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WW1 Centennial News for April 27 2018 - Episode #69

Elsie Janis, The “Sweetheart of the doughboys”Elsie Janis, The “Sweetheart of the doughboys”

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Highlights - Sweetheart of the Doughboys

  • US Telephone in WWI - Dr. Sheldon Hochheiser, AT&T | @02:25
  • The tide begins to turn - Mike Shuster | @10:10
  • The “Sweetheart of the doughboys” - Edward Lengel | @14:25
  • The Women’s Land Army - Elaine Weiss | @22:55
  • Anzac Day - Group Captain Peter Davis & Commander Peter Kempster | @30:30
  • 100 Cities / 100 Memorials: Granite, OK - Phil Neighbors & Perry Hutchison | @37:40
  • Speaking WW1: Kiwi & Aussie | @44:25
  • WW1 War Tech: Geophone | @45:35
  • Dispatch Newsletter Headlines | @47:20
  • WWI Centennial in Social Media - Katherine Akey | @50:05

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

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View the PDF transcript


Welcome to World War 1 centennial News - episode #69 - 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. Sheldon Hochheiser tells us about an iconic American company and its role in the war -- AT&T.
  • Mike Schuster, from the great war project blog updates us on German morale as Operation Georgette comes to a close.
  • Dr. Edward Lengel with the story of Elsie Janis, the “sweetheart of the doughboys”
  • Elaine Weiss introduces us to the Farmerettes, the women’s land army
  • Group Captain Peter Davis and Commander Peter Kempster on the Australian and New Zealander commemorations for ANZAC day
  • Phil Neighbors and Perry Hutchison with the 100 Cities / 100 Memorial project from Granite, Oklahoma.
  • 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.



Today we are going to explore the US telephone system during the war -- and unlike most nations where the phone systems are typically government owned --- The US Telephone system has always been privately owned - well, not always - for 1 year during WWI -  the US government took over the nation’s telephone system… but perhaps most amazing of all - a year later, after the war, the US government privatized it again!

With that as a setup, let’s jump into our centennial time machine and look at the America’s telephone story 100 years ago - in the war that changed the world!



World War One THEN

100 Year Ago This Week  

It is the summer of 1918 and the House Committee on Interstate Commerce is holding hearings about a government take over of the nation’s privately held telephone system.

Only three witnesses are called to testify - Albert Berleson - The Postmaster General, Newton Baker, the secretary of war and Josephus Daniels, the secretary of the Navy.

These three men, eventually backup up by President Wilson -  are pushing for the takeover of the phone system - citing among other things - national security concerns including the protections from spies using this incredibly powerful technology that is rapidly spreading across the land.

Most remarkably ---  that representatives of the phone company are NOT asked to participate in the discussion.

Well, to help us tell this amazing story, we invited Dr. Sheldon Hochheiser, the corporate Historian from AT&T to join us on the show.

AT&T During the War

Welcome, Dr. Hochheiser!


[Dr. Hochheiser - from an AT&T historical perspective - what was the story here?]

[Were the company executives on record about this? What did they say?

How did this nationalization actually work? The government suddenly declared that they owned the phone lines, but operations continued to be run by AT&T? Or were they? ]

[What happened as a result of the postmaster General’s involvement?]

[The most interesting part of all this FOR ME -  is that control was returned to AT&T again as the war ended. How did that happen?]

[During the war, how did telephone facilities rise to meet wartime needs? ]

[Dr, Hochheiser - We just got in a question from our Live audience. Frank Krone wants to know what happened to AT&T’s chief technologist John Carty - after the war?]

[How did this 1-year event help shape AT&T as a company?]


Dr. Sheldon Hochheiser is the corporate historian at AT&T. Learn more about the company and its WW1 history at the links in the podcast notes.

Links: https://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1466&context=faculty_scholarship





Great War Project

It is time for Mike Shuster -- former NPR correspondent and curator for the Great War project Blog….

Mike: Your post this week indicates a turning point for the Spring Offensive. As Ed Lengel pointed out previously in our roundtables, the German goal was to split the French and the British armies and drive the british to the ports and off the mainland.

But it looks like that plan has failed! What is going on 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.




