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WW1 Centennial News for May 04, 2018 - Episode #70

General John J. PershingCommander of the Armies

 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.

Highlights - General John J. Pershing

  • May 1918 Preview Roundtable - Ed Lengel, Katherine Akey, Theo Mayer | 02:50
  • General Rumblings - Mike Shuster | 18:00
  • War In The Sky - Eddie Rickenbacker | 21:45
  • Documentary: “Blackjack Pershing: Love and War” - Prof. Barney McCoy | 25:55
  • The big influenza pandemic - Kenneth C. Davis | 32:15
  • WW1 War Tech - Fed billions, killed millions: The tragic story of Fritz Haber | 39:25
  • 100 Cities / 100 Memorials from Brownwood, Texas - Dr. Steve Kelly | 44:15
  • Speaking WW1: Binge | 50:00
  • Articles and Posts: Highlights from the Weekly Dispatch | 51:50
  • The Commemoration in Social Media - Katherine Akey | 54:15

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 #70 - 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:

  • Dr. Edward Lengel, Katherine Akey and I sit down for our
    May 1918 preview roundtable
  • Mike Schuster, from the great war project blog with a story of conflict within the Allied forces.
  • Author Kenneth C. Davis shares the story of influenza in 1918
  • Professor Barney McCoy gives us insight into the upcoming documentary, Blackjack Pershing: Love and War
  • Dr. Steve Kelly with the 100 Cities / 100 Memorial project from Brownwood, Texas.
  • Katherine Akey with the commemoration of world war one in social media

And lots 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.



Before we get going today, I wanted to tell you about some great new features for the WW1 Centennial News Podcast.

First of all, you can now listen to the latest episodes of WW1 Centennial News on YouTube -  if you happen to prefer listening that way!

And something I think is really exciting and useful when you go to our podcast web site at ww1cc.org/CN (Charlie Nancy). When you click the “read more” of the episode, just below the highlights you will find the full and accurate transcript of the show - interactively linked to an audio player. With it, you can scan OR search --- the text of the transcript and wherever you double click - the audio will play. Or if you are listening and want to copy and paste a segment of the transcript for you newsletter, school report or blog, just pause and scan down the scranscript, The section you were hearing is highlighted in blue.

This very cool, new interactive transcript technology has been provided by a great little startup called Jotengine… and we have added it to make our podcast even more useful for students, teachers and everyone who wants to share the story of the war the changed the world.

World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week

Roundtable with Katherine, Theo and Ed


Alright... The first week of every month, we invite you to our preview roundtable where Dr. Ed lengel, Katherine Akey and I had talk about the coming month and the key events that happened 100 years ago.  The question on the table as we sat down was, “ what WERE the big stories and themes in May 1918… What follows is our conversation.

[roundtable - see transcript for details]


Great War Project

So that is an overview for the coming month - but now let’s join Mike Shuster - Former NPR corresponded and curator for the Great War Project blog as he explored another key battle that plays out on the Western Front… The battle between the Allied Generals and American General John J. Pershing.

They did not see eye-to-eye at all… and Black-Jack Pershing was not going to waver from his belief about how the US army needed to engage.

It sound like it was more than just a little contentious Mike!


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




War in the Sky

America's Top-Scoring Ace Scores his First Victory

It is a changing of the guard,  for the War in the Skies over Europe 100 years ago this April and May.

In April 1918, Germany’s Manfred von Richthofen falls,

and in May America’s Raoul Lufbery.

One of the new names that rises among these ashes is that of a Columbus Ohio native every bit as much of a flamboyant character as the early fliers. Before joining the service, he was a famed race car driver who set a land speed record at Daytona of 134 miles per hour - a tough guy, technically too old to be accepted into flight school, and a guy who claimed he was afraid of heights - His name was  Eddie Rickenbacker…

Born the oldest son of 5 siblings 1890  -- young Eddie had to step up to become the major family breadwinner, quitting school at only 12 years old, when his father died in a construction accident. A tough beginning for what would turn out to be quite a guy!

