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WW1 Centennial News for Wednesday June 6, 2017 - Episode #23

Miner loading explosives under enemy linesMiners Loaded 1 million tons of TNT under German lines

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  • Official Bulletin: Ships, planes, wood, film, and phones |@ 03:00

  • Guest: Mike Shuster on the big explosion on the Messine Ridge. |@ 10:00

  • The Storyteller & The Historian: George Cohan’s “Over There” turn 100 |@ 14 :00

  • Events: Virginia WW1 Reenactment Day |@ 20:30

  • Special: PTSD awareness month |@ 21:30

  • Guest - 100C/100M: Dr. Steve Kelly on Brownwood texas Post 196 project |@ 28:00

  • Guest: Roy Steinberg on the play “Billy Bishop Goes To War”|@ 33:30

and much more...

View the PDF transcript


Welcome to World War One Centennial News. It’s about WW1 news 100 years ago this week  - and it’s about WW1 NOW - news and updates about the centennial and the commemoration.

WW1 Centennial News is brought to you by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. Today is June 7th, 2017 and I’m Theo Mayer - Chief Technologist for the World War One Centennial Commission and your host.

World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week

This week 100 years ago is marked by June 5th, 1917. It’s registration day!

It’s all a part of the The Selective Service Act that went into law last month, on May 18.

June 5th is the day when all young men between the ages of 21 and 30 are to register themselves with the government for possible conscription into the US military. Last week you heard about the many differences the American populace has about this issue and how protesting against registration, handing out anti-draft literature, or evading registration is considered criminal and potentially treasonous.

All things considered, registration day goes much as expected.





Official Bulletin

We are going to continue to look at this week, from the US government perspective, So let’s go to the “Official Bulletin” the government war gazette published by George Creel, America’s propaganda chief, under the orders of President Wilson. Here are some of the stories pulled from the archive of the Official Bulletin

Dateline June 4th, 1917



As war is declared the US seizes a number of German ships in harbors from New York to Honolulu. This week they are officially assigned to the navy and re-christened, mostly with the names of American cities. Here are some of the name changes.

  • The Breslau is changed to the USN Bridgeport.
  • The Kiel to the USN Camden.
  • The Leihenfels to Houston.
  • The Saxonia to Savannah.
  • The Nicaria to Pensacola.
  • The Oden Wald to Newport News.
  • Hohenfelde to Long Beach.

Both the last two ships are named after US cities with major shipyards.

We can only image sitting at the table where a team of naval officers  worked all this out!

Dateline June 4th


Preparing to enter the war in the sky, the US plans an aviation training program like no other - ever.

Part of the story reads:

"America is responsible for the invention of both the submarine and the airplane. In the development of both, she has allowed Europe to outstrip her. It is for us to show that we can yet surpass both our enemies and our allies in the development of the two great mechanical inventions for which we ourselves are responsible. We believe that we are making progress in our air program, and we intend to increase rather than diminish speed as we go forward." Announces Howard E. Coffin, the chairman of the aircraft production board.  He continues with:

" France and Great Britain have made it plain again and again that they expect aircraft and aviators to be one of America's greatest contributions to success in the war."

Dateline June 5th, 1917


An on-going theme in the Official Bulletin, and therefore clearly on the minds of the government is resource management. America is rich in natural resources, but still under-developed in the infrastructure to exploit them. This includes industries like timber - which you may remember is how George Boeing made his initial fortune in the Pacific Northwest.

If you think about America, our woodsmen are a special breed and in the same June 5th  issue of the Official Bulletin … Another headline reads:


The article goes on with:

“A regiment of woodsmen and mill workers is being recruited for early service in France and is being organized at the request of the allies to: Quote: “Get Out Timber for the Armies”.

This includes railroad ties, trench timbers, mine props, bridge timbers, lumber, and cordwood. The work will be performed behind the

battle lines in France but may fall within the danger zone.

The article goes on to state

“This regiment will be made up of picked woodsmen. Service in it will give such men a chance to take a part In the war for which their life and training have peculiarly fitted them.”

Dateline June 6, 1917


So now George Creel - gets into film making producing a movie trailer about people buying Liberty Bond. Here is the story:

“A liberty loan " trailer " has been sent to practically every motion-picture theater In the country and will be shown at every performance until June 15th.”

The article describes the film - which includes an inspiring American Flag, an on-camera message from President Wilson and an “ASK” to buy Liberty bonds. The article closes giving Kudos to the Eastman Company  (later Eastman / Kodak” ) of Rochester NY for donating the ½ million feet of film stock the trailers are printed on.

Dateline June 8th, 1917


“Secretary of the Navy Daniels to-day announced the safe arrival in France of a corps of 100 naval aviators sent there for duty in the antisubmarine operations, and for any other active duty that may be given them in France.”

