Produced by the MacArthur Memorial to commemorate the centennial of World War I (1914-1918), the World War I History Podcast will explore the history of the war from a variety of perspectives.
From the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, to the Zimmerman Telegram, the Red Baron, trench warfare, the Christmas Truce and Lawrence of Arabia, this podcast will answer some of the major questions of the war.
What were the causes? Who were the major players? How did this war redraw the political and social map of the world? And most importantly, why does this war still matter?
The 1915 Gallipoli Campaign was an imaginative operation that was supposed to end the stalemate of the Western Front. It utilized a mix of troops mainly from Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand. As these troops sailed towards Gallipoli, some considered themselves the luckiest young men in the war. They believed they were not bound for the mud and filth of the trenches in Europe, but for the plains of ancient Troy. Despite this enthusiasm however, Gallipoli proved a costly Allied failure. Allied troops suffered a quarter of a million casualties in 8 months. The sacrifice of the ANZACs – the troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – left a particularly deep impression on their respective nations. The Turkish defenders also endured appalling casualties. And yet, many scholars argue that out of this crucible of sacrifice emerge the modern identities of Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. (35:14)
The sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915 was one of the great controversies of World War I. Targeted by a German U-Boat as part of a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Lusitania was carrying 1,266 passengers and 696 crew members. She was also carrying a substantial cargo of supplies for the Allies. She sank in 18 minutes after being struck by a torpedo fired by U-20. 1,191 aboard lost their lives – including 128 Americans. Although the United States remained neutral in the aftermath of the disaster, the sinking of the Lusitania helped move public opinion in favor of entering the war on side of the Allies in 1917. (23:51)
Since the days of Julius Caesar, the territory of what is now Belgium has been a thoroughfare and battleground for foreign armies. Hoping to avoid being ravaged by future wars, modern Belgium committed itself to a policy of neutrality. This neutrality was violated in World War I when Belgium was invaded by Germany. While this violation of Belgium’s neutrality is most commonly linked to the entry of Great Britain into the war on the side of the Allies, it also set the stage for one of the most successful Allied leaders to emerge. Even as the Germans occupied 95% of his country, King Albert I of Belgium personally commanded his troops during the war and managed to hold on to a tiny sliver of his country throughout the war. Never leaving or sending his government into exile, Albert inspired his nation while his nation inspired the Allies and drew sympathy for the Allied cause. When the war was over, Albert was one of the few monarchs who emerged safer on this throne than he was before the war started. King George V credited him with making the most pivotal decision of the war – the decision to resist Germany. (22:59)
In November 2014, the MacArthur Memorial hosted a World War I Centennial Symposium. Joseph Hoyt, a maritime archeologist with NOAA and a specialist in the archaeological recording of deep water shipwrecks, presented on the topic of World War I and the underwater battlefields within U.S. territorial waters. (40:14)
In November 2014, the MacArthur Memorial hosted a World War I Centennial Symposium. Dr. Lee Craig was one of the presenters. Dr. Craig is the author of Josephus Daniels, the story of the Secretary of the Navy, who helped to prepare the U.S. Navy for eventual involvement in World War I. (34:34)
In November 2014, the MacArthur Memorial hosted a World War I Centennial Symposium. Andrew Robertshaw, author of the book Digging the Trenches, was one of the Symposium presenters. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Robertshaw has directed numerous archaeological projects on the Western Front. His lecture focused on using historical research and archaeology to identify the remains of soldiers killed on the Western Front. (36:13)
In November 2014, the MacArthur Memorial hosted a World War I Centennial Symposium. Dr. Frederick Dickinson was one of the Symposium presenters. Dr. Dickinson is a Professor of Japanese History at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of War and National Reinvention: Japan and the Great War, 1914-1919. Dr. Dickinson's lecture focused on the impact of World War I on Japan. (28:41)
In November 2014, the MacArthur Memorial hosted a World War I Centennial Symposium. Dr. Holger Herwig was one of the Symposium presenters. Dr. Herwig is the author of numerous books, including The Marne, 1914. His presentation focused on the importance of the First Battle of the Marne, the differences in French and German command structures, and the legacy of the battle in the 20th Century. (26:50)
In November 2014, the MacArthur Memorial hosted a World War I Centennial Symposium. Catrine Clay was one of the Symposium presenters. Mrs. Clay is the author of King Kaiser Tsar - a work that explores the relationships between the royal cousins King George V, Tsar Nicholas II, and Kaiser Wilhelm II on the eve of World War I. In her presentation, Mrs. Clay relates how royal family dynamics played a part in the onset of World War I. (24:55)
The Allies and Central Powers employed hundreds of thousands of sea mines during the Great War. These mines were commonly used to defend coastlines and strategic locations from invasion – but they were also used as part of a broader anti-submarine campaign.
