Join us 10/12/18 for Black Jack Pershing: Love and War on opening night at the Kansas International Film Festival

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We’re off to see the Wizard. Actually, we’re off to screen “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” on opening night, 7:45 p.m., Friday, October 12 at the Kansas International Film Festival. Our award-winning documentary on the life of WWI General John J. Pershing brings General Pershing’s life story back to the Kansas City area where Pershing dedicated the WWI Memorial in 1921.

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For more details on the screening, tickets, and theater location go to the Kansas International Film Festival website. Hope you’ll join us in Overland Park, Kansas this Friday night.

Join us Oct. 6, for “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War,” in Fremont Nebraska

Please join us at 3:20 p.m., Saturday, October 6 in Fremont, Nebraska for the White Light City Film Festival. “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” is among the films submitted from 13 countries chosen to screen at Eppley Auditorium in the Kimmel Theater at Midland University.

BJP White Light CityThe screening also features a discussion of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” with the award-winning film’s producer and University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Barney McCoy.

General John J. Pershing, a Missouri native and prominent historical figure in Nebraska, commanded American troops in World War I. He rose to global recognition with an illustrious military career that included the Allied victory in WWI. Drawn from personal papers, archival photographs and film, the award-winning documentary Black Jack Pershing: Love and War tells the story of Pershing’s military career and his personal life, including tragedies seldom examined.

Join us Sept. 21 for “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War,” in Alliance, Nebraska

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Please join us at 6:00 p.m. (MST), Friday, September 21 at the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center, 908 Yellowstone Avenue, in Alliance, Nebraska.

It’s a free screening and discussion of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” with the award-winning film’s producer and University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Barney McCoy.

General John J. Pershing, a Missouri native and prominent historical figure in Nebraska, commanded American troops in World War I. He rose to global recognition with an illustrious military career that included the Allied victory in WWI. Drawn from personal papers, archival photographs and film, the award-winning documentary Black Jack Pershing: Love and War tells the story of Pershing’s military career and his personal life, including tragedies seldom examined.

On the Road: Screening “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri

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The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

My sincere appreciation to all who came to the National World War I Museum and Memorial for the screening of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” in Kansas City, Missouri on August 2.

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications professor Barney McCoy introduces his documentary on WWI General John J. Pershing, August 1, 2018, at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo: Dean Davison

Our audience of roughly 130 asked questions about General Pershing’s promotion over 800 more senior officers to the rank of brigadier general. Thus began his ascension to becoming the commander of U.S. forces in WWI and the highest-ranking active-duty officer in U.S. history.

The audience wanted to know what Pershing might think of today’s military and political scene in America. I told them I didn’t think Pershing would approve. They asked about Pershing’s strategic tactics in WWI that began with large U.S. combat casualties and ended with Germany’s surrender to the Allies in 1918.

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Professor Barney McCoy and Dr. Shawn Faulkner, author and military history professor at Fort Leavenworth’s U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, answer audience questions after the screening of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” at the National WWI Museum and Memorial on August 1, 2018. Photo: Dean Davison

I was honored to have retired lieutenant colonel Shawn Faulkner, an outstanding military historian at Fort Leavenworth’s U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, join me in the question-and-answer session after the screening of the documentary. It was a wonderful evening in one of America’s most beautiful war memorials.

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The Liberty Memorial site dedication outside Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri on November 1, 1921. Photo: Library of Congress

Did you know Pershing and the other four Allied commanders came to Kansas City to dedicate the war memorial in 1921? The event may have drawn the largest crowd in Kansas City history.

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From left to right: Allied commanders Lieutenant General Jacques of Belgium, General Diaz of Italy, Marshall Foch of France, General Pershing of the United States, and Admiral Beatty of Great Britain at the dedication of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, November 1, 1921. Photo: Moxie Hanley, courtesy Kansas City Public Library Missouri Valley Special Collections

By the way, the National WWI Museum and Memorial is the largest of its kind in America. There is no current WWI memorial in Washington, D.C. to pay tribute to the 4-million American men and women who served and sacrificed in the Great War.

