Human Statue of Liberty (Goddess of Liberty), Camp Dodge, Iowa. From the Collection of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge, Johnston, IA.

OTD: August 22, 1918 – August 22, 2018


My Fellow Americans, Dear Members and Friends of the MDFDE,


One Hundred Years ago today at exactly 2:30 p.m. (CDT)… Eighteen thousand soldiers from the 163rd Depot Brigade — some of our bravest men who had served at Camp Dodge, Iowa — stood under the scorching heat of the sun to form the silhouette of our universal Statue of Liberty, thus saluting France’s gift to the United States in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette (1886).

Yes, some of them fainted and had to be carried out of that burning field, but at the end of this extraordinary photography session, everyone of them, every heroic WWI U.S. soldier posing on that picture symbolically showed the world what America and her Allies had been fighting for four horrific years:


As we, members of the invincible Resistance, faced with unprecedented adversity on our own soil, are taking our country back one day at a time… Let’s never forget History! Let’s never forget how many of our elders, our brave ancesters and Allies had fought for LIBERTY, had sacrificed their lives so we, the next generation, along with our children and grandchilden, could be free!

So when the going gets tough… Just in case we need each other even more in the days, weeks and months ahead… Whenever you and I feel discouraged and need a boost to keep going… Here is a friendly reminder for all of us, a token of appreciation speaking of time long gone to post nearby and share with all. Hold this cultural image in your mind — a human Lady Liberty standing on a glorious August day in Iowa — guiding us, the People, through this epic crisis… Taking us all the way back to the Lighting Torch glowing beside our friendly shores…

And one last thing: if you happen to visit IOWA this Summer and, perhaps, this Fall… Please go visit the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston, IA.

All aboard for better times!

Kind regards to everyone,

Elisabeth Jenssen

P.S. Sending a special thank-you to Sherrie Colbert, Director, and Michael Vogt, Curator of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, for their help and kind assistance. And many, many thanks to the entire State of Iowa for its amazing, heartfelt participation in the legendary American journalist Drew Pearson’s Friendship Food Train — 71 years ago — as the moving story of your parents and grandparents’ generosity will surely be told to your children and grandchildren via our official, super exciting French-American project #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain70 in the works for next year… Way to go, IOWA!





© The Official French-American Project entirely conceived by Ms. Elisabeth JENSSEN to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Friendship Train and the Merci Train (2017- 2019).

Chair, Elisabeth Jenssen Co-Chair, Tyler Abell

Honorary President: The Comte Gilbert de Pusy La Fayette




Human Statue of Liberty (Goddess of Liberty), Camp Dodge, Iowa:

Eighteen thousand soldiers of the Camp Dodge, 163rd Depot Brigade formed the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty for the renowned photograph shot by Chicago, Illinois, photographers Mole and Thomas on August 22, 1918 at 2:30 p.m.

“COL. William Newman, commander of the 163rd Depot Brigade selected the statue of liberty as the formation for the brigade picture.” “COL. Rush S. Wells, Regimental Commander, had charge of the formation.” COL Newman was an 1892 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.

“Beginning at 1:00 p.m. companies were assembled and by 2:30 the proper formation was completed and the photograph taken. The ground was marked out by blocks, in the shape of the statue, which facilitated getting the soldiers into correct formation. From the goddess’ feet to the tip of the torch the symbolical statue measured 400 yards. The picture was taken from a tower forty feet high, constructed for the occasion. On account of the mass formation and the heat twelve men fainted and were carried from the field.” The high temperature reported for the day was 92 degrees.

The photograph was taken with an 11″ x 14″ view camera following several day’s worth of work by the photographers to set up the image on the ground using thousands of yards of white tape. In addition, substantial coordination was required between the photographers and COL. Newman’s staff to ensure the various folds of the gown, the bible, the left hand, and the crown was properly outlined by soldiers wearing white shirts. The design for the living picture was laid out on the drill ground at Camp Dodge, west of current building S 34 and Maintenance Road. “The large photographs were on sale for $1 at all the exchanges in the camp. Many soldiers sent the photo home to their families.

The layout at the reported 400 yards was nearly 4 times the length of the actual Statue of Liberty and the viewer will note that the correct perspective is maintained. The number of men in the various parts include: Flame of Torch – 12,000 men, Torch – 2,800, Right Arm – 1,200 men, Body, Head and balance of figure – 2,000 men.

Some have speculated that the soldiers in the photograph were members of the 88th Division who had been in training at Camp Dodge. This is erroneous as on August 16, 1918 all organizations of the Division were reported to have left Camp Dodge. The soldiers in the picture were members of the 163rd Depot Brigade under the command of COL Newman.

Most of the information contained in this brief history was found in various volumes of the Camp Dodger. “The Camp Dodger emerged on September 21, 1917, at Camp Dodge as an official publication of the 88th Infantry Division, a unit composed largely of draftees from the Midwest and forming part of the National Army.

The Camp Dodger was published weekly at Camp Dodge, Iowa, and later in France, during and shortly after the First World War. Editor-in-chief of the paper was Lieutenant Laurence R. Fairall, from Iowa City, who served as a Intelligence Officer in the 3rd Bn, 350th Inf Regt, 88th Div. Information on the photo was found in the Camp Dodger issues of Aug 9th & 23, and Sep 20th & 23rd of 1918.

As many as 20 human figure pictures were taken by photographers during the Great War, which was later termed World War One. The photos were used as a public relations vehicle for a nation at war. Other figures include the American Bald Eagle, the Liberty Bell, the U.S. Engineer Corps symbol, Adjutant Generals Corps symbol, and a number of U.S. Army Division patches to include the 34th Infantry Division, then known as the “Sandstorm Division.”

Omar Bradley was a young lieutenant stationed at Camp Dodge at the time this photo was taken. We do not know if he was in the photo. Years later, during WWII, General Bradley would achieve the rank of Five Star General.

The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge has the Statue of Liberty picture on exhibit as well as a photo of the 34th Infantry Division “Sandstorm Division” patch of 1918.

The museum also exhibits a photo of the 34th Division, 1st BCT Photo taken at Camp Shelby, MS in 2006 that included a Iowa element of over 800 soldiers from the 1-133rd Infantry Battalion and 334th FSB.

The tradition continued in a photo taken in 1991, during the Desert Storm / Desert Shield War, of all the soldiers and civilian employees at Camp Dodge who supported the mobilization of the Iowa National Guard and USAR elements for deployment. Major General Warren “Bud” Lawson, Adjutant General of Iowa, is shown in the front row of the photo.
Iowa National Guard Headquarters and support unit personal Iowa map photo taken in 1991 during Operation DS / DS. Major General Warren “Bud” Lawson is shown in the front row center. The photo was sent to deployed Iowa Army National Guard soldiers in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and a Best Wishes photo for everyone back home.


During Desert Storm, approximately 1,400 Iowa Army National Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized to support the war effort.

All of these photos and others can be seen at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, which is open six days a week, Monday thru Saturday from 0830 to 1630 hrs (closed holiday & holiday weekends). The museum is located at Camp Dodge near Johnston, IA, just off I35/80. For more information, please contact the curator at 515-252-4531 or email the


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