The US Army Air Force in World War 2: Behind the Scenes Volume 1
* Photographic Intelligence for Bombardment Aviation (1943-24:00) Top secret & never shown to the public, this picture is an amazing time capsule from World War 2. Starring screen legend Alan Ladd (Shane, This Gun for Hire) it's like a real life detective story, seen only by Air Intelligence trainees. “Smitty,” an American Captain in photo analysis stationed in a misty Scottish castle, becomes obsessed with a photo recon picture taken over Hamburg, Germany, that has anomalies he just can't explain. The story of how he solves this riddle using persistence, insight and World War 2 High Tech (including “Stereo Vision”) is a fascinating tale. You'll see all phases of Photographic Intelligence in action, from initial missions flown by Lockheed F5s (recon version of the P-38) high over Germany, through Phase 1 Tactical Analysis to Phase 2 Strategic Analysis. You'll learn all the details of how photographic missions were selected & flown and how the resulting pictures were processed, organized, distributed, analyzed and used to determine bombing targets. This film shows a crucial ingredient in World War 2 bombing you won't see anywhere else!
* Ditch and Live in a B-17 (1944- 43:00) Produced for the eyes of Allied aircrews only. Ditching was a fact of life for stricken aircraft, from the frozen white tops of the North Sea to the Shark infested waters of the South Pacific. “Lt. Reynolds.” played by veteran actor Arthur Kennedy (Lawrence of Arabia), is copilot on a B-17 that ditches at sea. He's survives by pure luck, but the rest of the crew is lost due to a lack of preparation. When he gets his own ship, Reynolds vows his crew is thoroughly trained in B-17 ditching. He gives them the straight dope, step by step. You'll see training on land and in the water on everything from crew preparation, responsibilities, crash positioning, exiting the plane, emergency supplies, launching & operating dinghies to using an emergency radio, navigating, rations, first aid & a lot more. And after sinking a Japanese cruiser, (as you might expect) Reynolds & the his crew are shot down and have to put everything they learned into practice in stormy seas. Excellent picture quality, a dramatic storyline & realistic acting, with lots of great interior shots of the Flying Fortress. A must have for every B-17 fan!
* Learn & Live: Pilot Heaven (1943-44:00) Pilot deaths during training were all too frequent in World War 2, a grim fact that was kept from the public, but was a matter of grave concern to the Army Air Corps. Shown only to pilots, this wonderful film is a unique combination of an entertaining, sometimes surreal storyline, with practical nuts and bolts safety training. Saint Peter (Guy Kibby) gives “Joe Instructor” a temporary pass to ”Pilot Heaven,” because he's concerned that so many more young trainees are coming up stairs before their time, due to ignoring procedures or excessive bravado. What follows are a dozen case studies of how recent arrivals, wearing angels wings, shooting pool & playing cards, met their fates, told with pointed, often sarcastic humor. (Their crashes are unflinchingly portrayed as a harsh warning,) Their SNAFUS, realistically set down on Earth, include fatal failures to use checklists & forms, flying into a storm, carburetor icing, extending a glide during landing, “doping off'” (day dreaming about your girl), not clearing your engine before takeoff, and doing crazy acrobatics at tree top level – a sight to see in itself! Each lesson is an entertaining vignette with a clear message, giving you up close views of World War 2 aircraft, including B-24s, P-38s, P-39s T-6s & Stearmans. A true classic!
* Bonus Short: Carl Sandburg's “Bomber” (1942 -10:00) This dramatic film was produced for and shown to defense plant workers, lauding and encouraging their important work. Three time Pulitzer Prize winning poet & biographer Carl Sandburg wrote the script for this stirring tribute to a marvelous aircraft, the B-26 medium bomber, and to the men & women who built them in the Martin's Marietta Georgia plant. Striking Life Magazine style documentary cinematography combines with Sandburg's powerful words to create an unforgettable portrait of Americans working 24/7/365 to help win the War. “John Henry on one wing and Paul Bunyan on the other!” A memorable look inside a full steam ahead B-26 production line, bristling with innovation & ingenuity from sub assemblies to finished bombers flying off the strip, A must have for B-26 fans & anyone who's inspired by powerful words and images showing “The Greatest Generation” hard at work.
Behind the Scenes in World War 2 - Vol 2.
* A Welcome to Britain with Burgess Meredith (1943, Restored B&W, 40:00) G. B. Shaw said, "The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language." That was never more true than when tens of thousands of American servicemen poured into the British Isles during World War 2. This charming, humorous film, starring award winner Burgess Meredith, was an Anglo-American co-production shown to prepare Yanks for successfully dealing with inevitable culture shock when they started moving among the general population in the U.K., and just as importantly, how to avoid unintentionally offending their hosts. Parts of surviving copies of this film have darkened with age to become virtually unwatchable. I was able to digitally restore them. There are lots of useful tips on language, customs, geography, currency, travel, pubs and how gregarious & outspoken Yanks could lean to live with "British reserve." Times were very tough in wartime Britain, with shortages of just about everything. G.I.s were cautioned not to flaunt their relative prosperity, an issue that caused real resentment at the time. Last, but not least, there's an entertaining Bob Hope cameo. After all, he was born in the U.K.!
*Army Air Force Combat Camera Units Weekly Digest -- Highlights 1944-45 (Restored B&W, 35:00) These film bulletins were seen only by service personnel. They usually covered air action, but AAF cameramen also occasionally covered other combat in their area. Gun camera & bomb drop film as well as "you are there footage on the ground Maps are used to show specific locations. Just some of highlights include:
- North American A-36 operations in Northern Italy in June-July 1944. The A-36 was the dive bomber variant of the P-51 Mustang. Gun camera footage of air to ground attacks using machine guns, canon and bombs of truck convoys, rail transport, bridges and targets of opportunity near Rome, Sezze, Castellana, Velletri & Bologna.
