New webinars available, and some WWI-related video recommendations

An item from the World War One Centennial Commission.


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Doughboys wearing flu masks

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Some signs are appearing that the end of the national campaign against the Covid-19 enemy may be on the horizon. However, as General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front in World War I, said a century ago: “… No one could possibly know when the armistice was to be signed, or what hour be fixed for the cessation of hostilities, so that the only thing for us to do, and which I did as commander in chief of the American forces, and which Marshal Foch did as commander in chief of the Allied armies, was to continue the military activities…”  In the same spirit, Americans need to continue to “do your bit”  to help bring our activities against the pandemic to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.

Truck Drivers needed

We continue to salute the modern day heroes in this national effort: those driving the trucks with essential supplies, the cashiers and those stocking shelves at stores, military and civilian medical personnel fighting to save the lives of those stricken, and everyone working diligently to keep our nation in operation until the campaign ends. In this, we are reminded of how the call went out in World War I for individuals able to perform the then-still-somewhat-novel task of driving a motor vehicle to bring those skills to the national war effort by driving the trucks which, then as now, were essential to supplying the goods and services needed by an embattled nation, as well as supporting the Dougboys on the battlefield. Then, as now a century later, Americans in and out of uniform were “doing their bit” in so many ways to keep the nation going through the perilous fight, onward to victory.

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


FInding WWI Ancestors webinar image

If you missed our “Finding Your WWI Ancestors” webinar last week, you can click on the image at left to watch genealogist Debra Dudek provide a brief but deep introduction into how to research the records of your family members who served in uniform in World War I. We got an amazing response to this webinar — watch the webinar replay yourself and see why our audience has been deluging us with compliments.

You can also see a replay of our April 3 webinar about the status of the National World War I Memorial under construction in Washington, DC.  You will hear from Joe Weishaar, Lead Designer for the Memorial, and representatives of Grunley Construction Company Inc. about ongoing progress at the Memorial.  Click here to watch the replay of this informative webinar.


Hospital movies

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 videos which you may enjoy — surgical masks optional in your home theater, of course!

Wings poster

Wings, a 1927 American film set during World War I, was the first feature film to win an Academy Award, and the only silent film ever to do so. The plot line about two aviators in love with the same woman is overshadowed by the amazing aerial dogfight sequences. Acclaimed for its technical prowess and realism, the film became the yardstick against which future aviation films were measured, mainly because of its realistic portrayal of air-combat. Playing to American audiences less than a decade after the war’s end, Wings was an immediate success upon release. In 1997, Wings was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  As World War I was “The War That Changed the World,” Wings was the movie that changed moviemaking.

Wings can be watched free online from the Internet Archive, streaming on Amazon, and via a variety of other online sites.

Millionaires Unit

The Millionaires’ Unit is the story of a privileged group of college students from Yale who formed a private air militia in preparation for America’s entry into World War One.  Known as the First Yale Unit, and dubbed ‘the millionaires’ unit’ by the New York press, they became the founding squadron of the U.S. Naval Air Reserve and were the first to fly for the United States in the Great War.  Using the words of these pioneer aviators from their letters and diaries, the documentary tells the story of young men coming of age as America was coming of age as a world power. Their service and sacrifice is the great untold story of American aviation in World War One. The documentary was inspired by the book The Millionaires’ Unit by Marc Wortman. After seven years of development and production, with filming on three continents,

The Millionaires’ Unit  is available for streaming or purchase on Amazon and Vimeo.

Hello Girls Movie

The Hello Girls documentary tells the story of the American women fluent in French and English who answered the urgent call for telephone operators needed by the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I.  They took oaths to join the U.S. Army Signal Corps, underwent training by AT&T before boarding ships to Europe, heading to war before most of the American Doughboys arrived in France, connected 26 million calls and ultimately proved to be a significant factor in winning the war.  Wisconsin filmmaker Jim Theres has created an award-winning one-hour film about the American phone operators who served in the Army Signal Corps during World War I, shining a spotlight on a group of brave, selfless women who were not officially recognized for their work until it was too late for most of them.

The Hello Girls is available for streaming on Amazon

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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