The Engineer’s Room: National Doughnut Day

On the face of it, you’d think that National Doughnut[1] Day, celebrated each year on the first Friday in June, honors police officers and their service to the community. Particularly in America, police officers are so inexorably linked with doughnuts and coffee that it’s hard to imagine one without the other – and hard to find a depiction of a bumbling policeman that doesn’t feature a well-placed doughnut. But there’s a practical reason for this.[2] In the 1950s, long before convenience stores were open 24-hours a day, many police officers shifted from walking a beat to driving patrol cars. In most communities, the only store open late at night with room to park a squad car was the local doughnut shop, working to be ready for the morning rush. The association between the two is now so strong that, in 2008 when Michigan’s Clare City Bakery was in danger of closing after 113 years, the nine members of the Clare Police Department purchased the bakery and now operate it as Cops & Doughnuts.

But for the origin of National Doughnut Day, we have to go much earlier and thousands of miles from the American Heartland of the 1950s to the front lines in Europe during World War I. When America entered the War in 1917, they were followed closely by the “Lassies” of the Salvation Army. The first 4 of the Salvation Army’s 250 civilian women volunteers, dubbed “Doughnut Girls,” arrived in France in September 1917. Margaret Sheldon and Helen Purviance produced the first batches of their famed doughnuts using shell casings for rolling pins and fried them in a metal helmet.[3] In 1938, the Chicago Salvation Army began National Doughnut Day to honor these brave women and as a fund-raiser to help the needy during the Great Depression.

Now, more than 100 years later, we can revisit WWI through cinema, without fear of bullets, shrapnel, or poison gas. To help us in this quest, Rotten Tomatoes has assembled a list of the best WWI movies, ranging from The Big Parade (1925) to 1917 (2020), and including Wings (1927), which won the first Academy Award for Best Picture, the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old (2019), and “the epic of all epics” Lawrence of Arabia (1962). All of these works, plus more than 2 million others, can be found in the EIDR registry at

The Best World War I Movies

Rank Title Year EIDR ID
1 All Quiet on the Western Front 1930 10.5240/CC3E-370A-81A7-0274-95EF-I
2 They Shall Not Grow Old 2018 10.5240/870D-46F9-ABCF-C75E-9E31-L
3 The Lost Patrol 1934 10.5240/8EAE-2E82-4CDC-6E54-0285-6
4 The Big Parade 1925 10.5240/432A-5614-DDE7-8BBA-4446-P
5 Dishonored 1931 10.5240/F4B3-1068-73FB-28C6-AEB5-Y
6 Lawrence of Arabia 1962 10.5240/3768-CC96-51EC-64D0-A6F7-N
7 La Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion) 1938 10.5240/1709-684E-DA44-499C-19E0-V
8 Paths of Glory 1957 10.5240/C73C-EEA2-4651-E084-0C1E-5
9 Au Revoir Là-Haut (See You Up There) 2017 10.5240/7B42-8EE9-148D-3F45-0BED-F
10 Wings 1927 10.5240/CB8B-25EC-90A3-3DAB-5EF9-H
11 Journey’s End 2017 10.5240/F8B0-39B2-84FB-D809-AE14-N
12 A Farewell to Arms 1932 10.5240/9959-53FF-5B7B-FF51-95FE-H
13 Gallipoli 1981 10.5240/2D72-26E5-6AEE-4A59-49E2-J
14 1917 2020 10.5240/4511-F2E9-3775-F74D-D5F9-6
15 King and Country 1964 10.5240/0A89-CF3F-2FC2-F1A3-47AD-G
16 Sergeant York 1941 10.5240/7F0F-6A7B-7EC4-EC76-7431-Y
17 Beneath Hill 60 2010 10.5240/513A-D0E8-7F35-654C-C4BE-5
18 Testament of Youth 2015 10.5240/DA81-846C-638B-36ED-EFE5-F
19 Waterloo Bridge 1940 10.5240/A34A-101C-13B2-3085-E9A0-F
20 Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement) 2004 10.5240/570C-BFB8-0F27-C7FC-D160-G
21 Hell’s Angels 1930 10.5240/6A86-DEC7-7D1C-1F7F-EB0E-1
22 War Horse 2011 10.5240/75BF-EB51-F611-9CD7-DCEE-8
23 Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) 2005 10.5240/4829-E0F8-780F-40C5-338F-P
24 The Lighthorsemen 1987 10.5240/8C10-107D-7C59-7394-0741-M
25 Johnny Got His Gun 1971 10.5240/C466-4740-D07C-2ED0-1B96-K
26 Private Peaceful 2012 10.5240/C84D-68CA-EA0D-FAF9-BB08-K
27 Von Richthofen and Brown 1971 10.5240/6E1A-CC3E-9990-90E3-C594-0
28 Mata Hari 1932 10.5240/D28A-9A8D-7351-28C6-FFB0-3
29 What Price Glory? 1952 10.5240/D9BA-05B3-2A29-EBC3-24D7-5
30 Shout at the Devil 1976 10.5240/D150-ECB8-D277-FD4D-39E2-W
31 Darling Lili 1970 10.5240/F9F1-A866-F92E-2564-199B-A
32 Flyboys 2006 10.5240/2EBB-8044-E7E3-54CB-C4F6-N
33 Der Rote Baron (The Red Baron) 2008 10.5240/B51C-16FD-8A5D-C02D-F731-O
34 In Love and War 1996 10.5240/51B3-F926-8A89-C77C-A89D-R



[1] The alternate (mostly American) spelling “donut” first appeared in print in 1900 in Peck’s Bad Boy and his Pa: “Pa said he guessed he hadn’t got much appetite and he would just drink a cup of coffee and eat a donut.”

[2] For the full story, see The Long, Sweet Love Affair Between Cops and Doughnuts.

[3] See The Women Who Fried Donuts and Dodged Bombs on the Front Lines of WWI.