"They fought far beyond the call of duty": Minority WWI soldiers get a chance at Medal of Honor. The staff of the George S. Robb Centre at Park, set in motion by an Act of Congress, is conducting a review of valor medals for minority service members.

'Valor never expires': How a pair of Iowa researchers is honoring the heroic acts of diverse WWI soldiers 

By Courtney Crowder
via the Des Moines Register newspaper (IA) web site

The soldiers’ stories play out in Josh Weston’s subconscious like old movies.

They come to him in quiet moments: when he’s falling asleep, or when he’s driving to work at the Valor Medals Review Project before the world has woken up, the only sound the snoring of his service dog, Moscow.

There’s Cpl. Isaac Valley, a Black man who was severely wounded when, instead of taking cover, he jumped on a grenade in a trench of soldiers, saving dozens. And Pvt. Sing Lau Kee, an Asian American who, despite steady mustard gas attacks that paralyzed his commanders, refused evacuation and single-handedly kept a message relay center running, and troops moving, for 24 hours straight.

And Mjr. Julius Adler, a Jewish American from the Ochs family, publishers of the New York Times, who, while corralling German POWs, came upon a party of 150 enemy soldiers. Running toward them with his pistol raised and screaming for their surrender, he captured 50 more.  

These soldiers moved in separate orbits, coming home, carrying their service on their shoulders like an invisible boulder. They were connected by America’s first forgotten war, but living in bell jars, using the experience as either fuel for a full life or disappearing into themselves, the consequences of what they saw rattling around in their minds like balls in a bingo cage. 

But a century later, their stories collide with two questions:

  1. Were the medals for their heroic acts of valor downgraded solely because of their race, ethnicity or religion, as was common in America’s 20th century military?
  2. Can Weston, 32, employ the weight of historical forensics to muster enough proof that these men deserve to be awarded the Medal of Honor?

For nearly three years, Weston and his colleagues, Ashlyn Weber and Timothy Westcott, of Early, Iowa, have researched the actions of more than 200 World War I soldiers — African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans and Native Americans — who may have been discriminated against. 

While the military has conducted reviews of valor for World War II and all subsequent conflicts, their work marks the first — and, with funding for such endeavors increasingly scarce, likely the last — review of World War I servicemembers.

“This is the one and only shot that these servicemembers will ever have to get the attention that they deserve,” says Weston, the project’s senior military adviser and a Davenport native.

 

Pershing WIlson review AEF General of the Armies John Pershing and President Woodrow WIlson review elements of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. April 1917, the entry of America into World War I marks one of the major turning points in the nation’s history. In the span of just nineteen months, the United States sent nearly two million troops overseas, established a robust propaganda apparatus, and created an unparalleled war machine that played a major role in securing Allied victory in the fall of 1918. At the helm of the nation, Woodrow Wilson and his administration battled against political dissidence, domestic and international controversies, and their own lack of experience leading a massive war effort. To mark the 105th anniversary of the U.S. involvement in the war to end all wars, the University of Notre Dame Press will publish More Precious than Peace: A New History of America in World War I by military historian Justus D. Doenecke. 

“More Precious Than Peace” Uncovers the American Experience in World War I 

By Justus Doenecke
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site 

I never intended to write about American military engagement in any war, much less World War I. Admittedly, as an undergraduate at Colgate University in the late 1950s, I had written by senior thesis on the controversy surrounding the Pearl Harbor attack. Yet my doctoral thesis, completed at Princeton in 1966, centered on the response of American opinion leaders to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. For the next forty years I was primarily researching in American anti-interventionism (misleadingly but commonly called “isolationism”), which led to a series of publications on the “great debate” over FDR’s foreign policy of 1939-41, the America First Committee, and opposition to Cold War involvement ranging from Greece in 1947 to Korea in 1950. I taught upper division courses on both world wars and on the Cold War but my focus was more often on diplomatic and ideological factors than on battles and leaders.