They are the first officers and men of the regular fighting forces of the United States that have landed in France. Lieut. Kenneth Whiting is in command. It is reported that “the entire force is intact and that there was no sickness or casualties on the trip across”.


The story reads:

“Gen. John J. Pershing and 53 officers and members of his party are reported to have reached England in safety.

And finally…

Dateline, June 9th, 1917


Here is a technology story in the Saturday issue… It may not be the internet - but the US Government was pretty excited by the long distance telephone!

The story reads:

“At the inception of the war In Europe, [They mean in 1914] ,” there were some outlying places in the US not connected by long lines capable of commercial transmission of telephone messages.

Since then The American Telephone & Telegraph Co. has extended its lines across the continent and so improved transmission that it is now possible to communicate by long-distance telephone with any section of the United States.

Thus the Government officials have almost instantaneous access to every

center of activity. These toll and long distance wires reach every town, hamlet, and crossroads of any importance.

So if you think of it from a national security standpoint - this is a pretty big deal - and here is another interesting fact… The American Telephone and Telegraph company - AT&T - just happens to be my current Internet Service Provider and it is AT&T that allowed me to upload this very podcast to reach you.

You know...

Each issue of this amazing  “Official Bulletin” is now being re-published every day on our website on the centennial of its original publish date.

If you are a teacher - a historian - whether student or scholar,  a sociologist, or just someone interested in exploring the nuances of America’s transformation in 1917, and the echoes that still ring in your life to this very day - like AT&T - We offer you this wonderful daily resource at  ww1cc.org/bulletin - explore, exploit, Enjoy!

Link: ww1cc.org/bulletin

Great War Project

Moving on to our first guest - we are joined by former NPR correspondent Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog.  Mike - In one of my favorite Historical science fiction series “The Safehold Saga” by author David Weber, there is a battle scene where miners tunnel under the enemy’s fortifications and plant a large cache of explosives under the enemy positions with devastating results.

I Wonder if the story from post this week was the inspiration for Weber! Tell us the story Mike!

“A terrible scene of slaughter”


Thank you Mike. That was Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog.

The Great War Channel

We are always telling you about our friends at the Great War Channel on Youtube that present WW1 - 100 years ago this week as video - and from a more European perspective.

Well in Europe - this is week 149 of the war - for the US it is only week 8 - and we haven’t really not started to fight.

In the week 149 episode, Indie Nidel the host give you a great overview of some of the stories we have been looking at as well - like Herbert Plumbers tunnels under the Messine Ridge - and the french mutinies that Mike has been blogging about.

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



Before we leave 1917, we have one more centennial anniversary story for you.

The George M. Cohan song "Over There" turns 100.

[run audio of song]

Over there became America's favorite anthem of World World I and one of the country's great patriotic anthems.

The version we were just hearing was from our April 6th event in Kansas City - and as you may discover from today’s podcast, the hook really sticks in your head.

As a special treat, we are launching our new segment -

The Storyteller and the Historian with Richard Rubin and Jonathan Bratten talking about Cohan’s song “Over There”


That was our new segment - the StoryTeller and the Historian - with Richard Rubin and Jonathan Bratten.


World War One NOW

We have moved forward into the present with

WW1 Centennial News NOW  - News about the centennial and the commemoration.

Activities and Events

Virginia War Museum: WW1 Reenactment Day

From the National WW1 Centennial Commemoration Events Register at WW1CC.org/events - here is our upcoming event pick of the week:

The Virginia War Museum: WW1 Reenactment Day coming up on June 17-18.

As the event post reads:

The Virginia War Museum, in conjunction with The Great War Association, will be hosting “America Mobilizes 1917” on Saturday and Sunday June 17-18, 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of American Mobilization for World War One. The event will simulate an American Mobilization Camp preparing our soldiers to go “Over There.”

During the course of the day there will be demonstration drills, weapons and tactics displays, It’s living history on display with a great edutainment experience for the whole family - that is sure to be memorable!

Check out National WW1 Commemoration  events register for things happening in your area, and to add your own upcoming events to it, at ww1cc.org/events


June is PTSD Awareness Month

June is PTSD awareness month - and in honor of that we want to bring you the following report.

You may not know this but in WW1 Hundreds of soldiers suffering from what was called shell shock were put on trial and even executed for cowardice.
We know and are learning so much more today about shell shock - now referred to as PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We know that It’s a physiological brain trauma not a psychological failing of human spirit.

In 2006, Britain formally pardoned the 306 British WW1 soldiers suffering from Shell Shock and shot for cowardice. PTSD affects 31% of Vietnam veterans, and about 11% of american veterans that have served in the ongoing conflicts in the middle east. A recent article from the National Geographic points to some new research that may be lifting the veil on this type of trauma suffered during battle.

