World War I Podcast Season Three

Produced by the MacArthur Memorial to commemorate the centennial of World War I (1914-1918), the World War I History Podcast explores 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 series 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?

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Contact Amanda Williams.

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Kaiser Wilhelm II: Part Two

From 1890-1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II struggled through a series of scandals and crises.  His gaffes on the international stage embarrassed his government and helped create the alliances that would be arrayed against Germany in 1914.  Due to these issues, even as he struggle for personal rule, his power within Germany was on the wane.  When World War I began, he assumed his role as Supreme Warlord, the leader of the German army.  The German general staff believed he could not “lead three soldiers over a gutter,” and therefore conspired to keep actual power out of his hands.  In the end, it did not matter.  In the first weeks of the war, the Kaiser suffered a nervous collapse.  As historian Miranda Carter points out, for the rest of the war, he was merely a “flimsy fig leaf” for a Germany ruled by a military dictatorship.  At the end of the war there were calls to officially blame him for the war through an international trial.  This would never materialize – instead he spent the next 22 years of his life in exile. (23:16)
Wilhelm II older
Kaiser Wilhelm II: Part One

When the World War I ended, King George V of England wrote of his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm II: “…I look upon him as the greatest criminal known for having plunged the world into this ghastly war.” But who was Kaiser Wilhelm II?  Was he criminal bent on world domination? Or was he a bumbling fool in a picklehaub?  Throughout the war, Allied propaganda seemed to suggest either identity was a possibility.  Ironically, it wasn’t just his enemies who were confused about his identity. Throughout his life, the Kaiser also struggled to come to terms with his own identity.  As the grandson of Queen Victoria, the half English Kaiser was supposed to be the champion of Anglo-German unity.  Instead, he would spend a lifetime torn between the two identities.  To explain these contradictions, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s life will be examined over the course of two podcast episodes.  Part one will discuss his early life and years as emperor.  (15:41)
Wilhelm II
The Zimmerman Telegram

On January 16, 1917, a coded German dispatch was intercepted by British Naval Intelligence.  Over the next weeks, cryptographers in the innocuous sounding Room 40 began deciphering the message.  What they found was shocking.  Germany was proposing to bankroll Mexico in a war that would serve two purposes: 1. Keep the U.S. from aiding the Allies, 2. Allow Mexico to recover its lost territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  The message also asked Mexico to lure Japan, one of the Allied nations in World War I, into the alliance.  Desperate to add the fresh strength of neutral America to their cause, the British shared the telegram with the U.S. Government.  The public release of the Zimmerman Telegram convinced many Americans that neutrality had failed.  Few wanted war, but as Barbara Tuchman concluded in her study of the affair, the Zimmerman Telegram “killed the American illusion that we could go about our business happily separate from other nations.” (17:19)
Zimmerman Telegram
African American Doctors in World War I

In this podcast, W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley, authors of the book: African American Doctors of World War I, shed light on the little known story of African American doctors who served during World War I.  Fisher and Buckley discuss the difficulties these men faced in obtaining medical degrees, their service in a segregated military, and their ultimate return to life in the United States.  Why did they serve? What is their legacy? Fisher and Buckley answer these questions and more! (24:05)
AF Am Doctors1
The Occupation of Germany

When World War I ended, parts of the American Expeditionary Force were sent into Germany to serve as an occupation force.  The Occupation of Germany (1918-1923) would be regarded as the most successful U.S. military occupation in history until the Occupation of Japan after World War II.  

In this podcast, Al Barnes, the Virginia National Guard Command Historian and author of the book In a Strange Land: The American Occupation of Germany, sat down with a member of the Memorial's staff to discuss the politics behind the occupation, fears of the "Germanization" of the U.S. Army, and some of the future American leaders who served in the occupation.  As with any occupation, fear, fraternization, and justice played out in unique ways. (37:10)
WWI Occupation Medal
Allenby Captures Jerusalem

While sometimes considered a “sideshow” in histories of World War I, the Middle East was a region of considerable value to both the Allied and Central powers.  As stalemate mired the Western front, both sides expended vast amounts of men and treasure in the Middle East in an attempt to outflank each other, but also with an eye to expanding influence in the region in the post-war period. 

In 1917 General Edmund Allenby was given leadership of the Palestine Campaign with a personal instruction from Lloyd George to capture Jerusalem before Christmas 1917. This podcast gives an outline of the Palestine Campaign to the capture of Jerusalem.   (20:32)
Allenby Enters Jerusalem1
The Road to Armistice

By late September 1918, Germany’s military leaders were aware that victory was completely out of reach.  General Erich Ludendorff and Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg began to call for an immediate armistice, arguing that it was in Germany’s best interests to try to negotiate a peace before Allied boots crossed into Germany.
Their willingness to seek an armistice was not just about gaining advantage for Germany in the post-war period however.  They were also driven by two other motivations: the desire to neutralize a potential communist revolution in Germany and the desire to shift responsibility for Germany’s defeat to a civilian government.  As Germany moved towards an armistice in October and November 1918, the seeds of World War II were being planted.  (20:40)
Pope Benedict XV and the Great War

Just weeks into the Great War, Pope Pius X died.  A cardinal for all of three months, Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa joined the resulting conclave to elect a new Pope.  The cardinals assembled debated whether to elect an experienced diplomat as pope in order to cope with the war, or to elect a more theologically minded leader.  The debate was short.  On September 3, 1914, della Chiesa, a proven diplomat, was elected pope by the College of Cardinals.   Taking the name Benedict XV, the new Pope immediately began looking for ways to intervene in the conflict.  His seven year papacy would be defined by World War I – a war he later referred to “The suicide of civilized Europe.” (11:28)
Lettow-Vorbeck and German East Africa

During World War I, German Major General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck led the British Army on a four year cat and mouse chase through German East Africa and its surroundings in what was called the “Little War.”  Over the course of this “Little War,” his tiny force of about 14,000 troops kept approximately 300,000 British troops occupied. Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops were still fighting when the war ended on November 11, 1918.  Today, this “Little War” provides proof that a small but highly motivated guerilla force can hold a modern army hostage even in an age of advancing military technology. (15:43)
Lettow Vorbeck
Hoover the Humanitarian

Today Herbert Hoover is remembered for being president when the Great Depression started.  As a result, he is often blamed for not doing enough to relieve the distress caused by that economic crisis.  But was Hoover really disinterested in the sufferings of those in need?  Was he a terrible administrator?  Before the Great Depression, no one would have thought so.  Hoover was internationally regarded as a talented administrator and as America’s great humanitarian – and it was World War I that gave him these credentials. (22:50)
Herbert Hoover
Animals in World War I

From transportation, to communication, security, comfort and morale, animals have been indispensable human partners throughout history.  It is therefore not surprising that animals have played important roles in military conflicts.  During World War I, millions of animals were put into service on each side.  This war is often remembered for the great human suffering, but millions of animals also experienced the horrors of the war, while bringing their own unique skill sets to the business of war. (17:59)

Sergeant Stubby