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WW1 Centennial News for April 20 2018 - Episode #68

Manfred von RichthofenThe Red Baron, is shot down 100 years ago this week

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Highlights - War In The Sky

  • The Mystery of the USS Cyclops | @ 02:40
  • Submarine Stories  | @ 04:55
  • Learning to command on the front - Mike Shuster | @ 07:20
  • The 2nd Division: Army and Marines - Dr. Edward Lengel | @ 11:40
  • War In The Sky: Including the Red Baron goes down | @ 17:00
  • Midway Village reenactment - Dave Fornell | @ 20:25
  • Stars & Stripes newspaper - Robert H. Rheid | @ 27:25
  • "The Great Forgotten" Play - Karen & Kacie Devaney | @ 34:00
  • Speaking WWI: Pillbox | @ 39:25
  • Education Newsletter: Issue #12 | @ 41:05
  • WWI War Tech: Interrupter Gear | @ 42:05
  • Dispatch Newsletter: Headline Highlights | @ 44:30
  • The Centennial Buzz in Social Media - Katherine Akey | @ 47:05

NEW FEATURE - Interactive transcript with "Search & Play".

With the new WW1 Centennial News Interactive Transcript, 1. click on any word in the transcript and the audio will begin to play from that word. 2. Use Control+F, or Command+F on a Mac and put in any search term to highlight in the transcript for quick "Search & Play". 3. Copy sections of the transcript for articles.

 View the PDF transcript


Welcome to World War 1 centennial News - episode #68 - 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.

This week our guests include:

  • Mike Shuster, from the great war project blog. Mike updates us on the American Expeditionary Forces as their inexperienced officers struggle with the challenges of  battle command.
  • Dr. Edward Lengel with the story of the 2nd Division as they enter combat at Maizey
  • Dave Fornell shares the experience of organizing the largest WW1 reenactment event in the country
  • Robert H. Reid tells us about the Stars and Stripes and how it was revived for troop morale in WWI
  • Kacie and Karen Devaney with, The Great Forgotten: A stage play about WW1 Nurses - Not just during the war but after and continuing through the roaring 20’s
  • Katherine Akey with the commemoration of world war one in social media

All this and more... on WW1 Centennial News -- a weekly podcast 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.



This week’s focus is on the War in The Sky.

You’ll learn about some new action up there,

the death of one of the most prominent aces of the era,

new educational materials arriving this week for teachers about the WWI air war,

and a story about the tech that kept pilots from shooting off their propellers as they engaged the enemy.

But first… as we jump into our centennial time machine and go back 100 years this week - we are going to start --  

not in the sky but with a mysterious story about the war on the seas and also Germany’s claims about the success of their u-boats!



World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week

It’s the middle of April 1918 and in the pages of the Official Bulletin, the government’s daily war gazette, published for President Wilson by George Creel, his propaganda chief --  this week we find articles of a missing ship - A big one !


Dateline: Monday April 15, 1918

The headline in the bulletin  reads:

Naval Collier Cyclops Overdue Since March 13 at Atlantic Port;

Left West Indies.

Personnel on Board Consisted of 15 Officers, 221 Men of Crew, and 57 Passengers - Searched for, by Radio and Ships, But No Trace is to Be Found.

An the story reads:

The U. S. S. Cyclops, a navy collier of 19,000 tons displacement, loaded with a cargo of manganese, is overdue at an Atlantic port.

She last reported at one of the West Indian Islands on March 4, and since her departure from that port no trace of her nor any information concerning her has been obtained.

Radio calls to the Cyclops from all possible points have been made and vessels sent to search for her along her probable route and areas in which she might be - all with no success.

Weather Has Not Been Bad.

A Collier is a Coal Carrier and The Cyclops is a massive one. She is 540 feet long and 65 feet wide. It is so big it is often referred to as a “floating coal mine,”

The ship should have been docked in the waters off Baltimore after she  was sent to Brazil to pick up a load of manganese.

Now, manganese is pretty valuable stuff right now. It is a mineral of great strategic importance to the war and used in the production of both iron and steel. In fact the lack of this mineral is a major problem facing the German steel makers and iron makers and the Cyclops had just picked up a 12,000 ton load of it.

Nothing from the ship will be found. No wreckage, oil slicks or debris. Not even a distress call. And speculation will rage throughout history, leading to wild theories involving everything from a mutiny and a secret sale to the Germans, sinking by U-boats near Puerto Rico and even giant skids dragging her under. The mystery of the USS Cyclop will span a century without resolution.

