - Follow the link in the podcast notes to learn more about nurse Josephine Heffernan.




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 week we are profiling The Survivor' WWI War Monument in Beaverton, Michigan  -- a 100 Cities/100 Memorials round 1 awardee.

With us tell us about the project are Ed Rachwitz, member of the Gladwin County American Legion Post 171, and  Scott Govitz, former Beaverton Mayor and current Chair of the Beaverton Downtown Development Authority. Both serve on the Beaverton WW1 Memorial Committee.

Welcome gentlemen

[The WWI memorial in Beaverton is really striking - as you might guess, I have seen literally hundreds of WWI memorials - and this one is truly unique… it is a really beautiful stone bas-relief sculpture - and it shows both a proud doughboy and the war’s devastation - Since this is an audio program - Can you describe it for our listening audience.]

[The artist was a prewar german immigrant named Helmut von Zengen - tells us a bit about him please!]

[So apparently some years ago, in a well intentioned but misguided attempt to repair the memorial,  the repair actually caused some damage. That’s an important story to share. Can you tell us about that?]

[What are your rededication plans?]

Thank you for coming in today.. If you are anywhere near or traveling near Beaverton - take a stop at this memorial. It is unique, it is dramatic and it is worth seeing.


Ed Rachwitz and Scott Govitz serve on the Beaverton. michigan WW1 Memorial Committee. Learn more about the 100 Cities/100 Memorials program by visiting the link at the podcast notes.

Link: www.ww1cc.org/100cities

WW1 War Tech

This week for, WW1 War Tech we are looking at gas masks

As we mentioned at the top of the show, gas was one of the most horrific parts of the WW1 arsenal. It was terrifying-- both physically, and psychologically devastating.

Developing a means of protecting soldiers from gas’s devastation was critical.

In 1915, the allied forces were caught off guard by the first chlorine gas attack at the Battle of Ypres; many suffocated -- and the Soldiers found a quick battlefield remedy: holding a urine soaked cloth to their face to counteract the chlorine.

John Scott Haldane, a scottish medical researcher, immediately undertook the task of developing a gas mask for the allies. Haldane had worked on similar problems before for the mining industry -- in fact - you know his work already - he was the man who came up with the idea of using canaries and other small animals in coal mines to detect odorless, deadly gases.

His first invention, called the Black Veil respirator, was simply pads of cotton wrapped in gauze and soaked in a chemical solution. This was a start, but with the increasing density and frequency of gas attacks the technology needed to adapt.

And so the box respirator was developed.

This turned into an arms race over the course of the war. New and different gases were constantly developed and each demanded new and different kind of protective masks.

We’ll explore this subject further in the coming months, but right now - you can learn more about Haldane and his development of the first gas mask by following the link in the podcast notes.

Link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/man-who-invented-first-gas-mask-180963073/


Articles and Posts

The Process Behind Dazzle Ships

For articles and posts-- from our rapidly growing website at ww1cc.org - in the news section this week, there is an article about the painstaking process of transforming ordinary ships into those decked out with dazzle camouflage.

The idea behind dazzle camo, was for ships to be seen, but seen incorrectly. If paint could be used to distort a ship’s angles, the thinking went, that would make it difficult for the ship to be targeted efficiently.

Targeting systems at the time were, of course, the human eye and brain, which easily fall prey to being fooled.

But how do you test a given scheme for a given ship?

The answer: tiny models. Read more about how the U.S. Navy created a vast library of dazzle-painted miniature ships to protect their real counterparts from torpedoes-- by following the link in the podcast notes.

BTW - We just heard that there is a Dazzle cammo painted ship scheduled to visit New York Harbor this summer. We’ll let you know more as those plans firm up!

Meanwhile we invite you to follow the link in the podcast notes to read the article.

Link: http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/3987-the-painstaking-process-behind-those-wild-wwi-dazzle-naval-paint-jobs.html


S.S. Tuscania

Also another new article posted in the news section of the site this week -- volunteer Caitlin Hamon wrote up the story of the S.S. Tuscania, which encountered some serious trouble 100 years ago this week.

On February 5, 1918-- the sun was setting as the Tuscania and her accompanying  British convoy made their way toward the cliffs of Scotland. Shortly before 6 p.m. a huge shock sent a tremor through the entire ship; all the lights went out at once, followed by the explosive sound of shattering glass.

There was no question as to what had occurred: the Tuscania had been hit by a torpedo-- and over 2,000 American troops were on board.

Read the entire story of the dramatic rescues that followed-- and how the local Scottish communities remember the event and those who were lost-- just   following 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 do you have for us this week?

Hi Theo!


The Center for Military History has a wonderful website about the WW1 Era. This week, we shared a unique page from that website all about embarkation from the US and what awaited troops once they arrived in Europe. It’s a very thorough page filled with maps, lists of materiel being shipped alongside the troops, and photos of the embarkation camps. Troops were continually being shipped out from the states all through 1918, and you can follow their journey from the harbors of the east coast to the training camps in France by visiting the link in the podcast notes.



How did Gavrilo Princip feel?

Lastly for the week, we shared a post from the “AskHistorians” subreddit. The question being posed: How did Gavrilo Pincip feel about the war he helped start?

Princip lived to see most of the war, but not the end of it, dying of Tuberculosis in April 1918. As utter carnage and destruction swept through Europe, the middle east and Africa, it is a great question to ask; he couldn’t have meant to put into motion the death of millions when he pulled the trigger, could he?

As the top response on the question says, “In a word, both Princip, and his conspirators, were unapologetic.” The answer pulls from the notes of a psychologist that conducted interviews with Princip while he was incarcerated, and from Paul Jackson’s book "' Union or Death!': Gavrilo Princip, Young Bosnia, and the Role of 'Sacred Time' in the Dynamics of Nationalist Terrorism". It’s a long but very interesting post, investigating the mind and position of the young man who is often pointed to as the spark that lit the fire of war. Read it at the link in the notes.

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...

  • Dr. Edward Lengel, Military historian and author
  • Mike Shuster, Curator of  the great war project blog
  • RG Head, Retired Air Force brigadier general, fighter pilot, and author
  • Dr. Jeffrey Sammons historian, educator and author
  • Dr. Marjorie DesRosier expert on the history of nursing and author
  • Ed Rachwitz and Scott Govitz, from the 100 Cities/100 Memorials project in Beaverton, Michigan
  • Katherine Akey, the commission’s social media director and line producer for the podcast

Special thanks to Eric Marr for his research assistance

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 and the Starr foundation for their support.

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

on  iTunes and google play at 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!


Attaboy - you doughboy!

So long!


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