La Grande Illusion is widely regarded as a masterpiece of French cinema and is often cited as one of the greatest films ever made. The story explores class relationships among a small group of French soldiers who are prisoners of war during World War I (WWI) and are plotting to escape.
Gallipoli sets a classic tale of innocence lost in war during the World War I (WWI) Gallipoli Campaign against the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey). One of the few Hollywood movies to illustrate that WWI took place not only on the Western Front in France, Gallipoli tells the story of this major campaign through the experience of several Australian young men who travel halfway around the globe to fight for their country.
“The Millionaires’ Unit” was a moniker given by the New York press to group of wealthy Yale students who formed a private air militia in 1916 to learn to fly in preparation for the United States entering World War I. Author and historian Marc Wortman wrote a book about them in 2006, and a college friend of mine, Ron King, saw his grandfather’s face on the book’s cover. The archival material seemed rich, and we decided to make a documentary.
While the National Air and Space Museum Archives collections feature many WWI materials, the Paul R. Stockton Scrapbook is available to view online in its entirety in slideshow mode. Stockton documented his experiences from training at Mineola, New York, and the Third Aviation Instruction Center, Issoudun, France, to life at the front in France, to the post-war occupation of Germany.
A Cold War era treatment of an earlier conflict, Paths of Glory engages injustice within the ranks during World War I through the efforts of a regimental commander in the French army, played by Kirk Douglas, to stem callous treatment of line troops by the French high command. Built upon class divisions, the film depicts an entrenched establishment that cannot be challenged no matter how irrational or heartless the orders from above.
Although less well known than Wings, The Dawn Patrol, and Hell’s Angels, The Eagle and the Hawk was one of the best World War I dramas of the 1930s. Based on an original story by John Monk Saunders, who also wrote the original story for Wings, The Eagle and the Hawk focuses on the psychological aspects of wartime aerial combat. It explores the cumulative effects on pilots and crews who fought in the skies during World War I, rather than on the romanticized heroic exploits of fighter pilots.
All Quiet on the Western Front, based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque, is still considered one of the best films ever made in the war movie genre. Released in 1930, All Quiet on the Western Front was a reflection of the profound disillusionment with war in the post-World War I (WWI) era. It was the first significant anti-war movie, exploring the war’s physical and psychological impact on a generation lost to war.
Hell’s Angels, along with Wings and The Dawn Patrol, is considered one of the three great early aviation films that defined the genre. The movie featured authentic aerial combat scenes, innovative camera work, and incredible miniature effects. Upwards of 50 aircraft, nearly half actual World War I airplanes, were assembled for the production, and some 75 pilots were employed to fly the aerial sequences and pilot the camera planes.
Mobilization of the American war effort was an immense undertaking. Decisions about everything from how to form fighting units, to manufacturing the needed equipment, to the logistics of transport and supply had to be addressed. Part of this planning was the decision to send artists to cover the war in Europe.
Eight professional illustrators, commissioned as U.S. Army officers, were embedded with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France in early 1918. Their mission was to capture the wide-ranging activities of American soldiers, including combat, with the intent of shaping popular understanding at home of the war experiences of the AEF.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, setting America on a course to become an important player on the world stage. It was a turning point in the nation’s history that still reverberates through world events a century later. The Museum’s centerpiece presentation in observance of the 100th anniversary of World War I is Artist Soldiers: Artistic Expression in the First World War, a new exhibition in the Museum’s Flight in the Arts gallery. A collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the exhibition features largely never-before-seen artwork, produced by soldiers, that sheds light on World War I in a compelling and very human way.