America Emerges: Military Stories from WW1

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

Ed: Mike Shuster pretty much covered the fighting front here at the end of April - - but your story this week offers us a wonderful and completely different perspective on the events in Europe and a very, very special person - The “Sweetheart of the Doughboys” -  Singer and entertainer Elsie Janis. What is her story Ed?



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.  




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:

Knocking out the Hejaz Railway

Another of the very popular “Out of the Trenches” episodes where host Indy Neidel takes questions from the audience

And finally

Felix Graf Von Luckner -- Who did what in WW1?

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

Gift from French President recalls WWI USMC heroics in Battle of Belleau Wood

This week in Commission news-- we were excited to see that French President Emmanuel Macron brought a special gift to the White House during his visit to Washington -- one that bears great World War I significance: it was a European Sessile Oak sapling from the Belleau Wood in France.  

Presidents Trump and Macron - ceremonial shovels in hand - planted the commemorative tree on the White house lawn.

The Battle of Belleau Wood is one of the most important American engagements of World War One -- it was the first major battle for the US Marines during the conflict and is still viewed as a seminal moment in Marine Corps history. Fighting alongside British and French troops, America suffered more than 9,700 casualties.

You can read more about this meaningful and symbolic gift, and see pictures of the ceremonial planting at the White House, by following the links in the podcast notes.


Remembering Veterans

Farmerettes and Suffrage with author Elaine Weiss

This week For Remembering Veterans -- As we have pointed out before --- there are actually more veterans of WWI than just the soldiers and sailors - As the men headed off to training camps and to Europe - The women of America needed to pick up the role of their missing men -- Especially when it came to feeding the nation. And that is the story of the “Farmerettes and the Women’s Land Army”.

With us to explore that story is Elaine Weiss, journalist and author of multiple books including Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War --- as well as The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.

Welcome to the podcast, Elaine!


[Elaine-- Feeding the nation AND sending desperately needed food to our allies was strategically critical - how did American Womanhood stand up to that task?]

[Where did the idea to create a Women’s Land Army come from? ]

[How did the Women’s Land Army experience play into the suffrage movement? Were the Farmerettes paid for their work?

Equal pay for equal work?]

[What was the reception the women received -- both on the ground, by the farmers, the public, and the government?]

[What became of the farmerettes once the war ended… especially when the men came home?]

[Did the legacy of these women set a precedent when the second world war came around? ]

[How about their influence on the women in the workforce today?]


Elaine Weiss is an award winning journalist and author of multiple books, including the recently published The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote from Viking Books. Read a rave review of her new book, and learn more about her work by following the links in the podcast notes.




NC State University

This week from our WWI  centennial events registers at ww1cc.org/events -- there is a great one at North Carolina State University, on May 1st!

Back in Episode #64, we spoke to Thomas Skolnicki [SKOAL-nick-ee], the Landscape Architect for the University -- retired US navy Rear Admiral -- Benny Suggs, the director of NC State's Alumni Association  and US Air Force Veteran, World War One Centennial Commissioner Jerry Hester --

All three men are NC State University Alumni, and all involved in the school’s 100 Cities, 100 memorials project.

They told us about the restoration of the school’s belltower -- and about this upcoming rededication event.

The event will include a full military ceremony with a 21-gun salute and a flyover of F-15s from the 4th Fighter Wing stationed at  Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, in Goldsboro, NC.

It’s an opportunity for all to learn about the sacrifices made by NC State students and the commitment that the school has made since its inception to military service and leadership.

Nearly 2,000 students and alumni served in WWI, and the Bell Tower includes the names of the 34 who died in that service.

So if you’re in the area -- be sure to check it out! We have links for further details in the podcast notes.



International Report

In our International Report-- This past Wednesday, April 25th is a day of special remembrance that has its roots in World War One- It is known as ANZAC day which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers are known as Anzacs.

and here to tell us more about the past, present and future of ANZAC day are Group Captain Peter Davis of the Australian Defense Staff and Commander Peter Kempster of the New Zealand Defense Force.

Gentlemen, welcome to the podcast


[So what’s the story of ANZAC day? What’s the origin?]

[How is ANZAC day celebrated in Australia and New Zealand? And does the commemoration differ between the two nations?]

[[This is the last centennial year-- what were commemorations like on Anzac day this year?]

