tv Unknown Soldier CSPAN November 11, 2016 10:05pm-10:36pm EST
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welcome to real american, 2017, 2018 is centennial of america's involvement in world war ii and it will be lots of discussion about the impact of that war on the world and on american society. as part of that conversation, we are going to show you some vintage films from that era that document america's participation. and to help us understand this, because these are silent films, we've invited two world war i historians to help us narrate the action of the film. they'll be with us to look at 23-minute film from 1921 that is on the arrival of the unknown soldier to america shores. as we start here, before we see the film, who saw these kind of films at the time that they were made? were they made for the american
public. >> i think in many ways the films were made to document the events, historians were military people who were involved with them. they might have been shown on news reels. this was really an important moment in the commemorative culture that was developed in the u.s. after world war i, they wanted to capture it on film and record it for future generations. >> how was it preserved and how do people access today. who is in charge of this kind of precious resource. >> well, these are u.s. government films that were in some warehouse probably here in washington, d.c. and survived many years and that eventually were transferred to the national archives, probably some time shortly after world war ii and they -- the archives had the original cut and eventually they were duplicated. i'm happy to say now they've been digitized, cleaned up quite a bit. and they're available on the national archives youtube channel. >> over all, what's the volumes, how many films like this remain.
>> there are thousands and thousands of them almost made by every government agency that was around in world war i. predecessor, they were kind of like the propaganda arm of the federal government every agency, i think they were excited to have this new technology motion picture and so they were kind of growing crazy and making films. like allison there they were probably more for disem nation for my government officials and maybe they were news reels and movie theet atres i'm willing t bet a large part of the republican party haven't seen this before. >> well, with that background let's roll the video, film i should say that's the technology at the time on the unknown
soldier. >> you see the french soldiers there lined up. >> how did this whole concept of the unknown soldier being honored come about? >> well it really goes back to the beginning of the -- you get a lot more unidentifiable remains. you have a lot in the civil war. but people really were struggling with the fact that they could not figure out who many of these casualties were. great britain and france in 1920 buried unknown soldier in each of their countries in great britain west minister abby. the idea was started by representative hamilton fish of new york who submitted
legislation to varying unknown soldier. i believe they're in france right now where the unknown soldiers were taken from four different cemetery ris. i believe it was samuel hall, and the -- >> yeah, you're right, i think it was the psalm. >> i walked through the streets before and it's interesting to see, to me, you know, how many people turned out the friends, not just the army, if we can see mostly at the scene. they're showing their honor and patriotism towards the americans and supporting the role of americans played in helping to deliberate france during this really difficult time. >> so the french populace had a real understanding of the appreciation for the role, american soldiers played and this was their opportunity to pay honor to them. if we can spend just a moment.
they brought the four soldiers in and it was very elaborate process so that the ultimate selection of the one who would be the unknown soldier was really democratic and kept secret. why did they go to that length. >> they really want today make sure this was not a soldier who would be identifiable. and this is a problem that later came up. so they chose for it and they sele selected to actually blindly figure out which one -- >> just to be clear there were four caskets in the room. we're seeing it being carried on board american ship? >> yeah. naval ship, uss olympic, which was famous during the spanish
american war. >> i think it was a little under two weeks. >> what was the preparation on the home shores for the arrival of this casket? >> there were a lot of preparations, first when the olympia pulled into the washington navy yard, it did so with a lot of pump and circumstance and they were planned for washington, d.c. once the unknown soldier arri d arrived -- it wasn't regular cargo they were carrying. >> it's honor guard that would have been selected specifically for this voyage and you can look
and see, you know, in the film. i mean, you were selected for certain reasons and this was a huge event in u.s. history. it was a way, i think to kind of wrap up the war in the sense of been a few years and discovery and the bodies still trying to figure out the burials. i think this is a way for the americans to kind of have some closure. >> and there we actually see disem bar case at the navy yard in washington, d.c. what are we looking at here. >> we are looking at the casket being taken down and you can see the honor guard there. we had a glimpse of the general a moment ago. >> who is he? >> he was the commander of the term used for the american army and now here they're in the u.s.
capitol ro ttunda that was usedo put president lincoln coffin. >> mrs. harding laying the ribbon across the casket. >> that's correct. they're representing, of course, the united states and also -- he will give the keynote speech. >> the streets were lined with thousands of folks who waited for the casket to be removed and brought by the honor guard down pennsylvania avenue and then across the bridge into virginia
and what i've read one of the largest turn outs for any parade in the city. >> what does that say about the american public at that time. >> it says a lot that the american sacrifice was important, that the americans played a significant role during the war and that we lost tremendous amount of casualties and the fact that because of the type of war fair, there were so many unknown that they were difficult to identify once the -- once it occurred after the fighting. >> if you recognize any of the faces as they're coming across the screen, please let us know. >> the gentleman in the foreground, he was chief for the american -- >> it's also interesting to look back in time on the widespread, still, the automobile certainly coming into play, but not as -- uniquely so at that time. >> i mean, the army kind of went into the modern age of world war
i using motorized, i think the tradition for casket, and obviously, walking was something that they wanted to keep for this event. >> i hear the casket is being carried down the steps of the united states capital. that's a scene they'll be familiar with in similar ceremonies in our time and put on the let's watch for just a minute.
