'Hello Girls' documentary tells story of women on the front lines in WWI
By Mark Walker
via the Fredricksburg.com web site (VA)
An errant Google search and a last-minute, fortuitous find at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., made James Theres’ documentary “The Hello Girls” come together.
Theres, with three documentaries under his belt now, started searching in 2017 for a project to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in November 1918.
A mistake in a Google search for information on WWI led to Elizabeth Cobbs’ book, also called “The Hello Girls,” which told the story about American women who went to Europe during WWI to run the switchboards and the phones that connected generals to the battlefronts. The moniker derived from the women answering the phones with “Hello.”
Theres had found the subject for his second documentary.
“Truthfully, I had meant to type in WWI men. For some strange reason, I typed in WWI women,” the 55-year-old Alexandria filmmaker said. “I looked at the screen and said, ‘OK, let’s see what’s here,’ and up popped Elizabeth Cobbs’ book of the same name.”
Theres read the book and emailed Cobbs, who helped set him on the path to his documentary version of “The Hello Girls.”
Theres’ research led him to Kansas City; San Francisco; Marine City, Mich.; and Chaumont, France—places where he interviewed the descendants of four of the Hello Girls.
John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front in WWI, brought the Hello Girls to Europe at the suggestion of AT&T executives who were part of his staff, Theres said.
Pershing was not satisfied with the way the American soldiers were doing the job for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. “He knew how important that private communication was on the battlefield and that it would be a game changer,” Theres said.
Read the entire article on the Fredricksburg.com web site.
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