There is also news this week about the war UNDER the sea


Dateline: Tuesday, APRIL 16, 1918

The headline in the NY Times reads:


Captain Lieutenant Amberger, the German commander of the craft, which was sunk last november heads the party.

And the story reads:

Franklin D. Roosevelt acting Secretary of the Navy has given out tonight the names of the German prisoner of the submarine u-38.

When the craft was wrecked by a depth bomb dropped by the Destroyer Fanning, on November 17 last,

the crew of the Fanning picked up several life buoys which bore on one side the word "kaiser" and on the other the word "Got".

The prisoners were taken to an English port and turned over to British authorities.

By agreement between the British, the US Navy and the US Army the prisoners are being taken to Camp McPherson near Atlanta Georgia.

Meanwhile another article this week presents the claims of the German Commander of the Navy that U-boats are winning the war on the sea.


Dateline: Amsterdam - April 18, 1918

A  headline in the NY Times reads:


Tells Reichstag Three to Six times as Many Ships Are Sunk as Are Built.




And the story reads:

Vice Admiral Von Capelle, German Minister of the Navy, discussing submarine warefare before the main Committee of the Reichstag delcared that the new U-Boat construction exceeded the losses and that the effectiveness of the submarines had increased.

The Minister declared that the American Destroyers, "Which had been so much talked about" had failed in their objective.

Admiral von Capelle described as a base lie the statement made by Sir Eric Geddes, First lord of the British admiralty, that German U-boat crews were unwilling to put to sea and that claims by British statesmen that there had been extraordinarily big losses of U-boats were grealy exagerated.

Claims of fake news from the war on the seas 100 years ago this week!

USS Cyclops and UBoat News










Contemporary Cyclops news:




Fighting in France:















Great War Project

Now moving to the story on land and in the trenches and fields of the western front, It is time for Mike Shuster -- former NPR correspondent and curator for the Great War project Blog….

Mike: Your post last week ended on a note of the American troops moving to the front and Ed Lengel followed with the hard lessons the Yankee division received as they engaged in Seicheprey.

This week, you continue with the incredible challenges the Americans face - not from the courage or spirit of the fighting men, but from the lack of experience of the American field commanders - few of whom have had any actual battle command and they are facing the desperate fierceness of the enemy.

What is the next chapter of the story Mike?


Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog. The links to Mike Shuster’s Great War Project blog are in the podcast notes.




America Emerges: Military Stories from WW1

Welcome to our segment - America Emerges: Military Stories from WWI with Dr. Edward Lengel.

This week, Ed introduces us to the 2nd Division - a mix of army and Marine brigades, interesting leadership, and a destiny to play key roles in the upcoming battles of the war. These are army soldiers and marines learning to fight an enemy determined to understand them, devastate them and destroy them… but this time the doughboys turn the tables.. Of course we, the audience, already know the outcome of the war. The American eventually figure it out and prevail… but the lessons continue to hurt!



Dr. Edward Lengel is an American military historian, author, and our segment host for America Emerges: Military Stories from WWI.

There are links in the podcast notes to Ed’s post and his web sites as an author.  




War in the Sky

Ok… Now we are moving to the War in the Sky -- it’s mid-April of 1918 and America’s newly minted US Army Air Corps has joined the fighting front above the trenches.

This week - 100 years ago -- Two U.S. Army Air corps pilots of the First Aero Squadron shoot down two enemy German planes over the Allied Squadron Aerodome in France. The encounter as lightning fast; just six minutes after the front line signaled that German airplanes were crossing the American trenches and heading towards the aerodome,  Lieutenant A.S. Winslow of Chicago and Lieutenant Douglas Campbell of California had brought two enemy aviators down.

It was the first U.S. Army Air corps dogfight in history. One of the German planes was set on fire, and the other was knocked out but landed pretty much undamaged -- and their German pilots taken prisoner.


Both American aviators eventually received the Croix de Guerre, and Lt. Campbell, went on to shoot down five enemy aircraft, making him the first U.S. flying ace.

As the Americans rose to the challenge this week, the great Red Baron fell.

On April 21st, German ace Manfred von Richthofen, a living legend called the "Red Baron" and "ace of aces," was shot down and killed in aerial combat. By the time of his death, he had accrued 80 victories. Credit for his kill was given at the time to Canadian Captain Roy Brown.  During the fateful scrap, the Red Baron's cousin Lt. Wolfram von Richthofen was being fired upon when the Red Baron flew to his rescue and fired on the attacker, saving Wolfram's life. Richthofen pursued the enemy across the Somme where he was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by Canadian Captain Roy Brown.

