We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918

We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918

2010, History  -   8 Comments
Ratings: 7.92/10 from 65 users.

As many tens of thousands are perishing each year from the flu, and the new Coronavirus has emerged in regions around the world, here's a film that looks back on one of the most tragic of all of history's pandemics. We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918 recalls the outbreak that swept the planet and eventually killed over 50 million people.

The most unique and haunting aspect of the film are the interviews with the survivors of the outbreak. These are the children of the tragedy, many of whom were made orphans during the height of its spread. They speak of the ill effects suffered by the stricken, including the high fever, complete loss of energy and occasional episodes of delirium. The bodies were piling up so quickly that many did not receive proper burials. Entire families were wiped out.

The influenza of 1918 was not like the strains of the flu we see today. Traditional seasonal flu is especially hazardous to the very young, elderly and the chronically diseased. The fatalities that resulted from the 1918 scourge did not discriminate based upon age. Younger men and women were considered high risk.

How did this virus become so virulent and claim so many lives across the age and gender spectrum? To a large extent, these answers remain elusive. But it's obvious that the 1918 influenza constituted an unfamiliar strain to which few were immune.

Through the first-hand testimonies of the film's interview subjects, we're provided a series of unspeakably tragic anecdotes. In cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia, military parades and other gatherings successfully scattered the virus to countless more victims. Survivors remember waving to their healthy neighbors on one day, and witnessing their dead bodies being carried out of their houses on the next.

The film also features insights from medical researchers who continue to study the events of 1918, and use their collective knowledge to inform the steps we take to prevent and contain modern pandemics.

We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918 is an informative and sobering portrait of one of the most horrific pandemics ever to seize the globe.

Directed by: Lisa Laden

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 months ago

So Faust did it in 1918, too.

2 years ago

This documentary was made before the 202O pandemic. Towards the film’s end, Dr. Fauci speaks optimistically of what we have learned from the 1918 pandemic and how we now have such better medical tools to fight the next one. Ironic and sad. Even in 1918, quarantine, social distancing, masks, and prudent lock downs were understood to be key to mitigation. In retrospect, medical experts agree that these measures decreased number of cases and deaths. Yet, here we are!

A good, quick and viewer-friendly history of 1918 pandemic, particularly interesting in second half where efforts to identify virus genetically are undertaken, starting with a first trip to retrieve bodies of indigenous influenza subjects from permafrost. Decades later, a second trip leads to a breakthrough of sorts.

3 years ago

Damn son.

3 years ago

I watched this yesterday. A must-see for everyone, as all of us have had families who were affected by the 1918 Spanish Flu. I hope in 100 years genealogists won't be asking, "What was the Covid-19 pandemic like?"

3 years ago

So the US Military has the 1918 virus. What did they do with it? Why is the old man so excited about getting his hands on a pathogen.

howie corbaley
3 years ago

Amazing a must see, Very timely. Thank You

Gerald Crawford
3 years ago

A great and timely documentary everyone should see, thanks very much for offering it.