Having developed a passion for the new technology of the internal combustion engine - by 16 he had landed a job with a race car driver named Lee Frayer, who liked the scrawny, scrappy kid - and let him ride in major races as his mechanic.

By 1912 - the young 22 year old was driving his own races and winning! and crashing! and surviving!

When war broke out in 1917, Rickenbaker volunteered - but at 27 years old -- was already too old to get accepted to flight school - something the speed demon really wanted to do!

Because he had a reputatioh as a race car driver - he was enlisted as a sergeant and sailed for Europe as a driver.

There is a lot of lore that he drove John J. Pershing, but that is generally disputed. However, he DID get an assignment to drive Billy Mitchel's flashy twin -six -cylinder packard and talked himself into flight school through the boss!

His WWI flying exploits are legendary and the kid from Ohio came home a national hero

But that was just the beginning of a colorful life for a scrappy and scrawny kid, turned Ace of Aces, airline President, famed raft suvivor of a plane ditching in the Pacific, potential presidential candidate - who lived large in living color..,, and finally died in 1973 at the age 83 having launched his career as a WWI fighter pilot in the war in sky one hundred years ago this week.




The Great War Channel

For videos about WWI 100 years ago this week, and from a more european perspective --- check out our friends at  the Great War Channel on Youtube.

New episodes this week include:

  • The first tank-on-tank battle in history --
  • Tank crew training and more German tank prototypes


  • The Finnish Jägers in World War 1

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 isn’t the past --- It focuses on NOW and how we are commemorating the centennial of WWI!


Commission News

Belleau Wood Tree -- Missing but will return

This week in Commission News -- We heard, with great distress that the lovely Oak sapling from Belleau Wood,  that had been planted by President’s Macron and Trump on the white house lawn last week - had mysteriously GONE MISSING~!!

One day it was there - the next - it wasn’t!

Much to our relief, the mystery was resolved quickly. It turns out that the tree - which has made it’s journey from Europe with Macron had to be put into temporary quarantine - a typical procedure for living agricultural goods imported from overseas.

It’ll be put back to its original spot as soon as it get out of detention!

We put a link to the story in the podcast notes!

Link: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/mystery-solved-why-trump-macron-friendship-tree-vanished/ar-AAwxbt3?OCID=ansmsnnews11


Spotlight on the Media

Blackjack Pershing: Love and War

We have a spotlight on the media for you!

The spotlight is on US General of the Armies, the American Expeditionary Forces commander General John J. Pershing.


That clip is from a new documentary “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” - and today -- we’re joined by the film’s producer -  Barney McCoy professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Welcome, Barney!



[Barney-- I understand your film looks is not just about Pershing the General but also Pershing the man, who also suffered and endured great personal tragedy and heartbreak in his life. Can you give us an overview of the story in the film?]

[Now, you made this documentary by incorporating hundreds of U.S. Army Signal Corps photographs and films from the National Archives -- what was the research process like? And did you come across anything surprising as you were poking around the archives?]

[How did you get involved in this film? How did it happen?]

[A very important question… When and where can people see the film?]

[thank you/goodbyes]

Barney McCoy is professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the producer of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War”. We’ve included links to the film’s trailer, website and upcoming screenings in the podcast notes!





Remembering Veterans

The Influenza of 1918

This week For Remembering Veterans -- we’re turning our attention away from the battlefield and looking at a phenomenon that took more lives than the bullets or shells.

With us to explore the story of the Flu pandemic 100 years ago, is Kenneth C. Davis, bestselling author of the  “Don’t Know Much About” book series. In fact, during our editorial meeting, when we were discussing the interview our intern, John enthused that these books were on his shelf as he was growing up… Well, Kenneth’s new book is coming out on May 15th and it is called:  More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War .. a fascinating subject by a wonderful writer!