Bombing missions by B-25 Mitchells in Northern Italy in May 1944 on targets near Pavia and ships and harbor installations in Genoa.
B-24 Liberator missions over Yugoslavia, often accompanied by P-38 Lightnings. Several raids are shown, including a massive 290 aircraft attack on German troop concentrations, logistics & transportation near Banja Luka.
6th AAF Combat cameramen accompany a deep penetration jungle patrol on Manua Island in the Admiralties in the South West Pacific to gather intelligence and take prisoners for interrogation. The cameramen were armed as firefights with Japanese troops were frequent and every man was needed. They hacked through dense forests and traveled remote rivers in dugouts piloted by indigenous tribesman.
10th AAF Cameramen show how oxygen canisters from fighters and bombers were put on wheels and used for emergency medical support so wounded aircrew could receive oxygen from the moment they were carried off a plane. "Good old American ingenuity at work!"
3rd AAF Cameramen cover a wide variety of tactical & strategic B-24 missions in France in May June 1944, including Mulhouse, Belfort, Epinal & Cannes. A-20 Havocs make low level attacks near Cherbourg. 8th Air force make numerous air to ground attacks in Normandy on June 6th to support D-day landings.
6th AAF Cameramen cover air operations over Burma in 1945 in support of Allied troop advances, including B-24s and very rare gun camera footage from PTO P-47 Thunderbolts making air to ground attacks against a variety Japanese targets
8th Air Force air to air gun camera film, featuring high deflection shots against rapidly maneuvering Fw-190s.
* Army-Navy Screen Magazine Highlights 1941 -1945 (Restored B&W 90:00) This was a bi-weekly series of films produced by the Army, Air Forces & Navy shown only service personnel providing war news from battlefronts abroad and defense efforts at home, often featuring first person accounts.
- Some of the highlights:
"I Was There" Two veterans of Jimmy Doolittle's B-25 raid on Tokyo discuss it soon after returning to the States, accompanied by film showing actual operations off the Hornet. General "Hap' Arnold condemns Japanese executions of captured pilots & urges servicemen to 'finish the mission against Japanese Warlords."
I Was There" Bombardier & Navy Cross recipient Meyer Leven describes being shot down on the famous mission with the immortal Colin Kelly in one of the first offensive B-17 air operations in World War 2, three days after Pearl Harbor. Kelly died saving his crew. Levin flew 60 more missions with distinction before he was killed in action. The narrator intones blandly, "This is the last time you'll see Meyer, because he's dead now." Wartime bluntness.
Somewhere in America Chinese Cadets are trained as pilots in the U.S.A. before returning to their homeland to fight the Japanese.
Italy to a G.I.. Patrick MacDonald, an Infantry private who was wounded and invalided home, reports on his first person experience serving & fighting in Italy with a wry Irish sense of humor. "There's a lot of SNAFU in the infantry..." He supplies an G.I.'s perspective from embarkation on troop transports in Sicily to landing under fire on the beaches at Salerno, hunkering down, and then moving on to Naples. Excellent supplementary footage air & sea operations.
WASPS. The Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) was a civilian women pilots' organization, whose members were federal employees, served as ferry pilots, transferring all kinds of military aircraft all over the World. This freed up men pilots for front line service. See all aspects of their training & induction by WASP founder Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran.
I Was There: Tarawa. Marine Corps Staff Sargent Norman Hatch went in with the first wave of the landings at Tarawa, "armed with a pistol and hand camera." He gives a dramatic first person account of the battle for the island fortress that bristled with heavy guns and deeply entrenched defenders. Scenes from landing on the beeches through the final defeat of the Japanese garrison, illustrated with footage he filmed himself.
Target Germany: Produced by the 8th Air Force. Excellent footage of mid war bomber operations against Germany, including B-17s, B-24s, B-26s and the P-47 & P-38 fighters fighters that escorted them. Dramatic scenes from allied airfields in Britain and long range missions from beginning to end
U.S. Marine Corps General Vandegrift Talks about Guadalcanal. Gen Vandegrift commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in its first ground offensive of World War II, the Battle of Guadalcanal. (He was also in command of all ground operations.) For his service during the Solomon Islands campaign, he received a Medal of Honor. He gives his unique insights into the course of the battle, supplemented by excellent footage of air sea & ground combat operations including jungle fighting and air ops out of Henderson Field.
Going Home: Free French Pilots Fly Missions over France. This film follows an group of Free French pilots from flight training school in Florida to bases in Britain where they flew A-20 "Boston" missions over France. Exciting footage of A-20s "hedge hopping" on very low level bombing raids on German held targets in occupied France. A gut wrenching experience for French pilots bombing their own country where some civilians were inevitably killed.
June 6th 1944. This is a sweeping overall view of the invasion in Normandy made to be shown to armed service personnel world wide, with an introduction by Army Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph T McNarney and a dramatic narration by Eugene Kern, who also narrated portions of "Thunderbolt!" and "Memphis Belle." Covers air sea & ground operations, including footage you won't see anywhere else.
Surrender in the Pacific. The official surrender of The Empire of Japan on board the Battleship Missouri to General MacArthur is the well known center piece of the this report, but most of the action in this fascinating film focuses on what happened shortly before and then after that event. You'll see the first landings and reception of U.S. forces in Japan, the terrible destruction that was wrought there, the surrender of Japanese commands throughout the Far East and the liberation of Allied prisoners who survived barbarous captivity.