Justus D. DoeneckeJustus D. DoeneckeIn 2005, at age 67, I retired from the faculty of New College of Florida, the state’s honors college, where I had taught for 36 years. Hoping for a large project to keep me occupied during my new “permanent leave,” I extended my interest in anti-interventionism to World War I and its immediate aftermath. Though never having researched on the Great War, my Princeton mentor was Arthur S. Link, the nation’s leading scholar on Woodrow Wilson. I was also strongly influenced by Princeton’s Arno J. Mayer, who stressed ideological battles between Wilsonianism and Leninism. Over the years, I had collected a number of contemporary books on the war. This project would give me a good excuse to read them.

I began by focusing on such anti-interventionist figures as publisher William Randolph Hearst, auto manufacturer Henry Ford, erstwhile Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, German-American spokesman George Sylvester Viereck, and Senator Robert M. La Follette. I soon found myself confronting such complicated matters as public perception of the belligerents, the preparedness controversy, the nature of submarine warfare, the British blockade, and Wilson’s neutrality policies. I quickly realized that the only way to explain accurately the debates over these items was to delve as well into administration policy, as reflected in such figures as the president, Wilson confidant Colonel E.M. House, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, and Walter Hines Page, ambassador to Britain. I soon found myself engaging figures far more hawkish than Wilson, such as Theodore Roosevelt, corporation lawyer James M. Beck, and former army chief of staff Leonard Wood. Well within a decade, I had amassed enough matter to write Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America’s Entry into War (2011), covering the period August 1914 to early April 1917.

My current book, its sequel, is titled More Precious Than Peace: A New History of America in World War I (2022). Both book titles come from Wilson’s war message of April 2, 1917, undoubtedly the most arresting speech he ever gave. Here I take the narrative from the conscription debates of April-May 1917 through negotiations surrounding the Armistice of November 11, 1918. The work centers on such matters as the draft, government propaganda, arch-nationalist and peace organizations, military mobilization, the ill-fated ventures into northern Russia and Siberia, and the war aims of the belligerents. For the first time, I tried my hand at combat history, that is coverage of engagements of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) on Western Front.

As far as sources go, I began research by going through the published papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited by my mentor at Princeton, Arthur S. Link. I did the same for the published letters of Theodore Roosevelt, edited by Elting Morison. I then went through the debates recorded in the Congressional Record and diplomatic records as published in the State Department’s Foreign Relations volumes. I then covered the years 1917-18 in detail through two newspapers, almost issue by issue: the New York Times and Hearst’s New York American, the latter a surprisingly good paper as far as coverage went, despite the obvious quirks of the publisher himself. (There is far more to Hearst than Citizen Kane!) I then went through, issue by issue, the following weekly journals: the Literary Digest; the Nation; the New Republic, the Outlook, and the War Weekly of the North American Review. I did the same for the monthly journals North American Review and Current Opinion. I read the newspaper columns of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. I went through the papers of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, obtained on microfilm from the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston. In addition to countless published monographs and articles in professional journals, I read a good number of doctoral theses. Newspapers.com, which I discovered only about six years ago, became an increasingly valuable resource.

 

How an ‘Imposter’ Journalist Changed the Course of World War I 

By Mark Arsenault
via the Time Magazine web site 

commander boy ed world war 1 espionageCaptain Karl Boy-EdThree days after Christmas in 1915, a New York City taxi bounced over streetcar tracks and weaved among the horse buggies on its way out of the city to the 5th Street Pier in Hoboken, New Jersey, home of the Holland-America cruise line, as the grand Dutch ocean liner Rotterdam prepared for an Atlantic crossing to Europe. It carried a special fare: German diplomat Captain Karl Boy-Ed, a career military man and the German embassy’s naval attaché, one of the highest-ranking consular posts.

After nearly four years stationed in America, Boy-Ed was sailing home in disgrace. President Woodrow Wilson’s administration had ejected Boy-Ed from the United States, along with his colleague in the German diplomatic corps, military attaché Franz von Papen, due to a rising pile of evidence that the diplomats were engaged in sabotage and deceptive propaganda in brazen violation of America’s policy of neutrality in World War I.

The war had been raging in Europe for a little over a year. As a neutral nation, the United States maintained diplomatic relations with each of the major combatants: Germany and its ally Austria-Hungary on one side, and England, France, and Russia on the other. For Germany, the expulsion of Boy-Ed and Papen was a humiliating setback in international relations.