Kenneth! Welcome to the Podcast.


[Ken- Let’s start with the name of this flu pandemic - Patient Zero was not from Spain were they?]

[How big and bad was it? I have heard a lot of varying numbers but whatever they are, the scale staggers the imagination!]

[We have a global war - we have a global pandemic - how do the dots connect? ]

[Ken - what made this particular flu so especially deadly?]

[Well, a quick follow up on that - and Katherine our line producer asked about this - with so many advanced in medicine in this particular moment in history - why did medicine not get ahead of this one?]

[Do you think this deadly global event still echoes today? ]

[Thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us today!]


Kenneth C. Davis is the bestselling author of the Don’t Know Much About Book series. Don’t miss his upcoming -  More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War available at your favorite bookseller May 15th!

We have put links to his work and upcoming events in the podcast notes.

Links: www.dontknowmuch.com




WW1 War Tech

Fritz Haber

For WW1 War Tech -- we are going to tell you the amazing and tragic story of a WW1 era technologist, the German chemist Fritz Haber!

Fritz Haber is one of the most underappreciated actors of World War I whose discoveries spanned from the life giving to the life taking.

He was celebrated with Nobel Prize for developing chemical fertilizers -- and equally vilified for another invention, chlorine gas.

Tragically one of his most vocal critics was his wife, Clara, who was not only an ardent pacifist but an accomplished chemist herself.

The invention of what is known as the “Haber Process” was the result of wartime necessities. Even before World War I, German military strategists recognized the potential of a total British naval blockade on their country, which would do tremendous damage to their ability to import the materials required to manufacture weapons. One particularly vulnerable commodity were the nitrates imported from South America, used in the development of ammonia for explosives.

Haber discovered a new method of creating ammonia by combining nitrogen and hydrogen gases. Since ammonia is also used as a fertilizer, the Haber Process allowed for the mass production of agricultural fertilizers, transforming agriculture both inside and outside Germany. Much of the reason behind why the world is able to support a population of more than seven billion is the use of these  fertilizers, which all have their roots in the Haber Process. And for his method of creating artificial ammonia, Haber was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918.

But as we said, another of Haber’s invention would come to overshadow this incredible discovery. When World War I finally broke out in 1914, the quick victory expected by many military generals soon became a slow, bloody struggle to shift the frontlines only a few miles either way. The German High Command quickly realized they needed a new, fearsome weapon to break the stalemate. It was the strongly patriotic Haber who came up with the solution: by combining the ammonia he extracted from the air with chlorine, he could produce a gas that would asphyxiate all who encountered it-- Haber was on hand personally when his Chlorine Gas was first released by the German military at the Second Battle of Ypres.  Over 5,000 men, not recognizing this new weapon’s true danger, were quickly overcome, and were found by their fellow soldiers with their faces turned black and shirts torn open in a desperate search for air. Germany’s use of poison gas at Ypres would set a precedent for an unprecedented tactic, one that would scar many men for a lifetime after the war ended.

People around the world were horrified by Harber’s new, deadly invention, but among the most repelled was Haber’s own wife, Clara.

At a party celebrating his promotion to Captain as a result of his work in poison gas nine days after the test at Ypres, Clara directly confronted her husband, calling him morally bankrupt and his efforts monstrous. Haber ignored her. Later that night, no longer able to stand her marriage, Clara shot herself in the garden with her husband’s pistol. Haber left the next day to supervise another gas attack on the Western Front, leaving his young son to grieve alone.

After the war ended in Germany’s defeat, a brokenhearted Haber would try to single handedly pay back the burdensome war reparations by inventing a process to distill dissolved gold floating in the ocean, an ultimately unsuccessful endeavour.