>> who was invited to participate in this parade? it's really quite a long demonstration of support? >> a lot of the general groups of people. they felt it in honor participate, it was populace things, members of congress, the supreme court. and i believe wood row wilson for a very brief moment. he was, of course, ill at the time. >> you see the soldiers on
horse, the calgary was also there from fort meyer. the main contingent of the army was the 13th engineers, which was also based out of the washington, d.c. area. one of the other groups that was there were the gold star mothers and i think allison -- what was their role -- >> explain who the gold star mothers are. >> so the gold star mothers who were women who lost a child during world war i. they were gold start to represent that loss and they participated both in this part of the parade and also in the ceremony by laying reeves at the tomb of the unknown soldier. >> and we see some weapon ri used in the war being part of the parade honoring the world war i unknown soldier. look at those divisions of soldiers. it's really quite a showing. >> u.s. navy and their representation. >> yeah. >> so every branch of the military was represented in the parade? >> right. you didn't have -- independent
u.s. air force, they were part of the army. but it would have been the navy, the marine corps and the marine corps being part of the navy, as well, plus the army. >> and there's, obviously, a reviewing stand in downtown washington, d.c. >> right. it looks so much different. almost looks like a village in france. >> it is -- is that pennsylvania avenue, do we know. it's unrecognizable to me, what part of town that is. >> yes. >> that's interesting. >> it's important to know that the navy and the marine corps were there. even though it's called the tomb of the unknown soldier, the term "soldier" was meant to represent every member of the military, not just those in the united states army. >> and the parade continues in downtown washington from the u.s. capitol and there is the casket of the chosen unknown soldier representing fallen in
world war i. >> i think one reason so many people came out to parade in the ceremony, they were seeking a sense of closure for the world war, they were trying to find some meeting in the senseless losses and especially working through the grief that many of these families suffered from, both those who lost someone and those who had someone who suffered injury rather physical or psychological. >> you have to remember this was the age before broadcasting, people wanted to experience events they couldn't listen. they came to see them. >> now, newspaper -- you're absolutely right. newspapers covered events like this and the entire war quite well during the day-to-day activities. >> i believe that's the president and the first lady. >> i believe so, yes. >> and they are also in horse drawn carriage. i understand that they made a stop at the white house where the president could switch into an automobile for the final part of the trip.
>> i imagine he was going way too slow with all of the traffic. one thing to point out is washington police who were in charge of patrolling the traffic, there were too few of them. i read article in washington post day after complaining about so many people didn't make it to the sore moanceremony because r so clogged many of them came back the next day and the day after because they couldn't make it that day. >> among those honoring the unknown soldier in addition to the president and general -- as we mentioned earlier, members of congress came. >> yes. >> the supreme court. >> correct. >> and the diplomatic court were attend this along with many members of civic groups that help support the war effort and the military. >> there were also a lot of representatives from the allied nations as well. they really wanted to show their support for the american unknown soldier and continue the bonds of friendship that were created
during the first world war. >> so interesting to look at the way people dressed. >> they're all deferent. >> and here you can see the american -- it was a group of mothers that banned together during the war to support the military because their children were serving. and after the war, they did a lot of community service and supported veterans. and i believe those women are from the army, it's a little hard to tell it's blurry. as you can see we have the representation that. >> either that or maybe salvation army. >> they could be. >> some of the uniforms look similar until you can see insieg kn -- sin cig knee ya. >> there are women who enlisted in the navy and marine corps,
they were called. >> and converted over into wartime machinery. the one thing to point out, though, is that we relied so heavily when it came to technology, tags and artillery and many cases, ornaments were the allies that we were really slow in producing. a lot of factories were turned over and went and took over the roles that men normally would
have had and enlisted or drafted into the service. >> ultimately, how many americans fought in world war i. >> we had 4 million men and women in uniform, roughly, 2 million of those were overseas. also in italy. and out of that, 2 million who were actually in war zones about 100,000 died, about half of that 50,000 from combat. the other 50,000 were from the disease like the flu or accidents, suicide or other deaths, as they say. >> and it's also a dollar figure attached to the u.s. involvement of world war i. >> i don't know the exact number. >> can i presume we're down on the articling cemetery. >> i think it can be that area
