Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Motion Pictures in Military Training during World War I

The military use of motion pictures during World War I was mostly restricted to two purposes: instructing soldiers and historical documentation. Films were also used for publicity purposes but the military command did not give this idea much thought. This situation was the same in all belligerent countries, including the United States.

French military cinematographer, circa 1917. From the National Archives, The Hague (Holland) 

An interesting example how films were used by the U.S. Army for military training comes from U.S. Signal Corps footage that was uploaded by the National Archives in January 2015 on the Internet. The footage was edited into the "Historical Series" which was compliled by the U.S. Signal Corps in 1936.

New Camera Techniques

This World War I film shows in detail the nomenclature, assembly and disassembly, and operation of a Lewis machine gun. Reel 2 shows infantry troops at Camp Meade, Maryland, lined up in various battle formations. The first reel is particularly interesting because it shows how the U.S. Signal Corps used new camera techniques such as 'stop motion capture' to demonstrate the use of the Lewis machine gun.

The military training film by the U.S. Signal Corps can be watched here.



  1. Dear Sir,
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    THE WORLD FILM HERITAGE 1895-1915 (more than 1000 films from the beginnings of film history), which contains a special box with films of the eve of WW 1:

    1. Thank you for this interesting reference to your film collection!


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