“Millionaire’s Unit” Documentary Film Focuses on Yale’s Pioneer American Aviators

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“The Millionaire’s Unit: America’s Pioneer Pilots of The Great War” is the title of a new documentary film project launched by film makers Darroch Greer and Ron King of southern California.

 

The feature-length documentary will recount the story of a handful of Yale University students who formed an aero club and trained at their own expense as aviators while America was still neutral.  Following the April 1917 US declaration of war on Germany, these young pilots, and many others from Yale who joined their ranks, were incorporated into the US Naval Reserve before going “Over There” where they were among the first in American uniform to see action in The Great War.

Early American aviators of the Yale unit in Florida, 1917.

Early American aviators of the Yale unit 1917.

The significance of the early Yale aviators is considerable – as outlined by the project’s website. “The triumphs and tragedies of these young aviators during World War I forever altered, not only the course of their lives, but the future of American aviation, warfare, and foreign policy in the 20th century.  Together, these friends exemplified the noblest ambitions of a young country struggling to emerge as a leading power in a new and frighteningly dangerous world.  With the compelling stories of these high-flyers – told through their correspondence by family members and historians – the film of The Millionaires’ Unit will capture the breadth and depth of the personal war experience when America came of age as a world power.”

For more information, and details on how individuals can assist, visit the project’s website here.

 

Student Produced WW1 Short Film “Ralph” Wins Kubrick Award

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21-year-old film maker Matthew Lightstone’s  new short film “Ralph” recounts the death of his 17-year-old great-great uncle Ralph Howell killed in France in September 1916.  Partly filmed on location in the village of Ruardean, Gloucestershire, England, where Howell grew up,  “Ralph” also recreates trench scenes from the Western Front and has recently won the Stanley Kubrick Award from the University of Hertforshire.

A trench scene being shot during the making of the short film "Ralph"

A trench scene being shot during the making of the short film “Ralph”

Born in November 1898, Ralph Howell worked as a miner before enlisting in the British Army at age 16.  He and several others were killed when an artillery shell collapsed the communication trench they were repairing on September 8, 1916.  Howell’s body was never found.  Film maker Lightstone was drawn to the story which had been passed down through the family.

For more information, and to view the official trailer, see the story from The Gloucestershire Echo here.

To view the short feature “Ralph – Behind the Scenes” click here.

 

“Pershing’s Last Patriot” Documentary Film Nears Completion

American Doughboy Frank Buckles.

American Doughboy Frank Buckles.

Documentary film maker Dave DeJonge of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is preparing to release a new film on the life of Frank Buckles, the last surviving American Doughboy.  Buckles, who passed away at the age of 110 in 2011, enlisted in the Army in 1917 and served as a ambulance driver on the Western Front.

DeJonge embarked on the documentary project in 2006 with the idea of filming the last American veterans of World War I; among the handful he was able to interview was Frank Buckles.  Over the succeeding years, DeJonge worked closely with the Buckles family and his film will tell Frank’s life story focusing not solely on his experiences in the First World War, but also World War II in which he survived being a prisoner in the Philippines  at the hands of the Japanese.

“Pershing’s Last Patriot” is nearly complete according to DeJonge and several preview screenings of the film are scheduled in May for certain locations in Missouri, Buckles’ home state, and Arkansas.  DeJonge hopes that the success of the film will spur the movement to create a national World War I memorial in Washington, DC.

View the official trailer for “Pershing’s Last Patriot” here.

For more information on the film project, visit the “Pershing’s Last Patriot” website here.

Video Presentation: The US 28th Infantry Division at Apremont, October 1918

Historian and author Dr. Edward Lengel speaks to the Western Front Association in York, PA on the Battle of Apremont.

Historian and author Dr. Edward Lengel speaks to the Western Front Association in York, PA on the Battle of Apremont.

Dr. Edward Lengel of the University of Virginia speaks on the battle of Apremont, October 1918.  Titled “This Is What Gives Men Grit” this talk was recorded at Spring 2012 WWI History Symposium presented by the Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA).

Professor Lengel is the author of numerous military history works including To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne 1918 which is the story of the American Expeditionary Force’s largest battle in World War I.

WFA East Coast holds two World War I history symposiums each year in the Washington DC -Baltimore-Philadelphia area.

To view this presentation, click here.

Video Presentation: The Roosevelts in World War I

 

Roosevelt Scholar Genna Rollins speaks to the Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA)

Roosevelt Scholar Genna Rollins speaks to the Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA)

Roosevelt Scholar Genna Rollins presents a fascinating account of the involvement Theodore Roosevelt’s four sons in The First World War.  This video presentation was recorded at the WFA East Coast Branch’s Symposium in World War I History at York, PA, June 2012.

Former President of the United States, and Colonel of the “Rough Riders” in the Spanish American War, Theodore Roosevelt instilled in his children a sense of duty and obligation to serve their country.  When the United States entered World War I in 1917, each of TR’s sons became involved in the conflict – not all of whom survived the war.  Ms. Rollins’ exciting presentation follows the fortunes of the sons of TR in The Great War.

The WFA East Coast Branch holds two symposiums in World War I history each year.

BORROWED SOLDIERS – The Story of the AEF II Corps Which Fought Under British Command in 1918

 

Author Mitchell Yockelson speaks at the WFA East Coast Branch Symposium in WW1 History

Author Mitchell Yockelson speaks at the WFA East Coast Branch Symposium in WW1 History

Author Mitchell Yockelson presents highlights from his book BORROWED SOLDIERS: AMERICANS UNDER BRITISH COMMAND, 1918.  This video presentation was recorded at the WFA East Coast Branch (USA) Symposium in World War I History in York, PA, June 2012, and includes questions from the audience.

BORROWED SOLDIERS tells the story of the US 27th and 30th Infantry Divisions “from the training camps in South Carolina to the bloody battlefields of Belgium and France….despite cultural differences, General Pershing’s misgivings, and the contrast between American eagerness and British exhaustion – the untested Yanks benefitted from the experience of battle-toughened Tommies.  Their combined forces contributed much to the Allied victory.”

To watch Yockelson’s video presentation on the Western Front Association’s YouTube Channel, click here.

“And We Were Young” – A New Animated WW1 Film

Montana-based animator Andy Smetanka is currently producing a new documentary film about the AEF titled “And We Were Young” – more details to follow.