What made the day even worse for the intellectual and gentlemanly Boy-Ed was that he had been chased from America by a mysterious loudmouth who edited a small daily newspaper in, of all places, Providence, Rhode Island. Over the previous six months, the Providence Journal—led by its flamboyant editor John Revelstoke Rathom—had printed dozens of exclusive stories exposing alleged German intrigue in America. German diplomats in the United States were scandalized by the onslaught of articles, which blamed them for plots from passport fraud to propaganda, to undermining US industry and labor, to outright sabotage.

In Rathom’s most outrageous story, he had named Boy-Ed as the point man in a German conspiracy to return the exiled Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta back to power in a coup, and to smuggle weapons to Huerta so that Mexico could attack the southwestern United States. It sounded too crazy to be true. Trying to goad the United States and Mexico into a shooting war? Boy-Ed denied every word of it. But the Germans understood that many people in the United States believed Rathom—too many. And if enough Americans came to see Germany as a menace, the United States might enter the war on the side of Britain and its allies.

 

NARA webinar part 1 screenshot from TwitterThe advertisement for the September webinar series with the National Archives. Graphic by the National Archives. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Webinars and Monthly Event Series 

By Stephen Carney, Command Historian, Arlington National Cemetery
Special to the Doughboy Foundation Web Site

Beginning in January 2021, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) commenced a monthly program of events focused on different aspects of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as part of its year-long centennial commemoration. While the initial planning for these programs in 2019 envisioned that they would primarily be held in-person, ANC had to pivot due to ongoing Covid surges. As a result, the majority of our monthly programs were held in a webinar or video only format. While this proved challenging at first, the creative opportunities this shift afforded ultimately outweighed the difficulties.

Specifically, webinar and video formats allowed all of the programs to be viewed by participants from across the United States and around the world, regardless of their ability to travel or visit the cemetery in person. This truly enabled ANC to bring the Tomb commemoration to a global audience. All content remains available for on-demand viewing on our webinar main page: www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Tomb100/Centennial-Events/Monthly-Programs. This outcome also fulfilled one of the main educational goals of the 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA), which established the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration.

In order to successfully execute these virtual events, ANC partnered with a number of organizations to broadcast, participate in, and host a series of interactive webinars. In January 2021, ANC and the National WWI Museum and Memorial began the series by co-hosting a webinar on “Teaching the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” featuring one of ANC’s education modules. Established in 2019, ANC’s first official Education Program includes materials for teachers, students, life-long learners, and families (content is available at https://education.arlingtoncemtery.mil).

For the February program, the National WWI Museum and Memorial again served as the co-host and joined us to organize a workshop for educators, “Teaching with Things: How Artifacts Illuminate the Past”. Panelists included experts from ANC, the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Nearly 500 teachers received continuing education credits for participating in that webinar.

The National World War II Museum hosted and moderated the August 2021 webinar, “World War II Unknowns: A Roundtable Discussion Commemorating the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”, which featured presenters from ANC, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). These experts on the history of unknown and unidentified American service members in World War II shared different perspectives on this topic in a lively and engaging public forum.

In September 2021, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) hosted a two-part webinar series with ANC and NARA specialists, which examined “Records Related to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” (Part 1 and Part 2.) For the October 2021 program, the National WWI Museum and Memorial again served as the host, this time for a joint webinar with ANC and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC): “Eternally Unknown: The Selection of the WWI Unknown Soldier”. This webinar was held on October 22, the 100th anniversary of the date when the four World War I unknown candidates were disinterred from four American cemeteries in France. Two days later, in a ceremony on October 24, 1921, one would be selected for burial in the Tomb.

 

 During Women’s History Month, #VeteranOfTheDay for March 30, 2022 is Army Veteran Helen Grace McClelland, who served as a nurse during World War I.During Women’s History Month, #VeteranOfTheDay for March 30, 2022 is Army Veteran Helen Grace McClelland, who served as a nurse during World War I.

