Monday, December 4, 2017

Mobilizing Movies! The U.S. Signal Corps Goes to War, 1917-1919

To mark the centennial of the First World War an international conference was organized recently on the birth of military cinematography. Authors Cooper Graham and Ron van Dopperen for this occasion were asked to prepare a presentation on the film program by the U.S. Signal Corps during World War I.

Lieutenant Ira P. Gilette, photographic officer of the 1st Division, A.E.F., in France, April 1918. Signal Corps photograph, courtesy Harry B. Kidd

The conference The Birth of Military Cinemas was organized in Namur, Belgium, on November 30 and December 1 by the Royal Belgian Film Archives, in cooperation with ECPAD, the Mission Centenaire 14-18 France and the Universities of Namur and Picardie. With contributions by leading film historians representing most of the European countries that were belligerents during the Great War our presentation focused on the official military cinematographers that accompanied the American Expeditionary Force in France, how these men were trained, improvements in camera technique, the conditions at the front while filming the Great War and the uneasy relationship between the U.S. Signal Corps that was officialy assigned to cover the war and the Committee on Public Information (CPI), America's wartime propaganda agency.


As demonstrated in our presentation, the work done by these military cameramen from the United States improved significantly as a result of the CPI film efforts. At the time of the Armistice in November 1918, the Photographic Unit of the U.S. Signal Corps had become a remarkable powerhouse, with seven photographic field units on duty in the combat zone on the Western Front. At the National Archives in Washington, D.C., there is also a huge amount of footage available that was shot by these cameramen. The American film legacy of the Great War is impressive.

Based on our book American Cinematographers in the Great War, we did additional research for this presentation on the Signal Corps films of World War I. We edited the results into a film presentation and showed this short documentary for the first time during the conference on December 1. Enjoy this web launch!

Here is a link to the conference paper that we submitted on the birth of military cinematography in the United States during World War I. 


1 comment:

  1. i never knew the information about Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day. thank you for sharing.

    Bloody battle shiloh


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.