Proposal for research project

                 Courage and Cowardice as Depicted in WWI Films

The recent centennial anniversary of World War I has the world once again examining

the destructive and tragic nature of this conflict. The disastrous nature of World War I was 

unprecedented and the events of this calamity are well documented. The futility, waste of 

valuable resources, economic collapse, and loss of life all defined how future generations would 

interpret the events of 1914 -1918.  Films based on factual persons and events can be excellent 

mediums of instruction for both students of history and the wider audience of moviegoers who 

are simply seeking entertainment. However, films that lack historical accuracy can thwart the 

efforts of serious academics attempting to properly instruct the next generation of historians. 

The aim of this research project is to closely examine several noteworthy films and determine if 

the screenwriters and filmmakers provided audiences with historically accurate versions of the 

events and participants that they are depicting.

            Four films will be the subject of examination. These are: Flyboys (2006), Paths of Glory 

(1957), Testament of Youth (2014), and The Lost Battalion (2001). These works depict the 

Lafayette Escadrille, the practice of execution for cowardice in the French forces, the tragic 

experiences of British VAC nurse Vera Britton, and the October 1918 experience of an 

American combat unit in northeastern France. These films were chosen for the variety of 

experiences and subject matter they represent. Paths of Glory and Testament of Youth are based 

on books by Humphrey Cobb (First printing, Viking Press, USA, 1935) and Vera Britton (First 

printing, Victor Gollancz Limited, UK, 1933). The moniker “The Lost Battalion” is often used 

for the title of secondary source texts that recount the October 1918 German siege of the ‘Pocket’ 

at Charlevaux, in the Argonne Forest, where the men of the US 308th Infantry Division 77th

Regiment made their last stand.  The title Flyboys does not have any specific text attached to it.

            The Great War is well-documented and obtaining sources regarding these popular films 

and the issues and incidents they depict was a straightforward task. The film reviews are 

excellent primary source accounts of how contemporary film critics accessed the historical

accuracy of each work as well as how they personally responded to the content of that particular

film. Two of the films that are being examined are based on primary source texts which will 

serve as an added means of interpreting the historical events and attitudes that are depicted. The

remaining primary source accounts will be compared to the cinematic depictions of events and 

circumstances in order to locate points of accuracy, or conversely, erroneous portrayals. The

secondary source texts will be examined for details and discrepancies that pertain to each 

individual film. Details such as locations, persons involved or excluded, battle and nursing 

conditions, and the circumstances of military justice will be taken into consideration when

attempting to determine the authenticity of each cinematic effort. These secondary works will be 

further utilized to fill in any gaps of knowledge surrounding the persons and events that 

screenwriters did not address in the respective length of two hours for each of these films.

            The antics of the Lafayette Escadrille, the brutality and ineptitude of the French Army, 

experiences of loss and suffering by British VAC nurses, and the tragedy in the Argonne forest 

all make for excellent cinema. The films being examined will be judged not based on overall 

entertainment quality, but on historical accuracy. This case by case analysis will determine if 

Hollywood “gets it right” when attempting to portray persons and events involved in global war 

that was so shocking, tragic, and destructive it would change the conscience of its age.

Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Borden, Mary, and Hazel Hutchison. The Forbidden Zone. London, UK: Hesperus, 2008. 

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth. New York, NY: PENGUIN Books, 2015. 

Calhoun, Brian. “The Lost Battalion.” digitallyOBSESSED Reboot, 2002. http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/displaylegacy.php?ID=3174. 

Cobb, Humphrey. Paths of Glory. London, UK: Penguin, 2011. 

Crowther, Bosley. “Screen: Shameful Incident of War: ‘Paths of Glory’ has Premiere at Victoria      Kirk Douglas Stars in Film of Cobb Book for the Children Mr. Moto Returns.” New York         Times (1923-), Dec 26, 1957.             https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-       newspapers/screen-shameful-incident-war/docview/114263902/se-2?accountid=12299.

Douglas, Kirk. The Ragman’s Son: An Autobiography. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.  

 “Film in Review: Flyboys.” New York Times (1923-), Sep 22, 2006.           https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-            newspapers/film-review/docview/93054037/se-2?accountid=12299.                                         

Flyboys. Bill, Tony. James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jean Reno, et al. United States: MGM Distribution Company, 2006.

“FRENCH BAN U. S. FILM: REFUSE SHOWING OF ‘PATHS OF GLORY’ IN BERLIN 

            SECTOR.” New York Times (1923-), Jun 27, 1958. 

            https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-

            newspapers/french-ban-u-s-film/docview/114556874/se-2?accountid=12299.