surrounding since cemetery has changed a lot. this is probably somewhere either near the perimeter or back -- sort of on the way up to the hillside where the unknown soldiers are located. >> one thing that you visit there today, every single is filled from soldiers from various force, you can see vast amounts of ground that are yet un -- >> right, among those who are very very general who has a simple soldiers headstone, which is what he wanted and next to him is his grandson, richard, who died during the vietnam war. >> i think right now they are walking up closer to the memorial amphitheater, they had some of the ceremonies that circular road reminds me of how it looked today. you think so? >> absolutely. as you point out that the ground without the lawn under it throws us. >> the amphitheater is well
familiar because the president goes every year on veterans day and the ceremony and lays reeves at the tombs of the unknown soldier. there are now, how many, world war i plus world war ii. >> plus -- >> hurt the korean war. and then there was from the vietnam war, but that soldier was actually identified as michael glassy from the u.s. air force. he was reentered at jefferson barricks national cemetery. >> that's important to know for the audience that the days of the unknown soldier are behind us now because of dna identification. there's no really such thing as an unknown soldier. is that correct? >> that's pretty much correct. yeah, you can -- the technology that we have, it's a lot easier. one -- the thing to point out about world war i was the first time that dog tags were issued to everyone and there were two circular disks that included information on the soldier, the
ideal was if soldier was to be buried one of the tags was now to temporary -- nailed to the cross. the other was on -- kept the soldier. so that helped with identification after the war. but the problem was the technology, the type of artillery that was used, in some cases, made, you know, soldiers unidentifiable, even though registration service went to great links to try and figure out the identity and of course in this case couldn't figure it out. >> look at the number of reeves. and there's the president addressing the crowds. now, we will see there's vast number of people and the official audience, but then the crowd went on it.
>> the acoustics of the amphitheater are very good. looking at it now, it's almost unchanged today from how it was in 1921. >> look at that crowd. >> many of these were from different veterans' organizations across the country, from groups of women, people who supported the war effort, people who couldn't get to the ceremony, this was such a big deal that americans really wanted to feel what they were participating in someway. >> i think some of them were sent from every army unit, especially at the division level. >> i believe it was the representative from possibly france. the unknown soldiers received great metals. all of these different nations wanted to show their support for
the american and participation in the first world war. >> and so those are the medals on to the -- >> yes. >> they're holding the casket. >> you can see many of those at arlington national cemetery, they still happen in the collection. >> look at those crowds. and also look at washington, d.c. how undeveloped it is. >> you can see lincoln memorial. >> that's right. >> there's lot of wide open spaces. >> none of the folks that made it over there. large turn out. >> i think it's interesting to note the people on the roof of the amphitheater, some of the best photographs we had in the ceremony were taken above. >> and how concerned really they were about presidential security. today there could not be people on the roofs like that. there would be snipers watching the crowds and protecting the president. >> despite the fact that three presidents had been assassinated before this. >> right.
>> now, they're carrying the casket to the place where, today, people go, they'll actually see the white as cul-de-sac in which the cascade entered. >> and that was not constructed yet. it wasn't until constructed until later. all we say now is the actual too and where they're walking is somewhat near where the plaza, later constructed. where the sentals from the united states army now guard the two. so this part of the plaza has changed quite a bit. >> the congressman who started this. >> so hamilton fish served in the first world war. he was an officer, which was segregated african-american
regiment and he was a white officer. this was just the chief representing native americans. so hamilton really helped to organize and ark strait the ceremony. -- orchestrate the ceremony. and i believe he was there. >> he was a very influential member of congress, especially, when it came to the national guard which came out florida, the american fighting fors overseas. >> the american -- and and career. >> yes. >> who became very famous --
>> it's a large over that -- which was not yet constructed at this moment. we see it today -- >> i think it's important to pause for a moment and think about the meaning and connect all of the different conflicts that stretch beyond world war i. and really continues. >> at the time unfold because they thought. >> and this is although i think the number of participants recognize that germans surrendered as a farmist which isn't a true surrender. and i think the fact that it's
it didn't come to an absolute there would be something in the future and i suspect in the back of his mind he thought, okay, we're going to be probably fighting this again. i don't think they knew it was going to happen some 20 years later. >> thanks to both of you and helping us see through the lens of history, a ceremony that helped many of americans put world war i to closure after many years here in the united states. thank you. >> thank you. >> this weekend on american history tv. cspan 3.