World War 2 Behind the Scenes in World War 2 Volume 3
* D-Day to Germany with a Newsreel Cameraman (Restored Color - 44:00)This amazing film has behind the scenes color film of the D-Day landings you won't see anywhere else -- and a lot more. Jack Lieb, a cameraman for " News of the Day" newsreels that were shown to the public, brought along a 16mm camera to make a color film diary when he wasn't shooting with his 35 mm for theatrical release. The result is a personal look at what he experienced rom London in the Spring of 1944 on, now preserved in the National Archives. Embarkation at Plymouth, crossing the Channel in an LCI, the landings on Utah Beach, the port of Cherbourg shortly after the city fell (including long lines of German prisoners), a rare color glimpse of P-47s & P-38s flying from an ad hoc airfield near Sainte-Mère-Église, 3rd Army coming ashore soon after Omaha Beach was secured, the Liberation of Paris, crossing "The Siegfried Line" into Germany and much more. Jack Lieb himself gives a colorful and insightful narration. A hidden gem is a rare glimpse of a pantheon of war correspondents who worked along side Lieb from their base at the island fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, including Ernie Pyle, Charles Collingwood, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Kirkpatrick, A. J. Liebling, photographer Robert Capa and director George Stevens. And Edward G. Robinson makes a cameo appearance before going on stage for a USO show in at town that was liberated only days before. Bonuses are up close color views of captured German planes & rockets including a Ju88, Me 262 and an extremely rare Ju 292 intercontinental bomber developed to bomb New York City.The colors of this old films had shifted badly over the years, but we were able to use state of the at digital technology to restore it to starling clarity. Don't miss the "before & after" sample at the end of the video. I've also added some maps and graphics to fill out the story.
* Position Firing for Aerial Gunners (B&W 15:00 1944) This entertaining and informative animated training film, featuring bomber waist gunner "Trigger Joe" (with the immortal voice of Mel Blanc) was developed to teach gunners the basics of how to shoot down attacking enemy fighters using iron ring gun sight machine guns commonly found on bombers like the B-17s & B-24. If you think you learned everything you need to know about leading targets on a skeet or trap range, think again. When you factor in variables like differing air speed between bombers and enemy fighters, angles of attack, direction, deflection, bullet drop, maneuvering & more, it's a whole new ball game. Trying to figure out where to aim your weapon so when you pull the trigger the stream of bullets you fire will intersect where the target will be when they get there can be very counter intuitive, and varies widely depending on circumstances. We found this film to be a revelation in its explanation of the factors involved and giving "how to' training solutions for this complex art. This film was classified during World War 2 - you can watch it now
* Coast Guard Report: The Normandy Invasion (B&W 22:00 1944) This remarkable film, primarily shot by Coast Guard Combat Cameramen, is a treasure trove of never before seen footage from the Normandy sea borne invasion, in very well preserved black and white film. We've seen a lot of footage from D-Day over the years, but most of this was new to us. A very pleasant surprise!The U.S. Coast Guard manned many of the specialized ships and landing craft used to transport men, tanks, vehicles and material from England to the landing beaches in France, sometimes sustaining heavy casualties. Some of these vessels carried combat cameramen with them to record this epic undertaking. The film starts with Landing Craft pilot training on Chesapeake Bay, moves on to intensive assault training in the U.K., and then through the Channel Crossing, D-Day & its immediate aftermath, including the massive storm that battered the landing beaches. You'll see specialized ships large and small & their individual crewmen in action, including LST, LCI. LCVPs, LCI's & more embarking, transporting & landing troops and equipment under heavy fire at Omaha Beach. You'll see the entire sweep of this gigantic amphibious operation in a new light in this recently discovered film.
* Security on the March -- Tanks moving in column formation (B&W1944 25:00)This well preserved, classified training film was only shown to troops during World War 2. Its shows how to move armored columns on roads and cross country in combat areas, with an emphasis on tanks, in this case Shermans, shown inside and out. You'll learn the five keys to successful operations: Advance Preparation, Alertness, Concealment, Dispersal and Fire Power shown in great detail through live action, animations & graphics. There's way too much info to go into detail here, but here are some of the highlights: minimizing tell tail dust & using shadows, training your tank platoon's guns to maximize 360 coverage during movement, avoiding aircraft & maximizing antiaircraft fire when attacked, the different roles of tank crewmen, concealment, camouflage & covering your tracks, night maneuvers, optimum spacing between vehicles on the road and during halts, using radios & much more.
* Army Engineers in World War 2 (B&W 1957 24:00) Engineers are the "unsung heroes" of the Armed Forces, handling a myriad of essential tasks. The first part of the film shows the Army Engineer School at Fort Belvoir, VA. Recruits are given "hands on" training for a wide variety of core skills, including carpentry, demolition, operating heavy equipment, building different kinds of roads and bridges, employing a wide variety of hand tools & more. The second part of the film shows the special challenges faced by Engineers on jungle island campaigns in the Pacific, including clearing jungle tracks, building corduroy roads using palm trees, mining & crushing coral for surfacing roads, carving out jungle air strips, employing steel mats for runways and making good use of indigenous native resources for labor and local knowledge for problem solving. The third part of the film moves to the European Theater of operations & a new set of challenges like building docks, demolishing heavy concrete fortifications, salvaging flooded roads, laying and clearing minefields, constructing lengthy pipelines for fuel transfer and building a variety of bridges including timber trestle, pontoon & steel Bailey Bridges, often under enemy artillery fire And last, but not least, the Engineers picked up there weapons and performed as very effective combat infantry hen necessary, specializing in demolitions & river crossing.
* G.I. Training: Three films (B&W, 1943, 20:00)
- How to Swim in 10 Easy Lessons Swimming with a full pack and their M1 in adverse conditions could be a life saver for a G.I.., including making their way through burning oil slicks and leaping from the decks of transports or landing craft. Learn how to do it "The Army Way.
War Dogs Dogs were a G.I.'s "Best Friend" in numerous ways - including saving lives. See them in action, performing a wide variety of roles. Dogs often did jobs G.I.s couldn't do.
Finishing School Select U.S. Army Ranger Units received specialized amphibious landing training in the Spring of 1944. You'll see it here in this classified film. They put it to good use on D-Day at Pointe du Hoc, where they went ashore on a narrow beach & scaled massive cliffs.
