“Out of the Blue” challenges in World War I & today + webinar updates & WWI television recommendations

An item from World War One Centennial Commission.

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Geomatic storm of 2021

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As our nation continues to grapple with a challenge that seemingly came “out of the blue” from the COVID-19 virus, analogies have been drawn (by us as well as others) with the influenza epidemic at the end of World War I a century ago. But 99 years ago this week, a very literal “out of the blue” event was impacting America and the world, as The Great Geomagnetic Storm of May 1921 slammed the earth. Electrical currents induced by geomagnetic activity on the sun surged through telephone and telegraph lines, heating them to the point of combustion, causing fires and disrupting travel and communications all around the planet for an extended period. Another lesson from history that unexpected challenges are the rule of the universe, not the exception.

Seattle newspaper influenza 2018

As illustrated by the period newspaper front page at left, in the autumn of 1918 our nation was engaged fiercely in two essential national campaigns: the Muse-Argonne offensive, and the fight against the terrible influenza that was sweeping the nation and world. The battle in France would lead later that year to the end of the fighting in Europe in World War I. The struggle with the epidemic would take much longer to end. In neither case was the result rapid or without tragic cost. But in both cases, American resolve, ingenuity, and teamwork brought us through the crisis stronger than ever.

As the nation goes on the offensive to get back to work again after the COVID-19 pandemic, those same resources will be called upon in new ways to achieve the same end: a strong and innovative nation ready to grow and prosper in the decades ahead.

App vertical

As many of you know, we have undertaken a very ambitious and innovative project of our own. It is called the “WWI Memorial Virtual Explorer” a smartphone and tablet app that uses a new technology called “Augmented Reality”.  The app allows us to put the new National WWI Memorial being built in Washington D.C. into everyone’s pocket in a highly informative and unique way.

While the actual Memorial is still under construction, the app is ready for testing. As a part of our existing WWI Memorial “family,” your participation in trying out  the app before the general public, and providing feedback to us on both your experience and any errors you find (a process called “Beta Testing”) will help us perfect this complex and innovative project before we release it to the general public.

If you are interested in being a “beta tester” it is easy to sign up by clicking ww1cc.org/explorer.  Besides helping us, and the teachers and educators who will be using the app in the future, it should also be a lot of fun. Get your kids involved! and thank you.

We will continue providing you with World War I-themed webinars, activities, and information over the coming weeks, hoping these events and recommendations will provide some interesting, informative, and pleasant distractions.

Hello Girl Diagonal

We will be presenting another webinar on Friday, May 15, at 1pm EDT, focusing on America’s First Women Soldiers, “The Hello Girls.” Join us as we explore the incredible story of these women soldiers who helped us win WWI, and whose battle for recognition and their veterans rights continued for 60 years after the fighting stopped on the western front. It is a powerful story of heroism and empowerment set against the backdrops of WWI and the Women’s Suffrage movement.  Click here to register.

Our special guests are Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs, historian and author of the the Harvard University Press book called “The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers,” and the creative team of Cara Reichel and Peter Mills, who produced the highly acclaimed off-Broadway musical “The Hello Girls”.

As our Bonus Feature we will be screening the 6 minute Documentary short “Women in WWI” from our “How WWI Changed America”: Teaching and Learning Resource series underwritten by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Click here to sign up now for this interesting and entertaining webinar on May 15.

If you missed any of our four previous webinars (“Making the Memorial Sculpture”, “WWI Memorial Virtual App”, “Genealogy Workshop”, and “Memorial Design and Construction Update”), or want to watch one of them again, click here to find links for the videos of all the previous webinars.

Doughboys in Theatre masks

At the U.S. Army hospital in Royat, France, during the World War I influenza epidemic, convalescing Doughboys wearing surgical masks (sound familiar?) gathered in the base theater to enjoy being entertained by movies from back in the states.  We don’t know what the film titles were that they watched (all silent films, remember), but we do have a few suggestions for you sheltering at home for some WWI-themed television programs which you may enjoy — surgical masks optional in your home theater, of course!

Influenza pandemic and WWI C-SPAN

Influenza Pandemic and World War I provides an in-depth presentation by historian Nancy Bristow about the 1918 influenza pandemic and how it devastated American civilians and soldiers during the final year of World War I and beyond. She also explained why the epidemic is not memorialized like the war itself, despite causing a higher number of deaths. Ms. Bristow is the author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri hosted this talk as part of their annual symposium in 1918.

Influenza Pandemic and World War I can be viewed on the C-SPAN3 web site here.

The Great War PBS

The Great Wara three-part series on the PBS program American Experience, draws on unpublished diaries, memoirs and letters to tell the rich and complex story of World War I through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and the American troops who came to be known as “Doughboys.” The series explores the experiences of African-American and Latino soldiers, suffragists, Native American “code talkers” and others whose participation in the war to “make the world safe for democracy” has been largely forgotten. The Great War explores how a brilliant PR man bolstered support for the war in a country hesitant to put lives on the line for a foreign conflict; how President Woodrow Wilson steered the nation through years of neutrality, only to reluctantly lead America into the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, thereby transforming the United States into a dominant player on the international stage; and how the ardent patriotism and determination to support America’s crusade for liberty abroad led to one of the most oppressive crackdowns on civil liberties at home in U.S. history. It is a story of heroism and sacrifice that would ultimately claim 15 million lives and profoundly change the world forever.

The Great War can be streamed free online on the PBS web site, or viewed on Amazon PrimeiTunes, or Google Play.

Sled Dog Soldiers

Sled Dog Soldiers  In August 1915, two officers of the French Army embark on an incredible secret mission: to bring 450 sled dogs from Alaska and Canada to France. Will they succeed in carrying out their mission on time? The objective: to save the Eastern front from German invasion with the help of the sled dogs – the only way to penetrate the snow-filled Vosges and bring much-needed supplies and ammunition to starving and injured French soldiers. Captain Louis Moufflet and Lieutenant René Haas and legendary dogsled driver Scotty Allan have 120 days to cover 10,000 kilometers under enemy threat, from Alaska all the way to Quebec. Once their ship departs they must defy German submarines and face terrible storms to cross the Atlantic and reach France. As one Amazon reviewer wrote: “The logistics of moving this many high energy/dominant Canines in ANY era is hard to comprehend, but doing it in 1915? and in undeveloped Canada and Alaska!?”

Sled Dog Soldiers can be viewed on Amazon Prime, and other online video sources.

Remember that if you shop using AmazonSmile, a percentage of the price of your purchase will go to help build the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC which is currently under construction.

Stay safe.

Dans Signature

Daniel S. Dayton
Executive Director
U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

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