At the time, it seems a single bullet hit Richthofen in the chest, causing a quick death. But-- who exactly killed the Red Baron is up for debate. Current evidence is that he was killed by ground fire from Australian troops -- but there are many theories.

No matter who was the one to take him down, RIchthofen left behind a legacy of true aerial mastery and terror. His victory total will not be exceeded until June 1941.

Link: https://www.upi.com/Archives/1918/04/14/American-flyers-down-pair/9481523634159/



The Great War Channel

For videos about WWI 100 years ago this week, check out our friends at  the Great War Channel on Youtube.

New episodes this week include:

  • The Battle of La Lys -- Operation Georgette
  • Stalin in WW1 -- Scottish Home Rule -- Out of the Trenches
  • Storm of Steel -- Author and Officer Ernst Jünger

See their videos by searching for “the great war” on youtube or following the link in the podcast notes!


World War One NOW

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


This part of the podcast focuses on NOW and how we are commemorating the centennial of WWI!

Remembering Veterans

Midway Village Reenactment

For  Remembering Veterans -- We are going to do a follow up on the big reenactor event in Rockford Illinois we told you about a couple of weeks ago.

The Midway Village Museum is a 137 acre living history park, and the host of the 6th annual Great War event, that featured over 225 re-enactors portraying soldiers and civilians from the United States and Europe.

It’s the nation’s largest public WW1 re-enactment -- and a massive undertaking! If you were there - you had a blast - if you weren’t there - we will point you to great pictures and videos - AND… we have invited Dave Fornell, the reenactor coordinator for the event and member of the Illinois WWI Centennial Commission to tell us the story.

Welcome, Dave!


[Dave -- there are three things I’d like to touch on today…

The event and the experience of attending it --

Reenactors and the reenactor community at large

And third - future plans]

[Let’s start with the 6th Annual Great war event - how did it go! How many people showed up and what kind of comments did you get?]

[So Dave - I am personally totally fascinated by the reenactor phenomena --- here is my chance to ask about it.. So…. you are a WWI reenactor - Why? ]

[Are you only WWI?  I mean… do reenactors specialize in a specific historical period? - or is it more of a chronic avocation -

Are reenactors organized? By historical period or by regional area?

And based on a conversation I had with Katherine about this - what about women in this community?]

[Finally - are there plans for a 2019 Midway Village Great War event?]


Dave Fornell is the re-enactor coordinator for the Midway Village Museum WWI reenactment and a member of the Illinois WWI Centennial Commission. Learn more about the Commission and the Midway Village Museum at the links in the podcast notes.



Spotlight in the Media

Stars and Stripes

100 years ago, in February 1918, a new weekly publication found its way into the hands of Doughboys now arriving in France in ever greater numbers: The Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Although the classic periodical was originally produced by Union Soldiers in the Civil War, when they found an abandoned printing press - they only ran 6 one-page issues at the time.


The publication was revived for World War 1, produced by an all-military staff and aimed directly at the doughboys of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Stars and Stripes is filled with cartoons and articles by and for doughboys, making light of everything from living covered in lice in the trenches to struggling to communicate with their new “Francai”  comrades.

We reported on the relaunch in Episode #59 and ever since, we have been looking forward to the opportunity of inviting someone from the paper to come on the show and tell us more about it.

So I am especially excited to welcome Robert H. Reid, senior managing editor of the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Robert - so nice to have you on the show!


[OK - first of all - Robert for our listeners - We need a context - could you briefly frame up what the Stars and stripes paper is? ]

[When we saw in our research that the paper had re-emerged for the doughboys arriving in france --- we quickly started to read through issues - and what struck me immediately was the humor… tongue in cheek, irreverent, good natured, and wry -- How did that happen!? Was that planned or just what happened?]

[Clearly the AEF decided they wanted this…. Do we know how the papers ROLE was framed by the command in 1918? Did it have a mission statement?]

[Full disclosure - I grew up with the paper and the people who made it in post WWII Germany. We lived as Americans near frankfurt in the early 50’s and my mom wrote for the paper…. So here we are today in the THIRD generation of the paper’s life - What is the Stars and Stripes today?]

[goodbyes/thank you]

Robert Reid is the senior managing editor of Stars and Stripes. You can learn more about the paper, and see archival copies at the Library of Congress, by following the links in the podcast notes.



The Great Forgotten

To wrap up Spotlight in the Media this week -- we’re turning the focus back onto the service of women in the war with the play The Great Forgotten.