Behind the Scenes in World War 2 - Vol 4
* Crack that Tank! (1943,B&W,14:00) Part of the Army's "Fighting Men" series shown only to troops. Tanks were justifiably feared by the infantry. In this nuts & bolts training film, an experienced "tanker" gives troopers the inside dope on what they need to know to take them on, including digging in for protection and camouflaging your position, what parts of a tank are most vulnerable, how to "blind" a tank, how to force tanks to "button up," using the right weapons including anti tank guns, rifle grenades and even Molotov cocktails -- and a lot more. Supplemented with numerous examples shot in the field and captured German film of armored attacks.
* Photography Fights (1943,B&W,14:00) This is a dramatic recreation of actual events. A small group of U.S. Navy aerial photography analysts labor away in a steaming bunker at an obscure Pacific island airbase during the battle for Guadalcanal, combing over air reconnaissance photos developed by a dour, pop song singing seamen in their little lab. They use magnifying "gizmos" to view the pictures, hoping to find new evidence of Japanese activity. Their position is bombed regularly by the enemy, sometimes with fatal results. The tale is told in a deadpan style, chocked full of period lingo. They work closely with a laid-back F4F-7 Wildcat recon pilot who flies their missions. "As usual," not much out of the ordinary happens. That is until an anomaly is detected in a photo taken of a spot in the jungle at Munda on the Japanese held Island of New Georgia, within striking distance of Guadalcanal. Careful analysis reveals likely airfield construction under camouflage. Heavy American airstrikes are launched to hit it. In actual fact, the Japanese were using palm trees suspended from cables on Munda to hide construction activities. The airbase was eventually completed, but its effectiveness was severely hindered by early detection and continuous airstrikes until it was overrun later in the War by Allied forces.
* Kill or Be Killed (1943, B&W,10:00) ) Another training film in the Army's "Fighting Men" series shown only to the troops. Americans are brought up with the ideal of "fair play" in sports competition. The goal of this film is to bluntly drive home the reality that "fair play" can get you killed in a hurry on a battlefield. The idea is to kill the enemy first, without putting yourself in unnecessary danger. (Just because an enemy is sprawled out like a corpse, don't walk up to him nonchalantly without a weapon at the ready.) The emphasis here is on one on one encounters, including hand to hand combat, using any means necessary, with a weapon that will be most appropriate for that situation. When to use a rifle instead of a pistol. How to pursue a fleeing enemy soldier. Using sawed off shot guns, bludgeons, brass knuckles, trench knives and a kick in the privates for close combat. This film is purposely designed to shock trainees out of complacency and into a "kill or be killed" mindset.
* Suspended Runway (1944, B&W 23:00) This amazing 'How To" documentary is from the top secret World War 2 archives of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) the forerunner of the C.I.A. It could be right out of a James Bond film. In essence, you'll learn how to quickly construct a "Suspended Runway" capable of landing, raising and lowering and launching light aircraft in the jungle, above the undergrowth. Using an elevated 500 foot cable & harness suspended between support masts, you can put up a suspended runway in where a conventional runway can't be built. All you'll need is a nine man crew and an equipment parts bundle that can be brought in by a 5 ton truck or air dropped to remote locations. This ingenious system was invented and perfected by U.S .Army Lt James Brodie. You'll see every step in the the installation of a suspended runway in the field by G.I.s using ropes and block and tackle without any power tools. You'll see a real launching and retrieving a Taylorcraft L2B "Grasshopper "observation plane. This film is a gear heads delight, in the tradition of "Field Assembly of a P-47 Thunderbolt."
* Building a World War 2 Tank (1941, B&W 20;00) You'll get a behind the scenes look in a defense building the complex M3 Lee medium tank. The Lee was the Army's first mass produced World War 2 battle tank, as seen in the Humphrey Bogart Hollywood classic "Sahara." It featured a turret mounted 37mm quick firing antitank gun and a hull mounted 75mm gun. It was exported in large numbers to Britain, Commonwealth countries and the Soviet Union as the "Grant,"with several British mandated modifications. It first saw combat in North Africa in 1942 where it was more than a match for contemporary Axis tanks like the Panzer III and proved very reliable with its air cooled aircraft engine. When large numbers of M4 Shermans became available in 1943 and the Germans introduced their powerful Panther & Tiger tanks, the M3 was withdrawn from Europe, but continued in service a little longer in the Pacific & with the Indian Army. Inside the newly constructed Detroit Tank Arsenal, you'll see all aspects of M3 production using 10,000 workers. One of the under appreciated aspects of the process was the design and production of over 4,000 precision machine tools needed to manufacture and assemble all elements of the Lee, all of which had to be in place with trained workers before a single tank could roll off the assembly line.
* Road Expedients (1943, B&W, 21:00) Like our popular video "Tank Expedients," this is another film in a series used to train troops on quick & dirty solutions for problems in encountered in the field of battle: aka "Expedients." In this case, for building roads in a wide variety of terrains and climates, using material and equipment available on the spot. Among the many examples shown on location are elevated wood plank roads, corduroy roads using tree trunks, different solutions for jungles and deserts, re-purposing airfield landing mats for roads in marshes and using chicken wire to bind material in the desert. Inventive solutions for a wide variety of challenges!
* Medical Service in the Invasion of Normandy (1944,B&W,15;00) Most documentaries on "D-Day" focus on the logistics that went into military aspects of the combined amphibious & airborne assaults. This fascinating "Restricted" documentary gives a behind the scenes look into the complex planning and execution that went into providing rapid and effective medical services for wounded servicemen & women, saving thousands of lives. In the U.K. a series of purpose built facilities were built to handle incoming casualties: Holding Hospitals with Emergency ERs on the Southern Coast of England, Transit Hospitals a bit inland for intermediate treatment and routing, and General Hospitals in the midlands and North for extended care. There's are never before seen footage of soldiers being treated by medics on the beach on D-Day before being evacuated on specially modified LSTs the had fully equipped ER that could treat 200 patients on the way across the channel. By D-Day plus four, fully staffed Evacuation Hospitals were set up in Normandy, with Triage Units close to the front line. Within a week, aircraft were taking the seriously wounded to England for immediate treatment. But at the heart of the story are doctors, nurses and Medical Corpsman saving lives, often risking their own, under very adverse conditions.
