“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 499 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 94 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 499 yards was nearly 5 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.
Taken in the middle of summer on a sweltering day in 1918, it involves 18,000 officers and men at Camp Dodge in Des Moines, Iowa. The photo took all day to set up and many men passed out from the hours of standing in their wool uniforms in nearly 100 degree heat.
The photo was taken from a specially-designed 80-foot tower, and you'll notice one amazing thing about the photo: It has almost perfect perspective! Here's where it gets interesting: If you look at the bottom of the photo, you'll see about 60 men make up the "base" of the statue. Beyond that, there are 2,000 men that make up the body, left arm, and head. Now get this: There are 12,000 men in the flame coming out of the torch.
Another interesting fact: The actual Statue of Liberty is only 151 feet tall? However, to ensure proper perspective, these soldiers had to create their statue at 1235 feet!