WWI Army Veteran Helen Grace McClelland 

via the VAntage Point web site ou the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Public Affairs

Helen Grace McClelland was born in Ohio in 1887. She enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in 1908 and graduated in 1912. When the Red Cross asked for volunteers in 1914 to aid overseas during World War I, McClelland answered the call. She volunteered in 1915 for the American Ambulance Service and served in France.

The U.S. officially entered the war in 1917, but McClelland saw it as her duty to continuing helping in the humanitarian effort overseas. After briefly returning to the U.S., she officially joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1917 and was brought back to Europe’s Western Front to continue aiding in the war effort. She served in the American surgical team attached to British Casualty Clearing Station No. 61.

McClelland worked near to the front and saw the gore of war first-hand. While working along the French and Belgian border with the surgical team at British Casualty Clearing Station No. 61, her German bombers attacked her nursing station. She first assisted her tentmate, fellow nurse Beatrice Mary MacDonald, who was bleeding out from the initial attack. Then, she aided others injured by the bombs’ blasts. Despite being under heavy fire, McClelland rushed to aid those wounded by the bombs, ignoring the present danger surrounding her. For these actions, McClelland received a Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in July 1918. She is one of only three women to receive a Distinguished Service Cross. The British also bestowed upon her a British Royal Red Cross First Class for her actions.

McClelland left the Army Nurse Corps in May 1919 after her nursing station disbanded.

After World War I, McClelland worked as a nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital, starting in 1926. She promoted to director of the nursing department there in 1933 and worked in that role until she retired in 1956. As head of the nursing department, McClelland created two-year and four-year training programs at the hospital for new nurses. She was also instrumental in acquiring national accreditation for the nurse education program at the hospital.

 

16SergentYorkKGBCOn Oct. 8, 1918, Corporal Alvin C. York killed 20 German soldiers and captured 132 more as part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. His battle heroics earned him the Medal of Honor. In 1941, the film “Sergeant York,” with Gary Cooper playing York, received nine Academy Award nominations and took home the Oscar for Best Film Editing and Best Actor.

Best World War I movies of all time 

By Annalise Mantz
via the Stacker web site

Writers, directors, composers, editors, and all kinds of artists are inspired by what’s happening in the world around them. It then follows that monumental historical events like World War I would have an equally monumental impact on media and culture. Even before the United States entered the war, Hollywood was inspired by the conflict in Europe—and as the American relationship with WWI evolved, the subject matter shifted from advocating for neutrality to celebrating nationalism.

Of course, filmmakers didn’t stop producing movies about the Great War when it ended. Some of the most influential films about WWI were made decades after Armistice Day.

To study the impact the First World War had on the big screen, Stacker consulted the top-rated war films on IMDb and ranked the top 25 about WWI. To qualify, the film had to have at least 2,500 votes and had to cover the Great War in one way or another. Any ties were broken by IMDb user votes. The list runs the gamut from silent films with groundbreaking aerial battle scenes to emotional dramas about the human cost of war. 

 

 Nationals train in Calistoga in 1913 for WWI dutyIn 1913 the Nationals set up Camp John Klein in Calistoga, California to train for World War I.

The Nationals train in Calistoga in 1913 for WWI duty 

By Kathy Bazzoli, Sharpsteen Museum
via The Weekly Calistogan/Napa Valley Register newspaper (CA) web site

It was Calistoga, 1913, and the Nationals of Camp John E. Klein were stationed in a field near the original Springs grounds between July 3 and 13.

The Nationals (not affiliated with the National Guard) claim to have been originally organized in 1855 as a private military cadet corps based in San Francisco. They modeled themselves after an early San Francisco militia unit, practicing military drilling in preparation for being called to war. Even though the claim was they dated back to pre-Civil War, research tells us they had only been in existence since circa 1910 although many members of a previous incarnation of The Nationals enlisted in the Spanish-American War.

 It's safe to say they were a paramilitary group, all volunteer, young men possibly eager for the glory of war. These types of private military organizations became a fad of sorts during the period. Although the reality of World War I must have removed much of the romance, when the U.S. entered the war in 1917, many of these members enlisted individually and served honorably.

