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Middle East Encounter

When the trenches and mud of France offered little to encourage American enthusiasm for the war, Thomas moved on to the Italian Alps. While in Italy he heard that the British were poised to capture Jerusalem from the Turks. Through his connections he was able to win the attention of Colonel John Buchan of the London Foreign Office.

Buchan saw the value in “throwing a spot light” on recent victories in what “heretofore was obscure struggle in the Middle East.” He sent a telegram declaring, “Do everything to help this young man.” Leaving his wife working for the Red Cross in Italy, Thomas was given transit and support for himself, his cameraman and more than half a ton of equipment.

Thomas arrived shortly after the British capture of Jerusalem, where in short order he stumbled upon T.E. Lawrence. Thomas followed Lawrence to Akaba eight months after the Arabs had captured it. He spent more than two weeks with the Arab forces and over a week of that with Lawrence. The young journalist wrote notes in his field journals on the conversations he had with Lawrence and his staff, and with his cameraman he took hundreds of still photographs and shot reels of 35mm film of Lawrence and his Arab forces.