Share This Article


This week the U.S. Army Signal Corps Historical Films project announced its completion of digitization of over 400 reels of World War I film.

While not quite like Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old,” in which the famed director enhanced and colorized almost 100 hours of WWI footage from England’s Imperial War Museums, the footage captured by the U.S. Army Signal Corps is amazingly crisp and clear.

Featuring footage from 1914 – prior to U.S. entry into WWI – through 1936, the digitized film, according to the National Archives, shows the viewer “distant, smoke-filled battlefields and displays of artillery in action” but “off the battlefield, however, the cameramen of the Signal Corps focused on individual subjects, capturing intimate moments of smiling officers and shy civilians alike.”

The footage also reveals life outside of the battle scarred landscapes of France, depicting general scenes of boys being, well, boys. Highlighted clips from the Archive’s website show, among others, members of the 91st Aero Squadron playfully giving one another “wet willies”; soldiers of the 53rd Coast Artillery Regiment amusingly whacking each other on the head as they sit atop a 340 mm railway gun, nicknamed Reveille Kate; and troops casually playing catch in gas masks.


Watch Mutt, the Y.M.C.A dog, deliver cigarettes to the trenches. Heck, watch it on loop for the next several hours. [Warning: Your boss may notice a dip in your work productivity]


And enjoy as you observe the U.S. Army recreating scenes from “Ben-Hur” in this 1914 training scene:

[Hint: Volume on]



The National Archives has digitized the entirety of Record Group 111 (Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, Series H (Historical Films), and it is available on the archive website and on their YouTube Channel. The hours of newly digitized film offer viewers a more personal look at the war and the lives of those men, women, and very good boys, like Mutt, who fought in it.