[I think many people may be familiar with the ANZAC’s involvement at Gallipoli-- but that engagement was over by 1916. Where did the forces deploy to after that?]

[Personally, what does ANZAC day mean for you?]


Group Captain Peter Davis is the Assistant Defense Attache and

Chief of Staff

of the Australian Defense Staff

at the US Australian Embassy

and Commander Peter Kempster is the

New Zealand Naval Attache

to the US for

the New Zealand Defense Force.

Learn more about ANZAC day and the centennial organizations of both countries by following the links in the podcast notes.

Link: https://www.awm.gov.au/index.php/about/our-work/projects/centenary-projects





100 Cities 100 Memorials

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 going to profile the World War I Memorial project from Granite, Oklahoma.

With us tell us about Granite, Greer County and their inspiring WWI story are Phil Neighbors, pastor of the Valley  Baptist church and a native son of Granite, and Perry Hutchison, retired Army Colonel and former professor at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth Officer Training School.

Gentlemen, welcome to the podcast


[Phil: In your grant application you describe Granite, Oklahoma as a small community of heroes - that’s an intriguing opening line! What did you mean?]

[Phil: American Legion Post 121 in Mangum Oklahoma is placing a new monument in the World War 1 Memorial Park in Granite. Can you tell us a little about those specifics please?

[Well, Phil - As I we talked off line, there is another Oklahoma 100 Cities / 100 Memorials awardee from Towson, Oklahoma. So this is interesting - It seems that Oklahoma has a big WWI story to tell  - but doesn’t seem to have a WWI centennial organization or Website - maybe this will help stimulate something to come together!]

[Phil: Thank you for bringing us the story of the heroes from your corner of the country. It’s been great to have you on!]


Phil Neighbors is pastor of the Valley  Baptist church and a native son of Granite, Oklahoma and Perry Hutchison, retired Army Colonel and former professor at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth Officer Training School

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

It’s time for our weekly feature “Speaking World War 1” -- Where we explore the words & phrases that are rooted in the war  ---

We are sticking with our ANZAC theme...

New Zealand, as were all the Dominion nations of the British Empire, was thrown into World War 1 by Britain’s own declaration of war on August 4, 1914.

When the New Zealanders arrived in Europe - Their uniforms were emblazoned with badges, emblems, and insignias of Kiwis - and NO… It’s not an egg-shaped fuzzy fruit - It’s the big, flightless and quite unique national bird of New Zealand! And one of our two Speaking WWI Words this week - these soldiers were instantly nicknames the Kiwis!

As for the Australians, Also a dominion nation - their WWI soldierly nickname

and that stuck ever since

is our second Speaking WWI word this week - Aussies. Kind of obvious - and you know it -- but I’ll bet you didn’t know that the nickname came from WWI!

Kiwis and Aussies-- nicknames earned during the war that helped cement these two great nations and their identities -- and this week’s words for speaking WW1.







WW1 War Tech


For WW1 War Tech -- this week we are headed underground to learn about yet a sonic invention of necessity.

Within just a few months of the first construction of a trench, the tangle of an estimated 25,000 miles of trenches spread from the English channel to the Swiss border. The only way to attack the enemy was through a costly offensive in No Man’s Land, or… and I did not know this….  underground via a system of tunnels.

This method of offensive mining quickly became standard in some areas. And so… a device that could detect an enemies’ digging patterns would prove immensely valuable.

It was a Professor Jean Perrin of the Sorbonne University in Paris, who provided just that type of device with his invention of the geophone in 1915.

It was basically a specialized stethoscope like device -- that could amplify sound traveling underground --- sort of an earth sonar, enabling a skilled listener to detect the distance and location of German tunnels.

Some imaginative soldiers operating geophones under ground would often interpret strange things from the noises they picked up - one report from a New Zealand Tunneling Company describes how one listener swore he had heard a horse eating oats, which the author noted could only have been true if the horse had been a prehistoric fossil!

The report went on to detail the exhausting process of piecing out all the sounds a geophone operator could hear while underground, and determining which ones were harmless and which ones signified hostile activities.

This underground duty QUOTE “strained body, brain, and nerve” like no other.