Shell Shock is actually an apt name for the condition described as occurring after a shell blast has hit the soldier in question. They are sometimes referred to as being “concussed”. Trauma after exposure to blast forces on the battlefield, specifically caused by exploding artillery shells in WW1 were are a signature injury.

In one study, the pattern of damage caused by exposure to blast force observed in the eight military personnel, is distinctly different from what is seen in the brains of football players or boxers. The implications of this finding are profound, pointing to the possibility that symptoms long thought to be psychological—ascribed to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—may instead be direct results of physical damage to the brain.

The blast shock finding also opens up potentially fertile new ground for research: Can the injury be healed or even mitigated? What equipment can be designed to protect service members against blast damage to their brains? Can tests be devised to identify damage in combatants on the battlefield in real time?

Read more about the study by following the link in the podcast notes to the National Geographic article “'Shell Shock'—The 100-Year Mystery May Now Be Solved”.






UCF and Merchantville Students

This week in Education we wanted to highlight the efforts of two groups of students to learn more about this great conflict in Europe by studying their own backyards. A group of students from the University of Central Florida and another from a middle school in Merchantville, New Jersey are making the conflict more relatable by focusing on the human element.

In Florida, students are writing biographies for 120 veterans in the Sumter County cemetery. The project includes developing an app for cemetery-goers and teaching local middle schoolers who visit the cemetery on field trips. When the project is finished this fall, the UCF students’ work will be displayed on the school’s website.

In Merchantville, seventh- and eighth-grade volunteers decided to research local veterans as part of an elective course that their history teacher created. The students studied the 135 veterans memorialized on a plaque in town put up by the local American Legion Post 68. The students presented their findings at a Memorial Day ceremony hosted by the American Legion which included a map that will be on display along with posters students made for each of the four local servicemen who died during the war.

These projects will serve as resources for future students, but most importantly we hope other schools will follow in their footsteps. As one eighth-grader from Merchantville put it "[the experience has] really been intriguing and enlightening and I want to know more about my community,"

Learn more about these projects by visiting the links in the podcast notes.



Updates From The State

Wisconsin: Oral History Project

This week on the Wisconsin State Centennial Commission website at ww1cc.org/wisconsin there is an article about the Wisconsin Veterans Museum's Oral History Program.

The program honors those who served by recording and preserving their stories and experiences.

Since 1994, staff members and volunteers have conducted and collected over 2,100 interviews with veterans from around the state. The collection represents all branches and all conflicts and eras since World War I to the present day.

The Museum recently opened a new exhibit, WWI Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front. Throughout the next two years the museum will be offering programming and events that feature Wisconsin’s contribution to the Great War – in which 122,000 people from Wisconsin served. As part of these efforts, the Oral History Program will showcase the small but exciting collection of World War I oral history interviews. Read more about this remarkable Wisconsin program on the Wisconsin state website at ww1cc.org/wisonsin

link: ww1cc.org/wisconsin




Michigan: Pvt Joseph W. Guyton

From the Michigan WW1 web site a story about Joseph Guyton - who was born on June 10, 1889 in Evart, Michigan, a small town known for its lumber mills back in its day.  

Pioneers were just settling the area back in 1866 through homesteading after the Civil War. At age 20 he married his sweetheart Agnes Winona Baker from Lake City, Mi. Two years later in 1911 they had a daughter named Olive Clara Guyton. Life at this point was going very well. Then In 1914 war broke out over in Europe. Guyton was drafted into the US Military. Under military law Guyton could have appealed for an exemption -  since he only had a daughter and no name sake - in case he should die

but he was, like many Americans at the time, too proud not to go. He went on to become to first American casualty of the war on German soil. Read his whole story on the Michigan State website at ww1cc.org/michigan



100 Cities/100 Memorials

This coming Thursday, June 15th marks the end of the grant application period for the 100 Cities / 100 Memorials - the $200,000 matching grant challenge  to rescue ailing WW1 memorials - and in most ways - it actually marks the beginning of the project not the end.

What happens from here is that the submissions will be reviewed to make sure they are compliant with the program rules - you know - all the part and pieces of the application for the matching grant were submitted -

Any applicants that missed something will be notified and they will have the opportunity to fix any issues.

Then the applications will be assigned to a delegate jury - a selection committee that we will be announcing next week. We have some wonderful people who have agreed to review the project submissions.

We will be announcing the results this fall.