World War I remains America’s forgotten war, even though more Americans gave their lives during that war than during Korea and Vietnam combined, and even though it profoundly shaped the rest of “the American century.”

More than four million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during the Great War. 116,516 U.S. soldiers died from combat and disease. Another 200,000 were wounded, a casualty rate far greater than in World War II. More than 350,000 African Americans served in the U.S. military, as did Native Americans and members of other minority groups. And, for the first time, women joined the ranks of the U.S. armed forces.

 

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Artist’s rendering of the proposed WWI Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington D.C. Joe Weishaar; Sabin Howard; GWWO, Inc.; WWI Centennial Commission; Weta Workshop

Thanks to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, an effort to build a WWI memorial in Washington is now underway. They need your donations to complete the beautiful memorial sculpted bronze-relief mural wall which will occupy Pershing Park in our nation’s capital. To donate just click here.

Thanks to NWWIMM curator Doran Cart and his fantastic staff for inviting me to screen the Pershing documentary in Kansas City. Thanks to Amy Struthers, interim dean of the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications who drove down to Kansas City from Lincoln to attend the screening and meet with CoJMC alumna.

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In memory of Brad Richmond, a friend and videographer on the Pershing documentary. Photo: Barney McCoy

And a very special thanks to Rebecca Richmond and her son Tyler who came to our screening. Becky’s husband Brad was one of the videographers and an enthusiastic supporter of the Pershing documentary project.

Brad passed away this summer after a long battle with cancer. He was a former TV News colleague, a great father and husband, a protector of animals, and a dear friend of mine.

 

Multimedia countdown: 100-days to the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice

, August 25, 2018-

Clearing the dead. A seldom discussed part of war is the military clearance of the battlefield and burial of those who died in combat. According to author Peter Hodgkinson, during and in the years following World War I, the successes of those efforts resulted in cemeteries that became memorial grounds on the Western and other fronts of the war. Clearing the battlefields wasn’t only driven by military pragmatism. There were also important non-military social and psychological factors involved.

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British Graves Registration Units like these worked in France and Belgium from 1914-1920 identifying and properly burying the dead soldiers who died in combat. Photo: ©Jeremy Gordon-Smith, Imperial War Museum

From a military standpoint, identification and burial were matters of accounting and morale. There was also public pressure during and after WWI to ensure recovery, identification and burial. British Reverend E.C. Crosse wrote: “Burials on active service had very great practical importance. In the first place if one had buried a man’s body, one knew for certain that he was dead. Secondly, nothing is more depressing to the living to see unburied dead about them.”

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A British Corporal from a Graves Registration Unit with an exhumed body. Photo: ©Jeremy Gordon-Smith, Imperial War Museum

After the Battle of the Somme in France, Fabian Ware, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British military’s Directorate of Graves Registration & Enquiries, raised  his concerns about British military morale and public perception in late June of 1917. “We are on the verge over here of serious trouble about the number of bodies lying out still unburied on the Somme battlefields. The soldiers returning wounded or in leave to England are complaining bitterly about it and the War Office has already received letters on the matter.”

Graves Registration Units became responsible for recording the burial of the dead (and cemeteries), but it was up to the military unit itself to carry out the actual burials of an estimated 9.7-million soldiers who died fighting on both sides of the the Great War.

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White crosses mark the temporary locations of dead soldiers in a destroyed French Village on the Western Front during WWI. Photo: ©Jeremy Gordon-Smith, Imperial War Museum

Clearance and burial were some of the most unpleasant and unpopular tasks of the war. British Private J. McCauley was attached to a burial detail in late 1918. He wrote: “For the first week or two I could scarcely endure the experiences we met with, but I gradually became hardened. Often have I picked up the remains of a fine brave man on a shovel. Just a little heap of bones and maggots to be carried to the common burial place. Numerous bodies were found lying submerged in the water in shell holes and mine craters; bodies that seemed quite whole, but which became like huge masses of white, slimy chalk when we handled them.” 