In 1917, with German submarines sinking many tons of shipping in the Atlantic, the United States Navy working in cooperation with its British counterparts, created a mine barrage in the North Sea that stretched from the Orkney Islands to the coastal waterways of Norway. It was hoped that this barrage would prevent German submarines from reaching the Atlantic shipping lanes. The ultimate effectiveness of the North Sea Mine Barrage is still debated today. (14:13)
Some of the great heroes of World War I were the “aces” – pilots who were credited with bringing down large numbers of enemy planes. These dashing young pilots captured the imagination of the public and imbued the war with a sense of romanticism. Their celebrity came from the fact that they fought a war of individual heroism in the blue skies – far from the anonymity of the muddy trenches. In terms of casualty rates however, they were just as doomed as the troops in the trenches.
One of the most legendary “aces” of the war was Germany’s Baron Manfred von Richthofen – a man more commonly known as “The Red Baron."
Flying a plane painted bright red, Richthofen stood out to friend and foe alike. Killed at the age of 25, he left behind a record of 80 kills. (22:02)
This podcast features the first of three interviews that were recorded at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, VA.
The first installment in this series traces the meteoric rise of American President Woodrow Wilson – from his days as a professor to his political career and his vision of the role of the American president. (17:58)
This podcast features the second of three interviews that were recorded at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, VA.
The second installment in this series tells the story of Wilson during the war. Elected to be a president focused primarily on domestic policy, within the first year of his first term in office, he was faced with a world war in Europe.
Reelected in 1916 under the slogan “He kept us out of war,” within a year he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. Highly intellectual, progressive, and idealistic, how did Wilson meet the challenge of world war? (15:09)
This podcast features the third of three interviews that were recorded at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, VA.
The third installment in this series tells the story of Wilson after the war. Traveling to France at the end of the war to play a role in the Paris Peace Conference, Wilson was greeted by enthusiastic crowds wherever he went.
His star had never been higher, but within a year he would be back in the United States – his health broken and his dream of American participation in the League of Nations out of reach. What were his aims in the peace process? And what is his legacy today? (13:39)
As dusk arrived on December 24, 1914, it was a cold night on the Western Front. It had been five months since the start of the war, and already, German, French and British Armies, slugging it out in the mud of Flanders, had experienced unimaginable casualties.
The war was supposed to be over by Christmas – or so many of the soldiers had been told. Instead, there was an unbreakable stalemate, and many soldiers on both sides were suffering from trench foot, pneumonia, and frostbite. There was little for them to celebrate as Christmas approached.
Despite the devastation and the suffering in the trenches however, there was a marked “live and let live” attitude in the days leading up to Christmas 1914. This philosophy intensified as Christmas approached, and manifested itself in what scholars today refer to as the Christmas Truce of 1914.
This was not one isolated event, nor was it officially sanctioned or widespread – but across the Western Front, soldiers on both sides arranged temporary ceasefires, exchanges of gifts, and even played several soccer games in No Man’s Land. (13:37)
1917 was a winter of gloom for the Allies. The British had lost more than 400,000 men in their failed offensive at Passchendaele in the previous summer and fall. That was followed by mutinies of nearly half of all French Army units after the failed Nivelle offensives. To add to the gloom, Europe was about to experience its worst winter in many years. The only glimmer of hope was the slow, steady arrival of American soldiers, and it was amidst this atmosphere that MacArthur and the 42nd Rainbow Division arrived in France.
The first months in France would be a difficult time for the Rainbow Division – mentally and physically - as the men were further prepared for the rigors of trench warfare. It was also a difficult time for the officers of the 42nd Division who struggled to keep the division intact.
The Rainbow Division ultimately survived this difficult winter, and five months after their arrival in France, they were ordered to the front. (24:22)