Under Four Flags


Presented here is the third United States Government Official War Film of World War I, issued in 1919 by the United States Army Signals Corps. The 25-minute black-and-white movie was shot on location in mid‒late 1918, mostly in France. Photographic Section teams, consisting of one motion-picture cameraman, one still-picture cameraman, and assistants, were attached to each of the divisions with the American Expeditionary Forces. The picture moves somewhat jerkily and visually is of uneven quality. However, the scenes are not staged and convey with great immediacy the devastation and death, the comradeship, drama, tender nursing, the tiny “baby tanks” of the day, and the everyday life of the doughboys “over there.” The film shows the desolate fields of Belgium and France, the long lines of marching troops, moments in the Battles of Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry in June 1918, and President Poincaré and General Mangin of France inspecting captured German trophies. “A junk man could do a lot of business here” exclaims the caption to a display of large amounts of abandoned enemy armaments. Also shown are part of the town of Saint-Mihiel, scene of a major U.S. triumph in mid-September, and the aftermath of victory with French veterans parading through the village streets. Generals Foch, Haig, Diaz, and Pershing are all seen briefly. Captions read “THE VICTORY OF DEMOCRACY! The great news comes.” The newspaper headlines announce the peace, President Woodrow Wilson is shown, as are victory parades in Washington. The film concludes: “And now the cannon’s roar has ceased and peaceful days and peaceful nights have come again to those across the seas. . . And here at home we’ll look out to the rising sun and in its glow we’ll see the ships come westward with the boys we sent away. . . . And history will write that what they did helped free the world and keep aflame the burning spirit of Democracy.”

Last updated: November 14, 2017