* D-Day & Normandy Campaign Daily Situation Maps: 12th Army Group Headquarters, June 6 though August 25, 1944. (1944 -Color Maps - 7:00) From the U.S. National Archives. This remarkable series of Top Secret "situation maps," shown in slow motion time lapse, are the actual ones used by Allied 12th Army Group Headquarters to show the position of Allied and German military units in the Normandy Invasion area from D-Day June 6 through the "Breakout" across Northern France through August 25th, 1944. Standard military unit symbols are used as necessary from Battalion through Army Group HQs. The "Front Lines" are clearly shown. This gives a unique perspective on the course of events. Advances, followed by stalemates, build ups, and then advances in other areas, until front lines are blurred in the rapid dash across France to Paris & beyond.
* Movies at War (1944, B&W, 10;00) When I talk to World War 2 vets, often some of their fondest memories come from watching movies in the field during a "break in the action," in tiny ad hoc theaters. But the role of "movies" for American forces goes far beyond entertainment, which is what this short documentary is all about. All of the training films shown on our web site were produced as part of the "War Effort," both by Armed Forces Film Production Units around the world and at dedicated production studios in Hollywood. The Academy Award winning 'Why We Fight"' series was produced to educate the American public on the root causes of the War. More than a thousand training films were shot, to be viewed by millions of troops. (Most of them, unfortunately, have been lost or destroyed.) And these films were not only seen by American troops, they were distributed to our Allies and dubbed into numerous languages, including Chinese, as you'll see in this film. Some of the highlights of the film are scenes of servicemen & women watching movies around the world, from relatively fancy wooden theaters like the wooden one built on Bougainville to projecting movies on bed sheets, watched under pouring rain by troops huddled in ponchos.
Behind the Scenes in World War 2 - Vol 5
* The First Fighter Squadron in New Guinea 1942-1944 (Color 30:00) In 1981 retired Air Corp's Lt. Col. Ken Gerrish donated home movies he shot during his service on Papua New Guinea between 1942 and 1944. As Engineering Officer he was responsible for maintaining P-39s for the 36th Fighter Squadron and P-38s for the Eighth Fighter Group of the Fifth Air Force. They were the first American Air Corps unit to operate on the island. This is a unique “Behind the Scenes” look at every day life on remote front line fighter bases, in this case set in one of the most primitive environments in the World. The fact that its in color makes it virtually one of a kind. You'll see P-39 Airacobras, P-38 Lightnings and B-25 bombers operating from muddy airstrips carved out of the jungle, along with the men who maintained and flew them. There are frequent contacts with colorfully dressed indigenous tribesmen, AKA “Head Hunters,” who had never had contact with outsiders at all until airfields were suddenly built near their villages. An added bonus are scenes of Aussie infantry who accompanied the 36TH FS when they relocated to a new base by ship. Gerrish added music and his own first person narration to his 16mm film to create this presentation. The content has been edited slightly here for brevity and to make it suitable for viewers of all ages. A memorable account.
* Film Communiques 1943 (20:00 B&W)
- Little Detroit - A huge marshaling yard is built from scratch in a Mediterranean port where massive transportation crates are unloaded from ships containing trucks, jeeps, bulldozers, road graders and other motorized transport. The equipment is assembled on the spot by specially trained troops and quickly sent on it's away to front line military units. A “gearheads” delight.
Troop Carrier Command - New Guinea Operations Airborne troop transport & supply was vital for maintaining combat operations where roads were few and combat units were isolated by mountainous terrain and dense jungle. The remote airfield at Wau was a critical forward hub linking New Guinea and surrounding Islands. See C-47s providing a wide range of services, accompanied by P-39s to protect them from the constant threat of Japanese fighters.
The Price of Rendova A massive amphibious assault, supported by air and naval bombardment is launched against the Japanese held island of Redova, stepping stone for seizing the nearby airbase at Munda, on New Georgia. After fierce fighting, and under constant Japanese air attacks, patches of muddy jungle are cleared for 155m “Long Toms” & other artillery that are used to shell Munda, across a narrow strait, before it was attacked and seized by Allied forces. Another now forgotten island battle in the Pacific that deserves to be remembered because of the sacrifices that were made there.
* World War 2 G.I.s “Baptism of Fire” (32:00 B&W 1943) "In your first battle, your worst fight isn't with the enemy, it's with yourself," is theme of this gritty, no holds barred World War 2 training film, nominated for an Academy Award in 1944. Tens of thousands of American "citizen soldiers" were going into combat against a determined enemy for the first time. It was only natural to have fear of the unknown. How to forget all they had left behind in civilian life and focus entirely on the task at hand. Dealing with seeing comrades severely wounded or dying before your eyes. Explosions and gunfire all around you in the chaotic fog of war. Killing another human being for the first time. Fighting the impulse to just turn and run away from the carnage and more. The film follows three infantrymen into battle and records how each of them deals with those fears, each in their own way. This film is not a Hollywood glamorization. It pulls no punches in showing the horrific experience of close combat.
* Army- Navy Screen Magazine highlights – shown only to members of the Armed Forces (1942-1945, B&W, 60:00)
- Attack in the Marshalls In one of the first major amphibious operation in the Pacific, the strategic Island of Kwajalein is seized from the Japanese, a key airbase for the upcoming “Island Hopping” campaigns using combined force. Lots of dramatic action at sea and in the air, much of which you won't see anywhere else.
