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Welcome to the official podcast of The Nashville Retrospect, the monthly newspaper devoted to stories from Nashville's past. Editor and host Allen Forkum interviews local historians and people who experienced the city’s history firsthand. He also investigates audio artifacts from area archives and relates fascinating articles from old Nashville newspapers.

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Nov 1, 2018

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we take a look at artifacts and monuments of The Great War found throughout the city. Host Allen Forkum (editor of The Nashville Retrospect newspaper) interviews Dr. Lisa Budreau, senior curator of military history at the Tennessee State Museum, about relics and souvenirs collected from Tennessee soldiers after World War I, including a German cannon and Sergeant Alvin C. York’s war medals. Dan Pomeroy, senior curator and director of the state museum, relates the history of the Military Branch Museum, located in the War Memorial Building. And Allison Griffey of the Tennessee State Library and Archives discusses stories from the Gold Star Records, including soldier’s letters, as well as women factory workers, the influenza epidemic, and the Mexican village at the Old Hickory gun powder plant. (Segment begins at 03:22)

Some of the uniforms featured in the new Tennessee State Museum temporary exhibition titled “Tennessee and the Great War: A Centennial Exhibition” (left to right): aviator Lieutenant Charles McGhee Tyson of Knoxville (the boots belonged to his father, General Lawrence Tyson), Rebekah Dodson Senter of the Army Nurse Corps, and Captain Albert Harris Jr. of Davidson County and part of the Vanderbilt Medical Unit in France.

The German breastplate armor discussed by Dr. Budreau in the podcast can be seen in the upper left. Beside it is a gas mask case. At the bottom is a Colt-Vickers water-cooled .303 caliber British machine gun, which were used by many countries during WWI, including the U.S. 30th Division troops attached to the British army.

This German field cannon can be seen in the new Tennessee State Museum temporary exhibition about WWI. The 7.7 cm, Model 1896 cannon by Krupp was likely captured by the U.S. 30th Division near the German Hindenburg line in 1918. It took over two and a half years to restore it to operational condition. 

This Sergeant Alvin C. York collection is part of a permanent WWI display at the new Tennessee State Museum. York's Medal of Honor and Croix de Guerre with palm can be seen in the middle right of the picture.

The gold star flag of Nashvillian Johnny Overton, held in the Gold Star Records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, features the popular WWI phrase “Over There.” Overton was killed on the battlefield in France on July 18, 1918, at the age of 24. You can read more about Johnny Overton in the November 2018 issue, in the article "A Nashville Soldier of the Great War Remembered," by John P. Williams. (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

At left is Cecil Calvert Bain, whose items in the Gold Star Records include a letter home about influenza in his camp. Like many soldiers in World War I, he would ultimately die of the disease at age 27 in Camp Gordon. At right is Private Luther Gilbert, Company B, 804th Pioneer Infantry, United States Army. Pvt. Gilbert was a member of one of the 14 African-American Pioneer Infantry units in World War I. Men in these units were often given dangerous maintenance and engineering tasks on the front lines. He died of pneumonia at 22 years old in France and was most likely a victim of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.(Images: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

Sue Howell (Mrs. A.C. Adams) is pictured with her seven sons, all of whom were involved in World War I and survived. She displayed seven blue stars on her service flag. The photo appears in the book Davidson County Women in the World War, 1917–1919, published in 1923, which you can read more about in the October 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect in the "Artifacts" column by Clinton J. Holloway. (Image: Clinton Holloway)

The Old Hickory DuPont gun powder plant is shown circa 1918. (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

Also hear the song “Over There” from World War I and lines from patriotic songs written by two Nashville women for the war. (Segment begins at 54:40)

The cover of the sheet music for “Over There” credits the Nora Bayes version of the song with introducing it to the country. A recording of Bayes singing the song can be heard at the end of the podcast. “Over there” became a common phrase during WWI, indicating where American troops were fighting. (Image: Library of Congress)

