It was July 1918. World War I was raging and U.S. patriotism was waning—stretched thin as more soldiers were wounded or killed overseas. Enter Arthur S. Mole and John D. Thomas, two commercial photographers from Illinois with a grand plan to bolster the public’s flag-waving spirits with one powerful photograph:
This amazing image was created on the drill grounds at Camp Dodge, Iowa, a military base situated in the Des Moines River Valley. That day, temperatures soared above 100°F and the 18,000 officers and soldiers that gathered for the shot were dressed in tragically woolen uniforms. According to the Iowa National Guard, many of the men fainted due to the heat.
The men stood shoulder-to-shoulder along thousands of yards of tape. Because the formation spanned such a huge distance, Mole and Thomas had to spend weeks calculating about how to account for perspective distortion. In the end, they used 2,000 men to compose the head, body, and left arm, and 12,000 men just to create the flame in Lady Liberty’s torch! Mole and Thomas shot the image with a 11 x 14 view camera while perched atop an 80-foot tower.
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