Somewhere in Italy. American 10th Mountain Division troops train for steep terrain assaults with an elite Italian “Alpini” unit that had recently switched sides from Mussolini's Fascists.
Fifth Army Mobile American Expeditionary Radio Stations. AES trucks in Italy were specially equipped to function as mobile radio stations, broadcasting popular records, radio shows like”The Shadow” and live USO shows with stars like Marlene Dietrich to front line troops. They moved forward as the campaign progressed and were avidly listened to. A taste of home.
Rescue - American and Filipino POWs are liberated and from Japanese camps and interviewed after enduring extreme hardships,including “The Bataan Death March.”
Iron War Horses U.S. Army Railroad Battalion troops are trained at a specially constructed base at Camp Claiborn, Louisiana, before being deployed to operate railroads overseas, including maintaining a wide variety of locomotives & rolling stock and quickly repairing bombed out track & bridges.
Seized from the Japs See captured Japanese films showing elite troops being trained for amphibious landings before the Pacific campaign was launched.
The Fighting Dutch Thousands of Dutch soldiers, sailors and airmen who escaped from occupied Netherlands or were stranded in the Far East after the Japanese occupied Dutch colonies were trained and organized into effective fighting units in the Pacific theater. Of particular note was an all Dutch B-25 bomber squadron shown here operating against the Japanese.
“Three Day Pass in India” American servicemen & women who may have never ventured beyond their town back in the U.S.A. are given useful tips on adapting to Indian culture when they get some time off from their duties.
I Was There A U.S. Army nurse describes her experiences during the fall of the Philippines to Japanese forces, accompanied by vivid documentary footage.
Burma Outpost Rare footage of daily life in an American forward observation post in Northern Burma, set in almost impassible jungle terrain. Elephants had to be used to get there and the base was supplied by air drops. Their task was to provide early warning of Japanese air attacks during the Burma campaign and the building of the Burma and Stilwell roads.
Munda Outpost After bitter fighting to take it from the Japanese, the strategically vital air strip at Munda, on the Island of New Georgia in the Solomons, was rebuilt using heavy equipment and subsequently maintained by the Afro-American 828th Engineer Aviation Battalion. The field had been destroyed during fighting and had to be rebuilt from scratch. Scenes of a variety of construction activity & off duty daily life.
Private Snafu In the Aleutians, Iles of Enchantment (Oh Brother!) A humorous look at duty on the frigid Alaskan island chain. The Private Snafu cartoon series combined slap stick entertainment with useful lessons on life in the Armed Forces.
Behind the Scenes in World War 2 Volume 6
*The Third Air Force Presents H- Hour (1944-40-minutes) Recently Discovered Film! The Third Air Force was the largest of the four U.S. Army Air Forces based in the U.S.A. during World War 2. Headquartered in Tampa FL, it encompassed the South Eastern United States with a network of specialized airfields, tasked with training 10s of thousands of pilots & air crew in operating and maintaining a wide variety of aircraft. They produced “H-Hour” to show trainees what to expect when they joined their combat units overseas, using real life examples with different aircraft performing missions around the world. Very high quality film footage!
- Part 1: "Recco Pilot" Photo Reconnaissance pilots received the most in depth training in the Air Force. You'll get a good look at a Lockheed F-5 (recon version of the P-38) inside and out and follow the aircraft and her pilot on a long range mission filming the huge Japanese base at Rabaul. The film is then unloaded and developed at his airfield, analyzed by Intelligence and used for identifying targets for a B-24 bombing mission.
Part 2: A B-17 Crew on Mission over Germany. Meet the crew of B-17 “Knockout Dropper” and follow them on a maximum effort bombing mission to the hit the ball bearing plant at Ekner, West of Berlin, from their early morning briefing to “bombs away” over the target.
Part 3: B-25s "On the Deck" in the South Pacific. In December 1943, B-25s hit Japanese bases and shipping at Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Flying at very low level just above the jungle they bomb & strafe the enemy using machine guns, 75 mm canon and drop “parafrag”parachute bombs. Dramatic footage shot from within the aircraft.
Part 4: P-47s on a long range bomber escort mission to Germany. Thunderbolts take on '109s, '110s, and '190s. Lots of P-47 gun camera film, supplemented with captured German film showing Luftwaffe fighters scrambling to meet them.
Part 5: D-Day, June 6th. Paratroopers land at night in Normandy while B-26 Marauders and A-20Havocs range across Northern France, attacking troop concentrations, railroads, ammo dumps and fortifications.
Exclusive Bonus! Knockout Dropper Scrapbook Learn more about B-17 Knockout Dropper, featured in "Part 2" of the "The Third Air Force Presents H- Hour", above. She was crowned "The Champ of the ETO," the first 8th Air Force B-17 to fly 50 and then 75 missions. See crew photos, mission maps, 303rd Bomb Group photos & info and pictures from their Airfield at Molesworth, England.