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Burial services for British soldiers killed in combat on the Western Front during WWI. Photo: ©Jeremy Gordon-Smith, Imperial War Museum

The United States military also had a Graves Registration Service. On August 7, War Department Order 104 authorized the organization of a U.S. Graves Registration Service (GRS). The first GRS units reached France in October 1917. General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe demanded particular attention be paid to recovering, identifying and providing proper burials for the roughly 543,000 Americans who died combat related deaths in WWI. Watch the video below for more details.

Sources: “Clearing the Dead” by Peter Hodgkinson,WWI Resource Centre., National Archives and Records Administration, Imperial War Museum, Painted Rock Productions, LLC

Friday

Multimedia countdown: 100-days to the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice

Monday, September 3, 2018-

And No Bird Sang -Part 2 – Yesterday, I wrote about the incomprehensible destruction of World War I.

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After returning home to find her home in ruins, a distraught French woman reflects in this photograph from World War I. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

After the war’s end in 1918, an extraordinary film was commissioned by the French government to capture the scale of the Great War’s devastation and the shocking extent of the fighting across the Western Front in northern France and Belgium.

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Lucien Le Saint, 1917, © Musée Albert-Kahn – Département des Hauts-de-Seine

The 78-minute film was called “En dirigeable sur les champs de bataille” (“In airship on the battlefield”). It was shot by film-maker Lucien Le Saint in what was said to be a French government effort to obtain reparations from the Germans for the devastation left behind by the war.

The film was shot at the beginning of 1919 with French balloon pilot Jacques Trolley de Prévaux as he flew a few hundred feet above the battleground.

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Jacques Trolley de Prévaux Photo: French government

Thanks to the French government, I was able to get portions of the film and have paired them in the video below with a portion of the song ‘The Awakening’ by composer Joseph M Martin.

To me, the song’s lyrics  capture the physical and spiritual desolation left behind in the war’s ruins.

 “I dreamed a dream, a silent dream of a land not far away.

Where no bird sang, no steeples rang, and teardrops fell like rain.

I dreamed a dream; a silent dream. I dreamed a dream of a land so filled with pride that every song, both weak and strong, withered and died.

I dreamed a dream.

No hallelujah; not one hosanna! No song of love, no lullaby.

And no choir sang to change the world. No pipers played, no dancers twirled.

I dreamed a dream; a silent dream.”

A naval gunnery officer before the war started in 1914, Jacques Trolley de Prévaux had been retrained to fly the dirigibles that had been developed to spot for artillery, detect mines at sea and fight against submarines. For his actions he was awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Croix de guerre.

He joined the French Resistance at the beginning of 1942 and turned down an opportunity to go to London, but decided to stay in France. According to the French government’s Chemins de Mémoire, Trolley de Prévaux felt he would be of more use at home than in London. Secondly, his wife, a Jew of Polish origin and a resistance fighter along with him, was pregnant.

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Jacques and Lotka Trolley de Prévaux in 1936. Photo: Paris Match

In the spring of 1943, he received the Distinguished Service Order from the British and appointed to become one of the main leaders of the French Resistance. He was arrested by the Gestapo in Marseille in March 1944. Jailed at Montluc Prison, he was executed in August 1944. His wife, Lotka, met with the same fate. Promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, Trolley de Prévaux was posthumously made a Compagnon de la Libération, or Hero of the Liberation of France.

Multimedia countdown: 100-days to the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice

Monday, September 17, 2018-

The Battle of Saint-Mihiel, France between September 12 and 16 in 1918 was the first U.S.-led offensive in World War I.

It was also America’s opportunity to prove to our French and British allies that U.S. troops were trained and prepared to play a major role in the war against Germany.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Battle of St. Mihiel. 