Set during WWI and through the Roaring Twenties, the play follows two sisters --- American nurses in France during WW1, and their adjustment to a whole new world after the end of the conflict. This segment actually kicks off a conversation that will become ever more important on the podcast… looking at the profound post-war experience in America

With us to tell us about their original production are mother-daughter playwriting team Karen and Kacie Devaney.



[Kacie -- the play was initially your idea, and you ended up getting your mother involved. Tell us about that? ]

[Karen -- The two main characters embody the experience of so many women who served in the war -- Did you base the characters on real individuals?]

[Back to you Kacie -- This is obviously a real passion project for you -- why do you think the stories of these women in, and after, WW1 matter so much?]

[A quick one phrase answer from each of you… In a phrase - what was the biggest realization for you personally in doing this project?]

[In closing - are you going to be performing the play again soon?]

[goodbyes/thank you]

Karen and Kacie Devaney are a mother daughter playwriting team. Learn more about their play The Great Forgotten by following the links in the podcast notes.




Speaking WW1

Now let’s head into our weekly feature “Speaking World War 1” -- Where we explore the words & phrases that are rooted in the war  ---


The war torn landscape of Belgium and the Western Front is often described as being nearly featureless-- mud, shell holes, stumps and a tangle of trenches. But one feature stood out -- and was a highly coveted tactical position. Low, grey structures dotting the muddy landscape-- the Germans began constructing these steel-reinforced concrete bunkers in order to enhance their defenses against British artillery on the Hindenburg Line. With walls and ceilings several feet thick, the bunkers could easily withstand all but the highest caliber shells, and were often obscured with debris to prevent detection. They were built most often in the Ypres salient, where a high rainfall and water table made trenches an near-impossibility.

As the British and Commonwealth troops stared out at these little buildings in the moon like world of Flanders-- they noted their similarity to the small medicine boxes carried by civilians -- earning the structures the name of “pillbox” - which is our speaking world war I word this week.

Nowadays, according to the Department of Defense - the word defines small, low fortified outpost that houses machine guns and anti-tank weapons… or that thing you carry your meds and vitamins in!

Pillboxes -- created by the Germans, and named by the British-- and this week’s word for speaking WW1.






In Education news this week -- The latest WW1 education newsletter

just came out!

Issue #12 is “Air War and Weapons Technology” and features articles on the development of aerial warfare and the incredible technological boom that accompanied and supported it.

This issue includes resources for teaching about the history of unmanned drones; the life and service of the only African American member of the Lafayette Escadrille, Eugene Bullard; the role of zeppelins in the war; and the changing military technology of the war.

The newsletter is published by the National WW1 Museum and Memorial in

partnership with the WW1 Centennial Commission. Go to our new

education website at ww1cc.org/ e d u where you can sign up for the

education newsletters and connect with the commission education program

- or follow the link in the podcast notes.

Link: www.ww1cc.org/edu

WW1 War Tech

Interrupter Gear

This week for WW1 War Tech -- we’re headed back into the Sky to take a look at a technological development that helped usher in the age of the aerial dogfighting.

Early in the war, planes were used exclusively for observation -- but to get clear images of the enemy lines, you had to fly “low and slow” and in a fairly straight line, which left you pretty easy pickings  if an enemy plane with a gun came along.

This started an arms race in the sky as each side tried to outgun the other --- in order to protect their observation planes.


The first attempt to mount a machine gun on an airplane, ended after the nose-heavy prototype crashed on its first experimental flight.

Some guns were mounted and shot over the wings, and “pusher planes” with their props behind the pilot were developed, allowing for them to shoot ahead of themselves without hitting the blades of the propellers.

Dutch aircraft designer Anthony Fokker came up with the ultimate answer for the Germans!

His mechanism, referred to as the interrupter gear, connected the firing of the machine gun to the turning of the propeller, allowing the bullets to pass through the brief gaps in between the blades.

Yet despite the tests on both the ground and the air proving his design worked, German generals remained skeptical. They demanded that Fokker fly into the air and shoot down an enemy plane himself.

He did as he was told, and although a French plane soon came within his sights, he found himself unable to pull the trigger. Fokker returned to Douai flying field to vocalize his refusal, demanding that someone else test the plane instead. And so the famous Lieutenant Oswald Boelcke was the first pilot to successfully use the interrupter gear, making his first kill on August 1, 1915. German planes would continue to dominate the skies, a phenomenon known as the ‘Fokker Scourge’, until mid-1916.

The interrupter gear-- a technological marvel that brought air combat into the future-- and the subject of this week’s WW1 War Tech.