Captain John E. Klein, for which this chapter was named, served as an officer in the California National Guard in San Francisco in the 1880s and 1890s. He may have distinguished himself in the Spanish-American War. This is unknown, but for whatever the reason, his name is proudly recorded for the group of Nationals that visited Calistoga in 1913 as Camp John E. Klein.

 

DAR celebrates Women’s History Month, WWI Hello Girls 

via the Dothan Eagle newspaper (AL) web site 

DAR exhibit Hello Girls

ell Gilmer, Immediate Past Regent of the John Coffee Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, showcased Women's History Month by displaying the book "The Hello Girls", printed information about their accomplishments and a doll dressed as an operator at the Elba Public Library during the month of March.

These Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators were WWI American female switchboard operators which were formed in 1917.

What began in the 1980s as Women's History Week eventually became a monthlong celebration through a series of Congressional resolutions and Presidential proclamations.

Since 1995, presidents have issued annual proclamations designating the month of March as "Women's History Month." The proclamations are meant to celebrate the specific achievements and contributions of women over the course of American history in every field.

Read the entire article on the Dothan Eagle web site.

 

 

 

 

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Jari Villanueva Leads Daily Taps at the National WWI Memorial 

By Kathy Abbott
Staff Writer

The Daily Taps program at the National World War I Memorial, in Washington, DC was launched November 11, 2021 by the Doughboy Foundation as part of its ongoing commitment to Honor All Those Who Served in WWI.

Jari Villanueva Leads Daily Taps at the National WWI MemorialJari Villanueva Leads Daily Taps at the National WWI MemorialTo ensure this commitment would be steadfast, Jari Villanueva, lifelong bugler, considered to be the country’s foremost expert on military bugle calls, and Director of Taps for Veterans, was chosen to lead this effort. Jari sounded the first Daily Taps at the WWI Memorial, DC, and continues to play, as well as organize many other dedicated buglers who have stepped forward to honor all our Veterans and active-duty military, rain or shine.

Jari shared some of his thoughts with us this month…

I was born in Karhula, Finland and moved to the US when I was about one. I grew up in Baltimore attending Baltimore Public Schools and attended Peabody Conservatory where I received my bachelor's degree in Music Education. I taught music in the school system for three years before going to Kent State University where I received my master’s in music.

After I returned to Washington, DC, I joined the US Air Force Band where I spent 23 years as a ceremonial trumpeter and bugler. After I retired, I served as director of the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard overseeing military funeral honors for the State of Maryland. I retired from that position in 2017.

I am now Director of Taps For Veterans and work with over 1,000 volunteers to help provide buglers for military funerals. I also work on special projects with Taps For Veterans like 100 Nights of Taps Gettysburg and Taps Across America in conjunction with CBS News.

I started sounding Taps as a Boy Scout to close each troop meeting and at weekend campouts. I've sounded the call all my life and worked at Arlington Cemetery doing countless funerals and ceremonies. Played trumpet in school, and played at many church services and funerals.

I have served in the military for 23 years. My father served in the Merchant Marines during WWII. He was on a Liberty Ship. He was torpedoed twice. My Sister served as a nurse in the Navy, and my niece is following her mother's footsteps by serving in the Air Force as a nurse at Ramstein AFB.

 

Rogers presents war medals to family of WWI hero 

By Mark White
via The News Journal newspaper (KY) web site

Private First Class Abraham Smith was part of the U.S. Army’s WWI American Expeditionary Force, known as the “Polar Bears.” On Oct. 27, 1918, PFC Smith carried wounded soldiers to the dressing station and delivered a message under artillery fire in north Russia.

Congressman Hal Rogers presents the Silver Star to the family of WWI PFC. Abraham Smith. From left, Rev. Raymond Parks, Alice Parks, Rogers, Jacob Losekamp, and Butch Parks.Congressman Hal Rogers presents the Silver Star to the family of WWI PFC. Abraham Smith. From left, Rev. Raymond Parks, Alice Parks, Rogers, Jacob Losekamp, and Butch Parks.Unfortunately, he was never awarded the military medals that he valiantly earned, Rogers noted.