Multimedia countdown: 100-days to the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice

Friday, September 21, 2018-

All that Jazz- One of America’s greatest gifts to Europe during World War I was jazz music. It’s a gift that endures today, almost a century after the Great War ended. According to historian Ryan Reft, “For Americans serving on the Western Front in Europe, jazz emerged not only as the favored soundtrack of the war, but also as a burgeoning cultural force for nascent, albeit halting and incomplete, integration.

jazzwwi 1African-American regimental outfits—such as James Reese Europe’s 369th Regimental Band—came to define and spread the new musical form across continental Europe.

Europe’s band consisted of African-American jazz musicians such as Noble Sissle, but also over a dozen Puerto Rican players recruited by Europe himself from the Caribbean island.

According to the Library of Congress, some of its earliest performances overseas occurred at the health resort Aix-les-Bains. A world-famous destination frequented by the likes of J.P. Morgan, during the war it served as a site for recovering Allied soldiers. Here Europe’s band regaled recovering troops with jazz compositions.

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James Reese Europe’s band plays jazz tunes in the courtyard of a Paris hospital that is treating wounded American soldiers. Photo: Library of Congress

“From the very first afternoon concert, when they opened with ‘Over There’ and the war-weary American soldiers responded by climbing on tables, shouting, waving their caps, and demanding that it be played again and again, the band was a great hit,” writes historian Reid Badger in his biography of Europe.

The band made waves with French citizens, too. On its way to Aix-les-Bains, it entertained a local town. The bandmaster’s baton “came down with a swoop that brought forth a soul-rousing crash,” recounted band member Noble Sissle. “[T]hen, it seemed, the whole audience began to sway. . . . The audience could stand it no longer; the ‘jazz germ’ hit them, and it seemed to find the vital spot, loosening all muscles.”

Samples of the music- Click below to hear Yelping Hound Blues by Louisiana Five and composers Al Nunez and Anton Lada.

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Sheet music from the WWI jazz song “All of No Man’s Land is Ours” From the Library of Congress

Historian Ryan Reft described this scene as it played out across France, pulling in European and American audiences alike. “Troop trains “carrying Allied soldiers from everywhere,” passing the 369th, took in the sounds as “every head came out the window when we struck up a good old Dixie tune,” remembered Sissle. Even German prisoners forgot their incarceration, abandoned their labor and began to “pat their feet to the stirring American tune.” Jazz bands like the 369th played at hospitals, rest camps and numerous other venues.”

An August 1918 performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris by the 369th so impressed U.S. General Tasker Bliss and his French counterparts that they asked the band to play in the French capital for eight more weeks. Another concert featuring the 369th at the Tuileries Gardens, along with some of the great bands from around Europe, drew 50,000 listeners. “Everywhere we gave a concert it was a riot,” Europe told an interviewer in 1919.

Samples of the music-Click below to hear Junk Man Rag by the Victor Military, Fred van Epps and composer Luckyeth Roberts. 

Band member Noble Sissle captured James Reese Europe’s and America’s cultural contribution best: “Who would have thought that [the] little U.S.A. would ever give to the world a rhythm and melodies that, in the midst of such universal sorrow, would cause all students of music to yearn to learn how to play it?“

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James Reese Europe’s 369th Regimental Band—came to define and spread the new musical form across continental Europe.

Multimedia countdown: 100-days to the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice

Saturday, September 22, 2018-

Children of World War I- Children were particularly impacted by the war through disruption to home life and to schooling, absent parents, and deaths of family and family friends. While such experiences were common on the Western Front, children often struggled to understand the reasons behind these events, and the impact upon them was sustained in different, and often more emotional, ways.

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Young boys playing skittle bowl in Rheims the Marne, France amidst the ruins of war in 1917. Photo:WorldWarOneColorPhotos.com

On Europe’s Western Front, French children were probably most affected by the war. Many lived near or in combat zones. Here, many French children experienced the sudden nature of war:  Forced from their homes by invading German soldiers, facing rationing of food and clothing, suspension of school classes, limited supplies of coal and wood with which to say warm. For them, wrote Manon Pignot, a researcher at the Université de Picardie and Institut Universitaire de France, “it was a drastic upending of their universe, now marked by the near-daily sound of cannon fire.”