There is a final,  tragic and ironic twist on Haber’s legacy… during WWII - When the Nazi regime was looking for ways to best murder their many classes of undesirables, they came upon one of Haber’s products, a pesticide called Zyklon. The Nazi authorities used this chemical to gas millions of innocent victims in the Holocaust, including the Jewish German Haber’s own friends and family.

Fritz Haber, a brilliant man whose fertilizer invention have fed billions,

who’s weaponized inventions killed million,

whose wife shot herself in protest

and whose family and friends were finally gassed in concentration camps with his own invention…

an epic, tragic and another amazing story of

the war that changed the world

and this week’s WWI War Tech.

We have links for you in the podcast notes.








100 Cities 100 Memorials

Brownwood Texas

This week for our 100 Cities / 100 Memorials segment

---  the $200,000 matching grant challenge

to rescue and focus on our local WWI memorials ---

We are updating one of the very first projects

we profiled on the podcast -

From even before the first round of submissions were closed.


Joining us again for an update on the 100 Cities / 100 Memorials project from Brownwood Texas is Dr. Steve Kelly, the immediate past president of the Central Texas Veterans Memorial -

Steve welcome back to the show.

[Greetings and Welcome]

[Steve - The last time we spoke your project was just a candidate, but it has since been designated an official WW1 Centennial Memorial - Congratulations…]

[For your project you moved your WWI memorial from behind a bush at an old, closed high school to a new memorial site at your local American Legion post 196… Can you tell us a bit more about that?]

[As I recall from the last time we spoke, you have both a commemoration and an educational component to you project - how did you do that?]

[Steve - What stage is the whole project at now and do you have rededication plans?]

[Thank you for coming on and giving us an update on your project from Brown County Texas!]


Dr. Steve Kelly is the immediate past president of the Central Texas Veterans Memorial in Brownwood, Texas.

Learn more about the 100 Cities/100 Memorials program by following the links in the podcast notes or by going to ww1cc.org/100Memorials

Link: www.ww1cc.org/100cities

Speaking WW1


Welcome to our weekly feature “Speaking World War 1” -- Where we explore the words & phrases that are rooted in the war  ---

Let’s start by thinking… Obsessive, Compulsive Consumption….

I heard a great analysis of our modern media times recently. It talked about the fact that in our new age, we no longer have “stop cues” for media consumption. You don’t read the paper, you take in an endless stream of news feeds and tweets. You don’t watch a TV show, you find yourself awake on the couch at 3am with just 2 episodes left to finish the fourth season of The Office -- and you’re not alone!

Without “stop cues” the analysis went on, we are media binging all the time.. And that brings us to our Speaking WW1 word for this week…. BINGE.

And who would you have thought that that phrase made its way to the 21st century by way of the trenches?

Binge was originally a “Northern English” term meaning to over-indulge. The word first appeared in printed form in 1854,

with a clearly alcohol-related connotation. And a connotation that may have carried forward for many of our listener to their college years with Binge Drinking!

The term remained regional to Northern England until World War 1, when it spread through the english speaking forces and became standardized in the English lexicon.

It also started being used to describe the obsessive compulsive, consumption of food.  Which led to the description of an eating disorder called binge & purge…

So now it’s meaning has expanded to include any number of new categories: food, drink, media, entertainment and… well many others!

Binge-- obsessive, compulsive, consumption - and this week’s words for speaking WW1. There are links for you in the podcast notes.





Articles and Posts

Weekly Dispatch Newsletter Highlights


For Articles and posts -- here are some of the highlights from our weekly Dispatch newsletter which you can subscribe to at ww1cc.org/subscribe or through the podcast notes.


Headline: Two WWI nurses led the way for women

in today’s Wisconsin National Guard

Read the story of two women serving

as Army nurses in World War I

pioneering the opportunity for women to serve in every duty position

in the Wisconsin National Guard.


Headline: NARA is getting WWI Army Division records online - with citizen help!

The National Archives Records Administration also know as NARA

Is getting Citizen Archivists to help make these records more accessible. If you’d like to help NARA transcribe these historic handwritten records - You CAN! There’s a link in the podcast notes for you to get started.