Genet, Edmond Charles Clinton. An American for Lafayette: The Diaries of E.C.C. Genet: 

            Lafayette Escadrille. Virginia: The University Press of Virginia, 1981.

Hussey, Alexander T., and Raymond M. Flynn. The History of Company E., 308th Infantry

  (1917-1919). New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1919.

Lodge, Guy. “London Film Review: ‘Testament of Youth’.” Variety.Variety, October 15, 2014.  https://variety.com/2014/film/festivals/london-film-review-testament-of-youth-1201329528/. 

Montague, Charles Edward. Disenchantment. (1922), Essays [Thoughts on the First World War].

            London, United Kingdom: Chatto & Windus, 1922.

Parsons, Edwin C. I Flew with the Lafayette Escadrille. Indianapolis: E.C. Seale and Company 

            Inc., 1963.

Paths of Glory. Kubrick, Stanley., Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson, James B. Harris, Kirk 

            Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, et al. Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home 

            Entertainment, 1999.

Testament of Youth. Kent, James., Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, et al. United 

            Kingdom: Lionsgate Films, 2014.

The Lost Battalion. Mulcahy, Russell., Rick Schroder, Phil McGee, Jamie Harris, et al., United States: A & E Television, 20th Century Fox Television, 2001.

Thenault, Georges. The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille: Told by its Commander. Boston: 

            Small, Maynard and Company, 1921.

“WHITTLESEY’S STORY OF ‘LOST BATTALION’: COMMANDER’S LETTER TO HIS 

            FELLOW-OFFICER DESCRIBES THE STRUGGLES OF ISOLATED TROOPS. 20

 OFFICERS WIPED OUT VISIT WITH PERSHING TO SCENE OF POCKETED

 UNIT RECOUNTED BY WOMAN WRITER. TELLS OF ‘TERRIBLE CHOICE’ 

MAJOR MCKEOGH DECLARES MEMOIRS HAVE STRESSED NEED FOR SANE

 PROGRAM OF PREPAREDNESS. TELLS OF POSITION. MRS. RINEHART’S 

IMPRESSIONS.” New York Times (1923-), Mar 24, 1931.

 https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-

newspapers/whittleseys-story-lost-battalion/docview/99374299/se-2?accountid=12299.

Secondary Sources:

Crouthamel, Jason, and Peter Leese, eds. Psychological Trauma and The Legacies of The First World War. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2016.

Flammer, Philip M. The Vivid Air: The Lafayette Escadrille. Georgia: University of Georgia 

            Press, 1981.

Flood, Charles Bracelen. First to Fly: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, The American 

            Heroes who Flew for France in World War I. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015.

Greenhalgh, Elizabeth. The French Army and the First World War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Howard, Michael. “Condemned: Courage and Cowardice–Introduction: Royal United Services 

            Institute for Defense Studies.” RUSI Journal 143, no. 1 (02, 1998): 51-52. 

            https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/trade-

            journals/condemned-courage-cowardice-introduction/docview/212108994/se-

            2?accountid=12299.

Jablonski, Edward. Warriors with Wings: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille. Indianapolis:

            The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1966.

Johnson, Thomas M., and Fletcher Pratt. The Lost Battalion. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of

             Nebraska Press, 2000.

Laplander, Robert J., and William Terpeluk. Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors,

            Myths, and Legends of America’s Famous WWI Epic. Waterford, WI: A.E.F. Services,

            2017.

Lengel, Edward G. Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 2018.                        

Lengel, Edward G. World War I Memories: An Annotated Bibliography of Personal Accounts 

            Published in English Since 1919. Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004.

Mason, Herbert Malloy Jr. The Lafayette Escadrille. New York: Random House, 1964.

McEwen, Yvonne T. In the Company of Nurses: The History of the British Army Nursing

            Service in the Great War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

Murphy, T.B. Kiffin Rockwell, the Lafayette Escadrille and the Birth of the United States Air

 Force. North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2016.

Pickering, Jean. 1986. “On the Battlefield: Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth.” Women’s 

            Studies 13 (1/2): 75. doi:10.1080/00497878.1986.9978654.

Sheffield, G. D. “The Shot at Dawn Issue–an Historian’s View: Royal United Services Institute 

            for Defense Studies.” RUSI Journal 143, no. 1 (02, 1998): 67-69. 

            https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/trade-journals/shot-at-

            dawn-issue-historians-view/docview/212102519/se-2?accountid=12299.