* Combat Weekly Digest Highlights 1943-1945 (70 minutes) These films were shot by Army Air Force Combat Camera Units (AAFCCUs) on all fronts and were shown only to Allied Armed Forces personnel. Combat Cameramen road along on missions documenting them as they happened, giving a unique record of aircraft and crews, much of which you won't see anywhere else. Excellent quality footage shot over targets too. Highlights include:
- B-25s make intense low level bombing raids against Rabaul three days in a row. Great shots of crews & aircraft! *B-24s raid Rangoon harbor and Japanese storage depots near the city * B-25s, B-26s and P-40 Dive Bombers attack German positions around Monte Casino *B-24s bomb Wake Island *9th AF B-26s bomb German heavy guns at Cap de la Hague, Normandy *A-20s strike a key railway bridge at St. Hilaire *B-17s strike a synthetic oil refinery at Ruhlande *B-17s based in Russia do a three step shuttle bombing mission hitting an oil refinery in Poland, land in Italy, bomb railroad yards at Bezier France and then land in England *B-24s strike Japanese island airfields on Watje in the Marshalls and & Wole in the Carolines before the islands are taken * B-25s, P-47 Thunderbolts & Navy TBFs strike Tinian before the island is seized to base more B-29s across the straight from Saipan *B-24s from Watje suffer casualties from attacking Japanese Zeros on the way to bomb Palau, before the island is seized by the Marines *B-17s & B-24s bomb airfields at Bucharest and railroad bridges near Budapest * The harbor and U-Boat pens at Brest are seized and 40,000 Germans surrender after the most intense Allied bombing of any city in France * Rare footage of “Operation Dragoon,” the Allied air and sea invasion of Southern France. Highlights include parachute drops & glider landings, naval bombardment followed by amphibious landings and P-38 Lightning fighter/bomber attacks * B-24s from Guam make the 825 mile trip to Iwo Jima to “soften up” Japanese fortifications before Marines land. Excellent pre-invasion overhead shots of Iwo * B-29 Superfortresses from Saipan conduct long range night raids on Kobe and Nagoya in Japan.
* Army Navy Screen Magazine Highlights 1943-1945 (20:00) A Life Magazine style film series shown only to Armed Forces personnel. Excellent quality film footage!
- Around the clock with the RAF. Lancaster bomber crews are briefed and set on their way on to a night mission over Germany. The next day, RAF Boston attack bombers launch from the sames to hit targets on the Continent. Exciting footage crossing the channel on the deck, skimming the beeches ashore and screaming across the French countryside at tree top level and making precision attacks on their targets.
Back Home in Burbank – Inspiring film showing blind men and women, accompanied by their guide dogs, performing specialized tasks on the P-38 Lightning assembly line in Burbank, California.
WASPs American women were trained to perform aircraft maintenance & become pilots, freeing up men for combat duties. Besides flying transport planes carrying troops and equipment, their most important task was ferrying aircraft from U.S. factories to front line units around the world, including piloting B-17s and B-24s across the Atlantic to the U.K. Some WASP pilots were proficient in operating more different models of fighters and bombers than many of their male counterparts who flew combat missions.
* Youth Power – Thousands of high school age boys and girls worked in aircraft defense plants after school and during summer vacation. You'll see them performing surprisingly complex tasks assembling bombers and P-38 fighters.
Behind the Scenes in World War 2 Volume 7
* 354th Fighter Group D-Day Pilot Interviews June 7th 1944 (12:00 The 354th, known as the “Pioneer Mustang Group,” was the first unit to fly P-51 Mustangs fighters in combat in Europe, starting on December 17, 1943. The Group, part of the Ninth Air Force, was comprised of three Fighter Squadrons: the 353rd, 355th & 356th. On the night of June 6th, 1944 as part of D-Day invasion operations their mission was to escort Douglas C-47s towing gliders full of paratroopers to be launched over the Cherbourg Peninsula in Normandy. They had no previous experience with night escorts and - as you'll see - something they weren't very happy about doing. After successfully completing that mission they returned to their base at Boxted Airdrome, Essexshire, England refueled & took off very early on June 7th to fly combat air patrol over the D-Day landing beaches, encountering no opposition. They didn't see any enemy fighters, but give colorful account of what they saw on the landing beaches. This film has interviews with 354 F.G. pilots conducted immediately after their return to base after the morning mission, still wearing flight gear. You'll see & hear 354th F.G. CO Col. George R. Bicknel, and Squadron leaders Maj. Jack T. Bradley (353rd), Capt. Robert W. Stephens (355th) and Maj Richard E. Turner (356th), along with some of the Groups most experienced pilots giving their accounts. Most of them aren't formally identified, but we were able to name them using archival photos.
* “Ramrod to Emden – The Thunderbolts” Special Restored and Annotated Edition. (33:00) This classic documentary film shows the legendary 56th Fighter Group P-47s on a bomber escort mission to Emden, Holland, in October , 1943, from early morning briefing, through action packed fighter opposition over target to touch down and debriefing.That alone makes it worth seeing - but something has always been lacking. Probably due to war time censorship, out of all the pilots and personnel shown, only fighter Ace Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, then CO of the Group's 65th Fighter Squadron, is identified by name. For the first time anywhere, using surviving archival photos taken at the time as a reference, we've been able to put names to many faces, including 56th FG CO Hubert “Hub” Zemke and legendary aces like Major Dave Schilling, Captain Walker “Bud” Mahurin, Major Gerald “Jerry” Johnson and many more. And using aircraft databases, we've been able to match plane unit I.Ds with the pilots inside. So when you see P-47D “UN-B” taxi by ready for takeoff, we've identified it as “Bat Outta Hell,” flown by 1st Lt Gordon E Batdorf, 63 F.S. and superimposed a wartime picture of him in the corner of the screen.
* “Fighter Kills” Gun Camera Film, Europe, January to December 1944 (34:00) “Fighter Kills” is a series of gun camera film compilations of air to air and air & to ground fighter attacks produced by Army Air Force Combat Camera Units (AAFCCUs) and distributed to serving personnel as news, instruction and motivation. You'll see shoot downs of Me 109s, 110s & 210s, Fw 190s, Ju 88s, an FW 200 transport and more. Highlights include taking down an Me 163 “Komet” Rocket Plane and numerous shots of attacks on Me 262 “Schwalbe” jet fighters, accompanied by a description of their known capabilities and tactics to use against them. Air to ground attacks include “locomotive busting,” strafing rail yards, bridges, airfields with parked planes, truck convoys, tanks and more. Another highlight is a series of dramatic A-36 “Apache” (dive bomber version of the P-51) attacks in central and northern Italy. Very high quality footage. Over half an hour of non stop action!