The studio that brought you 'Wallace and Grommit' is creating an emotional World War I game

Read more about the new videogame 11-11: Memories Retold, a narrative adventure about two World War I soldiers who meet under the "most unlikely of circumstances."


Headline: Doughboy MIA for week of April 30

Read about Pvt. Charles H. Holland, a native of Mississippi and member of the 2nd Division-- 9th Infantry--Company L-- Charles was  wounded in action during the battle of Soissons--- he was carried off to a field hospital and never seen nor heard from again.



Finally, our  selection

from our Official online Centennial Merchandise store -  

this week, with Memorial Day coming up - it’s your last chance to order our small, 8" X 12" WWI Centennial flags for Memorial Day.

This is the year to display the memorial ground flags honoring your local fallen doughboys!

You’ll be doing  "Double Honors", because a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this item goes to building America's National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park, in Washington DC.

And those are some of the headlines this week from the Dispatch Newsletter

Check the links in the podcast notes

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



The Buzz

The Commemoration in Social Media

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

Motorcycles, Mail and the Military Times

Hi Theo --

We shared a video this week on Facebook from one of the Commission’s Commemorative partners, the French Centenaire 14-18 -- it shows the project undertaken by two frenchmen to restore an American doughboy’s Harley-Davidson-- which they are now bringing to, and driving across America. The motorbike would have been used to carry messages behind the lines, and less than a thousand are thought to have made it to today. Watch the video and read an article about the project at the link in the podcast notes -- we’ve also included a link to the frenchmen’s facebook page so you can follow their journey as they ride the bike across the US!


Also on facebook this week -- we shared a photograph of a humble receipt from the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. This week 100 years ago, the future president was a Captain in the Army, commanding a battery of field artillery on the western front. And-- his birthday was coming up! So his loving wife Bess ordered him a fruit cake, having it shipped to his 129th field artillery in France. The receipt shows her purchase from the Jones Store Company in Kansas City, Missouri -- likely a fruit cake would survive the journey, and we hope he enjoyed it on his birthday on May 8th, 1918. And if you’re wondering -- it cost a whopping total of $1.40, equivalent to about $25 now, to buy and send the birthday treat. See the receipt yourself at the link in the notes.

Finally this week, I wanted to point you towards a very thoughtful opinion piece from the Military Times website -- May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a subject that has been deeply important to the success and wellbeing of our armed service members throughout history. The article is entitled “A century after ‘shell shock,’ struggle to address post-combat trauma continues” -- and it opens up questions about our understanding of PTSD, and our relatively recent acceptance of trauma as a significant and common affliction. Read more about how WW1 changed our understanding and treatment of Shell Shock and PTSD at the link in the podcast notes -- we’ll have guests on later this month to continue to address the topic.

That’s it for this week in the Buzz.







And that wraps up the first week of May for WW1 Centennial News. Thank you for listening.

We also want to thank our guests...

  • Dr. Edward Lengel, Military historian and author
  • Mike Shuster, Curator for the great war project blog
  • Kenneth C. Davis, author and historian
  • Barney McCoy, professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Dr. Steve Kelly with the 100 Cities / 100 Memorial project from Brownwood, Texas.
  • Katherine Akey, WWI Photography specialist and the line producer for the podcast

Many thanks to Mac Nelsen our sound editor as well as John Morreale our intern and Eric Marr for their great research assistance...

And I am Theo Mayer - your host.

[MUSIC and under]

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  - now with our new interactive transcript feature for students, teachers and sharing.

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” - and now also available on Youtube at WW1 Centennial.

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!


Talk about binging - I just got a note from a listeners - who has decided to listening to all of 1917 from our WW1 Centennial news podcast, eating a pizza with every episode, washed down with a six pack.. that sounds awful and I’m just kidding!

So long!


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