St. B’s Documentary Screening: The Millionaires’ Unit
by Kate Fiscus, Director of Old Boys
To whom much is given, much is expected. The tagline of The Millionaires’ Unit resonated with audience members during a St. Bernard’s screening on April 16. Over forty Old Boys, alumni parents, current parents, and students met to watch a special one-hour version of The Millionaires’ Unit.
Harry Davison ’76, Old Boy and film producer, introduced the screening. Harry led the volunteer fundraising committee for the film and has a personal connection to the film’s history. He is the grandson of F. Trubee Davison, founder of the Yale Aero Club and the volunteer Aerial Coast Patrol Unit No. 1. Harry described that the film took seven years of development to gather photos sourced from family collections and from the Naval archives to tell the story. It was filmed in the United States, France, England, Belgium, and New Zealand.
The Millionaires’ Unit follows the lives of a dozen friends, some with ties to St. Bernard’s, who were undergraduates at Yale University when the war broke out in the summer of 1914. One specific tie to St. B’s is Old Boy David Lawrence ’42 who provided photos and artifacts from his father, George “Lotta” Lawrence, featured in the documentary. George was Naval Aviator No. 89 and the Yale Class of 1918.
Prohibited from joining the fight in the service of a foreign army until America eventually entered the fray, these young men formed their own private air militia to be ready for the moment when the call would come. Their foresight enabled them to be the first American military to land in France, but it also cost some of them their lives and they became the first naval officers to be killed in combat. Their letters home and their diary entries describe a young nation coming of age at the beginning of the 20th century, and their efforts in the skies over France helped define American foreign policy into the Cold War and beyond.
Narrated by Bruce Dern, whose great uncle was a member of the unit, the film offers an intimate insight into the hopes and fears of a group of individuals as they entered adulthood. The film also creates an authentic experience by putting the viewer in the cockpit of single seater fighter aircraft from the collection of director Peter Jackson (The Hobbit,Lord of the Rings).
The Millionaires’ Unit is available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. The documentary is based on the book of the same title by Marc Wortman.
We would like to thank Harry Davison, David Lawrence, and the Old Boys Council for organizing this unique documentary screening. We would also like to thank many of the attendees and members of the St. Bernard’s community who dedicated years of their lives to serving in our armed forces.