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WWI film ‘The Millionaires’ Unit’ coming to video on demandWWI film ‘The Millionaires’ Unit’ coming to video on demand

Documentary chronicles Yale pilotsDocumentary chronicles Yale pilots

A gripping World War I documentary detailing the lives of the U.S. Naval Air Reserve’s founding members is coming to video on demand Feb. 15. The stories describing the private air militia established by Yale University students were brought to life from their own letters and diaries.

The original Yale Unit. Photo courtesy of The Millionaires' Unit.
The original Yale Unit. Photo courtesy of The Millionaires' Unit.

The group of aviators was dubbed “The Millionaires’ Unit” by members of the New York media, and the film is based on the Marc Wortman book of the same name.

The 2015 G.I. Festival Best Documentary Feature and Garden State Film Festival winner was released to help commemorate the European conflict’s centennial. The video was filmed on three continents, according to a news release, and is currently available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

The Millionaires’ Unit film includes re-enacted dogfight scenes that will likely delight aviation historians as they view biplane and triplane aircraft battling each other for air superiority. Archival black-and-white footage is interspersed into the aerial scenes as narrator Bruce Dern reads from the pilots’ mementos.

A video trailer noted that the war was “a call to arms” for the Ivy League pilots because there were no aviators serving in the U.S. military prior to formation of The Millionaires’ Unit. The trailer describes a group that “flew hard and played hard” while upholding the higher calling of “duty, honor, and country.”

Photo courtesy Darroch Greer, The Millionaires’ Unit.

The film explains how the pilots “couldn’t wait to get at the Germans” despite the danger and the fear of confronting the enemy in wood-and-fabric aircraft just 13 years after the Wright brothers demonstrated powered flight.

A staggering statistic revealed in the trailer noted the World War I life expectancy of a military pilot was three weeks. According to their diaries, many fellow aviators were “literally blown out of the air” during dogfights as they faced “some of the world’s best pilots” in machines that far outpaced the Yale pilots’ aircraft.

“They wanted to take part and they wanted to fly,” added the narrator, because The Millionaires' Unit saw the war as a “higher calling.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Movies and Television, Pilots

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