We have put links in the podcast notes to learn more including a link a video from the YoutUbe channel The Slow Mo Guys where you can watch an interrupter gear operate in very, very slow motion.

Links: http://www.firstworldwar.com/airwar/earlyfighters.htm





Articles and Posts

For Articles and posts -- we are going to continue with the idea we launched last week of highlighting the features of the weekly dispatch newsletter.  So here we go.


VMI and VA Commission present WWI Commemorative Symposium April 27th

Conference attendees will hear from national and regional experts, who will explore the political and military leadership of World War I, the experiences of the soldiers and generals on the front, and the role that Virginians played in the Great War. .


Treasure trove of Army Major Amos J. Peaslee and the first Diplomatic Courier Service

Major Peaslee’s led the first ever Diplomatic Courier Service during WW1 -- and now his personal documents and artifacts related to the Diplomatic Courier Service, including a personal engraved copy of the Treaty of Versailles, are on their way to the State Department.


"until very recently, we had forgotten a tremendously important aspect of the U.S. experience that eventually changed this country forever."

Read the essay by scholar Keith Gandel as he explores the literature of WW1 -- and what we can learn from it today.


Very small ships make very large impact

Read about the U.S. Navy Submarine Chasers in WWI -- on the cutting edge of anti-submarine warfare.


Robert Frost: A poet for whom life and war were trials by existence

The WWrite blog  this week focuses on the iconic American poet Robert Frost and his insight into connections between war and the human condition.


Finally, our selection from our Official Centennial Merchandise store - Lest We Forget: The Great War is available through our store. The book features nearly 350 high-quality images, an introduction by Sir Hew Strachan and text by historian Michael W. Robbins.

Importantly, when you get this visual remembrance of the "War that Changed The World"  - a full ½ of the proceeds go to building the Memorial!

Sign up for the Weekly Dispatch newsletter at ww1cc.org/subscribe check the archive at ww1cc.org/dispatch or follow the link in the podcast notes.

Link: http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/2015-12-28-18-26-00/subscribe.html


The Buzz

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

Famous Fighters, the Friends of Jenny and Barbara Bush

Hi Theo --

Last week we talked a lot about the Liberty Loans-- and during the third loan drive, celebrities were drafted to help hype the program as they traveled across the country, including the movie stars Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. But they aren’t the only darlings of the silver screen that helped the war effort -- and this week on our Facebook page at facebook.com/ww1centennial-- we shared photographs and draft registrations cards of two other familiar faces. Buster Keaton, known to the army by his given name, Joseph, was assigned to the 40th Division, 159th Infantry-- a division that did not wholly see battle but did serve on the Western Front.

There’s also Walt Disney-- who was just 16 years old when he joined the American Red Cross and arrived in France as a paramedic, serving near Neufchateau. You can see photos of them by following the links in the podcast notes.

Two more nods from the Buzz-- this week, the Friends of Jenny, a historical aviation restoration group, shared an album of images updating  us on the progress of one of their major restoration projects -- their Curtiss Jenny rebuild is receiving its new engine! Check it out at the link in the notes, and follow their facebook page as the project continues to pick up speed.

Finally this week, the nation was sad to hear  of the passing of former First Lady, Barbara Bush. But you may not know that she was the daughter of a World War One Veteran-- her father, Marvin Pierce, enlisted in the US Army Reserves in 1918, was promoted to Lieutenant and served as an Engineering Corps officer in France from September 1918 to May 1919. Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones, and you can read more about her long and storied life at the links in the podcast notes.

That’s it for this week in the Buzz.







And that is our episode this third week of April. Thank you for listening to WW1 Centennial News.

We also want to thank our guests...

  • Mike Shuster, Curator for the great war project blog
  • Dr. Edward Lengel, Military historian and author
  • Dave Fornell, re-enactor coordinator and member of the Illinois WWI Centennial Commission.
  • Robert H. Reid, senior managing editor of the Stars and Stripes newspaper
  • Karen and Kacie Devaney, playwrights
  • Katherine Akey, WWI Photography specialist and the line producer for the podcast

Many thanks to the newest member of our team - Mac Nelsen our sound editor--- a shout out to our researchers John Morreale and Eric Marr...

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; Including this podcast!

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 as well as the Starr foundation for their support.

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

Or search WW1 Centennial News on  iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Podbean, Stitcher - Radio on Demand, Spotify or using your smart speaker.. Just say “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!


Legend of Snoopy and the Red Baron

From all of us and Snoopy - So long!


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