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A young girl plays with her toy rag doll near soldiers rifles and back packs in Rheims the Marne, France in 1917. Photo:WorldWarOneColorPhotos.com

The large-scale conscription of married men and fathers who died in the fighting led to a great number of children orphaned by the war. Olivier Faron estimated that there were about 1,100,000 French orphans from the Great War.

During WWI, thousands of French children lost their fathers to the fighting. In response American children helped raise money to help the orphans
During WWI, thousands of French children lost their fathers to the fighting. In response American children helped raise money to help the orphans as is illustrated in this drawing by a French school student. From the Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie Le Vieux Montmartre – Paris.

Pignot wrote: “French children saw the men in their families depart: fathers and brothers, cousins and uncles, neighbors and teachers. These massive departures set the stage for an unusual display: tears shed in public, by both men and women. The upheaval of families was thus emotional.”

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“Le Trois Couleurs” comic book was an example of French propaganda aimed at children. By giving meaning to the war and making the sacrifice of fathers heroic magazines such as this prepared the next generation of supporters. Unknown artist: Le Trois Couleurs, 13 dècembre 1914, n. 1; source: Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane: La guerre des enfants 1914-1918, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004 (1993). Image is in the public domain.

Some of the drawings from WWI also show just how much French children were surrounded by death. They also reflected renewed hopes for an end to the fighting when American troops joined the war in 1917. Several middle-school-age boys who attended a school in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, created the drawings you see in this posting. 

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In this drawing, a French schoolchild depicts two images that show the close relationship between France and America. On the right side, American soldiers parade in the Tuileries Park in Paris. On the left, a rendering of U.S. WWI General John Pershing. From the Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie Le Vieux Montmartre – Paris.

(Sources: 1914-1918 International Encyclopedia of the First World War, Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie Le Vieux Montmartre, WorldWarOneColorPhotos.com)

Multimedia countdown: 100-days to the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice

Wednesday, September 26, 2018-

Capturing the War- World War I marked the first time photography was an assigned official function of the U.S military. The men of the U.S. Army Signal Corps who performed the task were documenting history as they often risked their own lives in doing so.

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This photo, from the Signal Corps series, shows a combined unit of American and French cameramen. The man on the left is a motion picture cameraman for the U.S. Marine Corps, and the man in front is a still photographer and U.S. Marine. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

In July 1917 the U.S. Army Signal Corps established a Photographic Section responsible for ground and aerial photography at home and abroad. Signalmen began documenting the war aboard the Baltic ocean liner, taking still and motion pictures of American Expeditionary Forces Commander John J. Pershing and his command staff as they sailed from America to France.

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SIGNAL CORPS PHOTOGRAPHER OPERATES A CAMOUFLAGED CAMERA IN FRANCE Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

The Army controlled all combat photography. Civilian photographers were not permitted to operate within the zone of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. A photographic unit served with each division and consisted of one motion-picture operator, one still photographer, and their assistants. Each army and corps headquarters had a photo unit of one officer and six men.

Photographic units also served with such private agencies as the American Red Cross and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) to document their activities.

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Explaining the mechanical construction of Akeley camera. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

Photographic technology had progressed considerably since the first days of the medium in the late 1800’s. A combat photographer in World War I could develop a picture in fifteen minutes using a portable darkroom.

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Beginning with 25 men in August 1917, the Photographic Section attached to the AEF [American Expeditionary Forces] reached a strength of 92 officers and 498 men in November 1918. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
By November of 1918, the Signal Corps had taken approximately 30,000 still pictures and 750,000 feet of motion pictures that were used for training, propaganda, and historical purposes. Wartime censorship kept the public from seeing the most graphic images of war. The Signal Corps’ invaluable photographic collection resides today with the National Archives and Records Administration.

(Sources: National Archives and Records Administration, U.S. Army Center of Military History)