Because of these pressures, tunnelers often received up to four times as much pay as soldiers on the surface. And, by and large, their work paid off: it was British tunnelers blew up 19 mines simultaneously at Messines in June 2017, killing approximately 10,000 German troops and creating the most powerful man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima.

The geophone-- the subject of this week’s WW1 War Tech.

We have put links in the podcast notes to learn more\\

Links: http://ww1centenary.oucs.ox.ac.uk/space-into-place/the-war-underground-an-overview/



Articles and Posts

For Articles and posts -- here are the highlighted features from our weekly dispatch newsletter.


Headline: Building a World War I tank in the garage

Read an interview with two of our friends who have a pretty unique weekend project. They are building a WWI tank in a garage. Actually, we should say that they are building another WWI tank in a garage -- they already completed one, earlier last year!


Headline: Pennsylvania WWI Centennial Committee sets World War I History Symposium at the U.S. Army History & Education Center

Read about this exciting symposium event -- which will feature four unique and engaging presentations by retired U.S. Army Major Kurt Sellers, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel John D. Shepard, author Gloria J. House, and genealogist and historic researcher Barbara Selletti.


Headline: WWrite blog: In a Lonely Forest

This week’s WWrite blog post features one writer’s quest to uncover the story of WW1 era lyricist, Josef Rust.


Headline: Story of World War I Choctaw Code Talkers told at Reims event in France

Read about a special April event in Reims, France where the story of the Choctaw code talkers was presented to the local audience.


Headline: Help sought to return World War I medal unearthed in N.J. woods to vet's family

A metal detector recently unearthed a WW1 service medal -- read about its discovery and the efforts to return it to its original owner’s family.


Headline: The story of Otho Bradford Place

This week’s featured Doughboy MIA is 2nd Lt. Otho Bradford Place, a native of Bremen Indiana who died in battle during an attack along the Agron River.


Headline: Official WWI Centennial Merchandise

Finally, our  selection from our Official online Centennial Merchandise store -  this week, it’s the Centennial Commemorative Pin! Proudly Wearing the WWI 100 Years lapel pin is a fantastic way to start a conversation. The question, what’s that? Can lead to great discussions about the centennial, the commemoration and WWI. Wear the pin and let the world know it’s the centennial!

And those are the headlines this week from the Dispatch Newsletter

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?

Trench Art and Commemoration Follow Up

Hi Theo --

This past week had a lot of commemorative events happen -- and we’ve shared images and video from them on our Facebook page that you can see in the podcast notes. Events included the dawn ANZAC ceremony at the Korean War Memorial in DC  and in NYC’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Plaza-- French President Macron participating in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier -- and commemoration of the Battle of Seicheprey in Connecticut. You can also see some great images of ANZACs in the field  on our Instagram at ww1cc -- including a photo of some aussies camped out at the foot of the Great Pyramids with their mascot Kangaroo!

Also shared on our Facebook page this week was a historic video from ECPAD, a French archive of historical defense audiovisual material. The video shows soldiers, and prisoners of war, fashioning various objects from leftover military equipment, like spent shells, shrapnel, and broken pallets. These Trench Artists create vases, buckets, decorative mementos, toys, pipes, and musical instruments from the detritus of the war around them -- and also repair clothing and boots, recycle old wax into new candles, and more. You can watch these improvisational artisans working by following the link in the podcast notes.

That’s it for this week in the Buzz.








And that wraps up the last week of April for WW1 Centennial News. Thank you for listening.

We also want to thank our guests...

  • Dr. Sheldon Hochheiser, corporate historian at AT&T
  • Mike Shuster, Curator for the great war project blog
  • Dr. Edward Lengel, Military historian and author
  • Elaine Weiss, journalist and author
  • Group Captain Peter Davis of the Australian Defense Staff and Commander Peter Kempster of the New Zealand Defense Force.
  • Phil Neighbors, and Perry Hutchison, from the 100 Cities / 100 Memorials project in Granite OK
  • 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.

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!


So, you know how we always do a closing joke - typically about our speaking WWI word. Well, when I researching jokes about ANZAKS - here is what came up in Google.

An unwritten law in Australia and New Zealand is “Don’t make jokes about the Anzacs.” You can make jokes about almost anything except the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps

That’s pretty funny!

So long!


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