In the meantime, we will be promoting and profiling all the wonderful projects that were submitted - both on the website and here on the show - starting this week with a 100 Cities / 100 Memorials project from Brownwood Texas -

Joining us now is Dr. Steve Kelly - The president of the Central Texas Veterans Memorial - Hi Steve Welcome

Steve - please tell us about your project, your memorial and your coalition for restoration…

[Interview with Dr. Steve Kelly]

That was Dr Steve Kelly, president of the central texas veterans memorial telling us about the Brownwood texas Post 196 WW1 Memorial.

Stay up to date with everything happening in the 100 Cities / 100 Memorials project by signing up for the program’s blog at ww1cc.org/100memorials



International Report

The Choctaw Code Talkers

This week in our International Report we have a story from England -- about Americans!

The Daily Mail recently published an article about the Choctaw Code Talkers, a group of Native American soldiers, mostly from Oklahoma, whose native language was used to baffle the enemy.

The story goes that two soldiers on the Western Front were overheard by a captain speaking in their native Choctaw language.

The Germans had been able to decipher many of the Allies' codes over the years, and it struck the captain that using the Native American language as a code, given the Germans had no knowledge of it or familiarity with similar languages, could be just the ticket.

It’s important to note that at this very same time, the US government in an attempt to “Americanize” the natives was trying to eradicate the language.

The Choctaw success paved the way for the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II. It’s another amazing example of America coming to grips with its own culture.

read more about it by following the link in the podcast notes.


Articles and Posts

In our Articles and Posts where we explore the World War One Centennial Commission’s rapidly growing website at ww1cc.org -

“Billy Bishop Goes To War”

This week in the ww1cc.org/news section there is an article about stage production called “Billy Bishop Goes To War”

We have with us Roy Steinberg, the producing artistic director for the Cape May Stage in New Jersey.


[Exchange Hello}

Roy -  before we dive into the production, can you briefly tell us about the Cape May Stage?


That was Roy Steinberg producing artistic director for the Cape May Stage in New Jersey, about their production “Billy Bishop Goes to War” which runs until June 23rd  Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm and a Sunday matinee at 3 - Follow the link in the podcast notes to learn more




WWrite Blog

In our WWRITE blog, which we host on the commission web site and which explores WWI’s Influence on contemporary writing and scholarship,

this week's post is: "A Journey of Commemoration: The Great War through the Lens of Art", by Susan Werbe.

Appropriate to our previous guest, Susan is the executive producer of the "The Great War Theatre Project: Messengers of a Bitter Truth", performed in Boston, New York, and Letchworth (UK).

In the post she also discusses the process of weaving voice, dance, theatre, writings, and song cycles to examine the collective memory of war on the individual.

Werbe also talks about her latest project, "Letters You Will Not Get", a libretto, using various genres of women's WWI writing, set to commissioned contemporary music. Read the blog post to learn more about this wonderful showcase of an extraordinary, multidisciplinary project—not to be missed!

Read more about the project by visiting the Wwrite blog at ww1cc.org/w-w-r-i-t-e and if this WW1’s Influence on contemporary writing and scholarship is of particular interest - sign up for the blog at the same link.


The Buzz - WW1 in Social Media Posts

That brings us to the buzz - the centennial of WW1 this week in social media with Katherine Akey - Katherine - what do you have for us this week?

Knitting as Espionage

A specialized kind of covert communication was devised during the war in the domestic spaces under German occupation: knitting!


Donut Day

You may have noticed on social media over the weekend an awful lot of images of fried rounds of sugar covered goodness...This past Friday was National Donut day, a day honoring the Salvation Army “Doughnut Girls” who served donuts to troops during WW1.



Thank you Katherine.  I think I’m off to get myself a sugar buzz from a nice glazed donut! All of Katherine’s stories have links in the podcast notes.


And That’s WW1 Centennial News for this week. Thank you for listening!

We want to thank our guests:

  • Mike Shuster from the Great War Project blog
  • Richard Rubin, Author and Storyteller and Jonathan Bratten, Historian with their new segment the StoryTeller and the Historian
  • Dr Steve Kelly, president of the central texas veterans memorial about their 100 Cities / 100 memorials project
  • Roy Steinberg producing artistic director for Cape May Stage about their production - Billy Bishop Goes to War
  • Katherine Akey the Commission’s social media director and also the line producer for the show.
  • 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 show is a part of that effort!

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 rely entirely on your donations. No government appropriations or taxes are being used, so please give what you can by going to ww1cc.org/donate - all lower case

Or if you are listening to the show on your smart phone you can text us a donation - just text  the letters: WW1 to the number 41444.

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. As of last week you can also find us on TuneIn.

Our twitter and instagram handles are both @ww1cc and we are on facebook @ww1centennial.

Thanks for joining us. And don’t forget to share what you are learning here about “The War that Changed the World”.

So long.



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