“Southern and Eastern Kentucky is full of heroic war stories from the sons and daughters of this region who bravely served this nation on the front lines. Mr. Smith never expected to receive any medals and never boasted to his family about his heroic actions in Russia during World War I. It wasn’t until family members started researching military records that they realized their father and grandfather was one of the Army’s storied ‘Polar Bears,'” said Rogers. “I count it a great honor to help families secure war medals that were never awarded to our men and women in uniform. It’s the least that I can do for their incredible sacrifice for this great nation.”

Rogers presented the Silver Star, the WWI Victory Medal and the WWI Bronze Victory Pin to Smith’s daughter, Alice Parks; Rev. Raymond Parks, his son-in-law; Butch Parks, his grandson; and Jacob Losekamp his great-great-great-grandson.

“We had no idea what my father had done. He never talked about what happened during the war,” said Alice Parks. “We are so proud of him and we could never explain what these medals mean to us after all these years.”

“My grandfather was an incredible, hard-working man. It was difficult to get his military records, but when I called Congressman Rogers for help, he and his staff helped us track down the records we needed,” said Butch Parks. “We are so grateful to Congressman Rogers and his staff for making this a matter of importance and getting these medals for our family.”

 

 Hello GirlsThe Hello Girls were the telephone operators who responded to a call from their country to provide bi-lingual telephone services in the theatre of war. It is estimated that they connected 26 million calls and were a significant factor in turning the tide of the war. They were denied veteran status from the end of the war until 1977. The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, pre-COVID, recommended to Congress that the Hello Girls be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Honoring the “Hello Girls” of World War I 

By Nicole Kunze
via the Lehi Free Press newspaper (UT) web site 

More than 100 years ago, women from every state in the U.S. volunteered to serve as switchboard operators and real-time translators on the front lines of World War I. They served under commissioned officers, wore dog tags, rank insignia and uniforms and swore the Army Oath, but the 223 women and 2 men of the Signal Corps Telephone Operator Unit were told when they came home that they had served as “civilian contractors” instead of soldiers. Lehi’s John Hutchings Museum Director Daniela Larsen is doing her part to get the “Hello Girls” recognition they’ve long deserved.

Daniela LarsenDaniela Larsen“At first, they had men operating the phone lines, but they were slow. General Pershing requested women who were already trained as switchboard operators instead,” explained Daniela Larsen. The women were six times faster at connecting calls than the men they replaced. “A few minutes made the difference between life and death on the front lines in France.”

Two of the “Hello Girls” were from Utah, Emelia Katharine Lumpert and Mary Marshall.

For almost 60 years, the surviving members of the Signal Corps Telephone Operator Unit petitioned Congress for the same veterans’ recognition afforded to their male colleagues and female Army nurses. In 1977 Congress passed a law paving the way for the “Hello Girls” and the WASP pilots from WW2 to be recognized as full veterans of the US Armed Forces. In 2009 the WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest medal bestowed by civilians in the United States.

The World War One Centennial Commission is working to honor the “Hello Girls” with the same honor. Congressional Gold Medal bill, S.206 currently has 24 cosponsors and bipartisan support.

“World War I was so long ago; we’re losing our connections to it and the lessons from it. The John Hutchings Museum was built as a monument to World War I. We really want to take up this cause and properly memorialize the ‘Hello Girls,” Larsen explained. 

On Monday, March 21, Larsen met with staff members in Utah Senator Mike Lee’s office to ask them to support S. 206. Both Utah senators’ offices are busy fielding calls about helping Ukraine, but Senator Lee’s staff listened attentively to Larsen. “We will always take time to hear from constituents. This is a great cause,” said Nate Jackson, Northern Utah Director and Military Affairs Advisor for Senator Lee.

 

 Wings bParamount Pictures’ Wings is the 1927 film that won the very first Best Picture Oscar at the initial Academy Award ceremony, held at the Hotel Roosevelt on May 16, 1929. Wings is a silent film packed with romance, action, and drama. Set during World War I, the plot follows the adventures of two fighter pilots who come from different social standings but find themselves vying for the affections of the same woman.