The cover illustration for the sheet music of “Over the Top” dramatically captures the meaning of the title. Nashvillian Marian Phelps wrote the lyrics for the patriotic song. (Image: Washington University)

And finally, Allen Forkum reviews some of the contents of the November 2018 issue, including such stories as: the toll of the 1918 influenza epidemic on Nashvillians; the city’s joyous reaction to news of the end of the Great War; and a Nashvillian’s letter from the front lines of the war. (Segment begins at 01:30)



A list of articles relating to this episode contained in back issues of The Nashville Retrospect (back issue can be ordered by clicking here):

• “Tennessee’s Gold Star Soldiers of WWI,” by Allison Griffey, The Nashville Retrospect, June 2016

• “Artifacts: ‘Davidson County Women in the World War, 1917–1919’” by Clinton J. Holloway, The Nashville Retrospect, October 2018

• “Kidnap the Kaiser” by Tom Henderson III, The Nashville Retrospect, January 2013

• “Sword Unsheathed By Uncle Sam,” Nashville Banner, April 6, 1917 (The Nashville Retrospect, April 2018)

• “Old Hickory’s ‘Swinging Bridge’,” Nashville Banner, April 25, 1919 (The Nashville Retrospect, April 2010)

• “1918 Flu Epidemic ‘Horrible’,” Nashville Banner, April 26, 1976 (The Nashville Retrospect, March 2018)

• Also see the November 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect for articles about life in trenches of WWI, the flu epidemic in Nashville, and extensive coverage of Nashville’s reaction to the end of the Great War.


Other related articles:

• “Tribute Paid To Vanderbilt Unit,” Nashville Tennessean, Nov. 3, 1917

• “Lack of Patriotic Spirit,” Nashville Tennessean, March 5, 1918

• “Mrs. Ashford Writes Patriotic Song” (“Old Glory”) Nashville Tennessean, June 17, 1917

• “Miss Phelps, Author of Patriotic Song” (Over the Top”), *Nashville Tennessean, Nov. 14, 1917

• “Nashville Woman Writes Patriotic Song” (“Over the Top”), Nashville Tennessean, Nov. 14, 1917


Links relating to this episode:

The Military Branch of the Tennessee State Museum

Tennessee State Museum

“Tennessee and the Great War: A Centennial Exhibition” at the State Museum

Tennessee State Library and Archives

Bodies of War: World War I and the Politics of Commemoration in America, 1919–1933 (2010) by Dr. Lisa M. Budreau

"Tennesseans, and their families, made the ultimate sacrifice during World War I | Opinion" by Dr. Lisa Budreau in The Tennessean

“Alvin C. York Collection” at Tennessee Virtual Archives

“Old Hickory DuPont Gunpowder Plant Photographs” at Tennessee Virtual Archives

“Over Here, Over There: Tennesseans in the First World War” at Tennessee Virtual Archives

“Record of Ex-Soldiers in World War I, Tennessee Counties, 1917–1919” at Tennessee Virtual Archives

“Tennessee in World War I” at Tennessee Virtual Archives

Tennessee Great War Commission

American Gold Star Mothers Inc.

“Over There” song info at Library of Congress

“‘Over There’ At 100” by National Public Radio

“Over the Top” sheet music at Washington University

“Over the Top” sheet music at Library of Congress

“Over the Top” song info at Wikipedia

“Old Glory” sheet music at Library of Congress

“World War I Sheet Music” at the Library of Congress

“Music of Emma Louise Ashford” at Evensong Music

Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation

"The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918” by the National Archives


Audio excerpts from: “Over There” sung by Nora Bayes; “Over There” sung by Billy Murrayclip of “Sergeant York” (1941) by Warner Bros.

Music: “Near You” by Francis Craig and His Orchestra (Bullet, 1947); “Quiet Outro” by ROZKOL (2018); “Covered Wagon” by Ted Weems and His Orchestra; and “The Buffalo Rag” by Vess L. Ossman