On Sept. 9, the Museum presents a special screening of The Millionaires’ Unit-U.S. Naval Aviators in the First World War, the story of a privileged group of college students from Yale who formed a private air militia in preparation for America’s entry into World War One. The film was made veteran documentary filmmakers Ron King and Darroch Greer, who will attend the screening and field questions from the audience. Narrated by Bruce Dern, with filming on three continents, the documentary includes stunning new aerial footage recreating World War I aviation using actual aircraft. The Milllionaires’ Unit screens at 2 p.m., and is free with Museum admission. See trailer online.
Special guests at the screening include Seattle-local Chris Brown and his brother David Brown, Jr., who are grandsons of First Yale Unit aviator Robert Lovett. One of the film’s producers, Ron King, is a grandson of First Yale Unit member John M. Vorys. The program will be introduced by Amy Heidrick, the Museum’s Associate Director of Collections, who leads a project to digitize the Museum’s rare World War I aviation photos and prints, making them available for viewing online for the first time.
About the Film
The military flying group formed by Ivy League college students during World War I was known as the First Yale Unit, and dubbed ‘the millionaires’ unit’ by the New York press. It became the founding squadron of the U.S. Naval Air Reserve, and the first to fly for the United States in the Great War. The documentary uses the diaries and letters of these pioneer aviators to tell the story of young men coming of age as America was coming of age as a world power. Their service and sacrifice is the great untold story of American aviation in World War One.
The documentary was inspired by the book The Millionaires’ Unit by Marc Wortman. The film was in development and production for seven years, and shot on three continents, including New Zealand, where aerial footage was shot with some of the world’s most accurate replicas of World War I aircraft. Documentary filmmakers Darroch Greer and Ron King (grandson of First Yale Unit member John M. Vorys) aimed to create a personal, character-driven story that sheds light on a formative, if neglected, part of American history and on the American character.