The 14 Best World War I Movies Ever Made 

By Fiona Underhill
via the slashfilm.com web site

World War One is underrepresented on the big screen, certainly in comparison to the Second World War. Although fought from 1914, the late entry of the U.S. in 1917 and their relatively small losses could be a factor in this. The bleak tragedy and hollow futility of the First World War compared to the second, which had a much clearer motive and offered more chances for gung-ho heroism, is another reason why it's not exactly Hollywood movie material.

For understandable reasons, most of the films on this list are British and several have literary origins, being based on novels and plays. With the centenary of the end of the First World War in 2018, it is starting to fade into the background and does not appear in media and culture so much. This is why preservation projects such as Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old" are so important, as this war should remain alive and fresh in the collective memory, especially because there are so many lessons to be learned from it. These WWI films stretch from the 1920s to the 2010s, and each one reflects the time in which it was made. The layering of history through the prism of the decade viewing it is an important consideration here. Join us on a tour of almost a hundred years of World War I movies.

Wings (1927)

The first-ever winner of the best picture Oscar is an epic involving hundreds of extras and spectacular air battles, bringing the burgeoning popularity and excitement surrounding both airplanes and moving pictures to mass audiences. Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight happened in May 1927, the same year as the premiere of "Wings," and movie attendance soared during the decade. The focus of the story is a love triangle in small-town America between Jack (Charles Rogers), David (Richard Arlen), and Mary (Clara Bow, a huge star at the time). Yet it actually becomes much more about the friendship between Jack and David. It also features an early Gary Cooper role, in not much more than a cameo, but it would be a star-making turn for him.

If you're not overly familiar with early cinema, "Wings" features many elements that might surprise you, including brief nudity (this was before the Hays Code), as well as deep affection and even kissing shown between men. It also displays some jaw-dropping technical achievements, such as the establishing tracking shot in the Parisian café which swoops over tables and through partying couples. The fact that a film as important as this was almost lost makes one think about what else out there has not been preserved. The ending is melodramatic but also genuinely tender. "Wings" is an important film for many reasons, not least that it was made by William Wellman (who had actual WWI combat experience), and is still hugely entertaining almost a century later.

 

 Women WorkersAlthough women were not allowed to fight during this war, many women at RIA put their lives on the line by working one of the most dangerous jobs at the arsenal, filling the 155mm shells and setting fuses in building 250.

World War I opens opportunity for women workers at RIA 

By Sarah Patterson, U.S. Army Sustainment Command
via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service web site

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. — During Women’s History Month, inspirational women such as Harriet Tubman or Susan B. Anthony are often remembered, but it is also important to recognize women closer to home who helped pave the way for future female employees here at RIA.

During World War I, women from Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, Davenport, Iowa, and the surrounding areas, were hired in large numbers at RIA for the first time, in order to support the war efforts. As men were deploying to fight the war, women stepped in to take their place at the arsenal, reaching a peak of 1,400 female employees.

This was the first time that women held prominent roles at RIA. They initially held positions such as office workers, typists, and stenographers. As the war effort grew and needs increased though, women began taking on more technical jobs in the artillery, ammunition and clothing shops.

“Rock Island Arsenal was one of many arsenals that experimented early in the war with expanding the female workforce outside of clerical jobs,” explained Kevin Braafladt, U.S. Army Sustainment Command historian. “This was due to a fear of a shortage of male workers as a cause of the expanding war.”

Although women were not allowed to fight during this war, many women at RIA put their lives on the line by working one of the most dangerous jobs at the arsenal, filling the 155mm shells and setting fuses in building 250.

These were considered highly dangerous positions, so women were required to adhere to the safety dress code.

“All girls working in shop buildings, whether skilled laborers or skilled office laborers, must provide themselves with uniforms within 30 days after date of employment. Girls working at machines or near dangerous machinery will wear the bloomer uniform,” stated RIA Commanding Officer Col. Leroy T. Hillman, as reported in a 1918 issue of The Arsenal Record, the installation newspaper, accessed through the RIA archive.

Cora De Wilfond is an example of a particularly influential woman, a trailblazer for female employees working in previously male-only jobs.