The Crimson Field. Evans, David., Oona Chaplin, Kevin Doyle, Kerry Fox, et al., United 

            Kingdom: BBC films, 2014.

I pledge……….

Bonnie L. Akkerman

1/17/2022

Week 2

This day, class was dedicated to discussing what we discovered while looking at different Omeka sites as well as other digital history projects in a variety of different topics. I looked at one about preserving the memory of the Baltimore Uprising and another about the stories of Latin American migrants in North Carolina. Both sites […]

TimelineJS (not so fun) Adventure

Timeline was not as easy for me as Storymap was… I was unable to get the pictures from my Flickr to upload properly to show up on the map… I troubleshooted and I still was not able to find an answer after uploading and reuploading the photos, publishing and unpublishing the document. It won’t let […]

Introductions!

Hi everyone! My name is Carson Berrier and I use she/her pronouns. I am a senior History/Secondary Education student. I am taking this class because I really enjoy the intersectionality that history is able to have with technology. I think sometimes history is seen as being all one way on paper or in books, but […]

The Mentally Ill and Incarceration

This short webinar from PsychU discusses the issues that the mentally ill face in the criminal justice system. They’re often bullied, serve longer sentences, and are more likely to commit suicide than other inmates are. They also discuss the link between homelessness and incarceration and refer to the “revolving door” cycle that they face because they aren’t provided with care or resources to help them succeed when they get out. This webinar was created earlier this year, so it shows that we haven’t come that far since 2006 when Earley’s book was written.

Mental Health Justice Act of 2021

In light of our recent discussions about mental health reform and the legislation surrounding mental health, mental health institutions, and the incarnation of individuals in need of mental health care, I wanted to see if there have been any recent developments outside of the rather depressing (pardon my use of the term) news and events that seem to come up in this class. For this, I went straight to Congress. I was inspired after seeing Parker’s VA legislation for 2022 and wanted to see if anything was being done at the national level instead of just the state. What I found was both inspiring and also a bit sad. Apparently, in February 2021 there was a bill introduced to the House, the Mental Health Justice Act of 2021, that would “create a grant program for states and local governments to train and dispatch mental health professionals to respond, instead of law enforcement officers, to emergencies that involve people with behavioral health needs.” Another interesting thing I found about this bill is that is would aim the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would manage the program in consultation with the Department of Justice. SAMHSA would be able to cancel grants that increase incarceration or institutionalization while grantees must use funds for purposes including “de-escalation and anti-racism training.” This bill was referred to a subcommittee in April and has stayed in that position since then. Congress.gov provides a neat little tracker that let you view where a bill is, but it is nowhere near being ready to be passed. I supoose it is the thought that counts. However, I find it more than a bit disheartening knowing such a think sound have been proposed around the time Earley published his book. It appears time has passed on by, leaving mental health in the dust despite people becoming aware of these issues (if they already weren’t) over a decade an a half ago.

Congress. “H.R.1368 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Mental Health Justice Act of 2021.” April 28, 2021. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1368.

Mental Health Justice Act of 2021

In light of our recent discussions about mental health reform and the legislation surrounding mental health, mental health institutions, and the incarnation of individuals in need of mental health care, I wanted to see if there have been any recent developments outside of the rather depressing (pardon my use of the term) news and events that seem to come up in this class. For this, I went straight to Congress. I was inspired after seeing Parker’s VA legislation for 2022 and wanted to see if anything was being done at the national level instead of just the state. What I found was both inspiring and also a bit sad. Apparently, in February 2021 there was a bill introduced to the House, the Mental Health Justice Act of 2021, that would “create a grant program for states and local governments to train and dispatch mental health professionals to respond, instead of law enforcement officers, to emergencies that involve people with behavioral health needs.” Another interesting thing I found about this bill is that is would aim the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would manage the program in consultation with the Department of Justice. SAMHSA would be able to cancel grants that increase incarceration or institutionalization while grantees must use funds for purposes including “de-escalation and anti-racism training.” This bill was referred to a subcommittee in April and has stayed in that position since then. Congress.gov provides a neat little tracker that let you view where a bill is, but it is nowhere near being ready to be passed. I supoose it is the thought that counts. However, I find it more than a bit disheartening knowing such a think sound have been proposed around the time Earley published his book. It appears time has passed on by, leaving mental health in the dust despite people becoming aware of these issues (if they already weren’t) over a decade an a half ago.

Congress. “H.R.1368 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Mental Health Justice Act of 2021.” April 28, 2021. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1368.

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