* USAAF Bombing Missions Against the Japanese in the Pacific & Burma, August 1943-July 1944 (28:00) Newsreels shot by 5th, 6th, 10th & 13th Army Air Force Combat Camera Units. The opening film shows a series of attacks by A-20s, B-24s and B-25s, escorted by P-38s on Japanese shipping North of New Guinea and the harbors at Wewak & Hansa Bay. Highlights include very low level attacks by A-20s and B-25s with in cockpit views. The sound track from part of this sequence has been lost, but I was able to add appropriate special effects & supplementary graphics for a very realistic recreation. This is followed by a series of high quality newsreels showing B-24 & B-25 attacks on Rabaul, Rangoon & numerous other targets in Burma, Nauru in the Gilberts by B-24s based at Guadalcanal, and more B-24 missions targeting Pacific islands including Wotje, the Woleai Group and Wake Island. Includes footage showing USAAF bases & personnel, in the air action including fighter attacks and overhead views of “bombs away.”
* Martin B-26 Operations in France 1944 (18:00)
- Three films:
Double Header B-26 Marauder Operations 4th AAFCCU documentary footage shows round the clock B-26 tactical missions in the spring of 1944 leading up to D-Day. You'll see base operations as well as in the air footage of Marauders attacking a wide variety of targets including supply depots, airfields & more.
French Rail Lines Bombed focuses on a mission to hit the important rail yards at Dreux, South West of Paris, on June 12 to hinder the Germans ability to bring reinforcement to Normandy shortly after D-Day
Interdiction! was filmed after the Allies had swept across Northern France to show how precision bombing missions had destroyed key bridges across the Seine & Loire Rivers to further hinder the flow of men, weapons and supplies to the front lines in Normandy. A very detailed bomb damage report.
*Aerial Photography: Processing the Film 1941 (17:00) Ever wonder how they processed the huge sheets of film (up to 9 inches wide) shot by reconnaissance planes like the Lockheed F5 during World War 2? Well this film, a gear head's delight, shows how they did it, step by step from the moment the massive camera is taken off the aircraft through the finished product – all done using specialized equipment and without a darkroom. And as an added bonus, you'll see how the developed prints, shot simultaneously from different angles, were pieced together into a tabletop sized “mosaic” for analysis and planning. A true “behind the scenes” look at World War 2 Tech.
* “Welcome Home” for returning World War 2 Veterans – 1945 (20:00) “If there's any suspicion that returning soldiers are not fit for civilization, I can only say it's an indictment of our civilization.”This dramatic film was produced to prepare the American people for the return of millions of service men and women from overseas duty at the end of World War 2. But as you'll see, it's message is timeless and applies to every conflict before and since. War changes people. This film operates on several levels to show its effects and lessons to be learned from the experience. It's has a no holds barred sweeping montage of combat scenes from the steaming jungles in the Pacific to the frozen forests of Northern Europe, including the loss of beloved comrades and self sacrifice to show the folks back home a glimpse of what they endured. The film addresses the real fears that civilians had that returning vets had become hardened into emotionless killing machines. Or that they would be changed beyond recognition. But to the contrary, it shows the what vets wanted most was a return to the lives they had before the War and get away as far a possible from it's horrors. That meant getting real jobs, not handouts. It emphasizes the positive skills learned – everything from leadership, tolerance and teamwork to advanced mechanics, drafting, inventory control, supply & distribution, cooking, medical aid, pipe laying & fitting, road construction & much more. Yes, they had changed, but they were the same people at heart and should be “welcomed home” with understanding and open arms.
World War 2 Behind the Scenes Volume8
*Army Air Force
Combat Camera Unit Film Reports 1943-45 (60 Minutes)
Cloud Airdrome, Canton China * First American Bomber Raids on Berlin
March 5-8 1944 *Dive Bomber Attacks at Monte Casino *Massive
paratroop maneuvers in England before D-Day *Airborne troop landings
& attack aircraft support the capture of Mytkyina Airfield, Burma
*B-29 Raids on Rangoon & Kuala Lumpur *B-24s based at Morotai
attack Mindinao, Zamboanga and Balibpapan, Borneo *Saipan based B-29
night attacks against Kobe & Nagoya, Japan *B-24s and low level
B-25s support the invasion of Borneo at various landing beeches *Bomb
Damage in Berlin shortly after surrender *Communications wire laying
from flying aircraft over remote locations *Flying Tigers play
baseball in Kunming, China *Message pickup by a light plane without
landing in Burma *Front Line Hospital work in the jungle, Yupbang,
* Self Propelled
Anti Aircraft Weapons 1943 (10 Minutes) An overview of
U.S. Army half-track turret mounted mobile anti aircraft guns,
including the M-13 (two .50 caliber machine guns), the M-15 (two .50
calibers & one M1 37mm auto canon) and the M-16 (four .50
calibers). Shows them on maneuvers and in a memorable direct fire
demonstration against ground targets. Basic operations by turrets
* 461st AAA
Battalion Direct Fire Support for 28 Inf. Div, Hürtgen Forest
11/4/1944 Four Films
Featuring Tanks (18:00)
(7 Minutes) I created this
mini documentary from recently discovered silent, unedited footage
from the National Archives. I edited & assembled the shots into
what I believe reflects the story telling intent of the combat
cameramen who filmed it in1944. I added live sound effects sampled
from real M60 Half-Tracks, GMC CCKW 353 2½-ton 6×6 trucks and live
firings of Bofors 40mm Antiaircraft guns & Quad .5o calibers. The
film shows elements of the 461st AAA BAT, including M-60 Half-track
M16s with quad .50 cals and GMC trucks towing 40mm Bofors M1 Anti
Aircaft Guns, arriving at two locations in the Hürtgen forest.
They set up positions and aim direct fire at distant Wehrmacht units
in the forest. This is unusually high quality footage showing men and
equipment up close. Live firing scenes are awesome!
*The Sherman DD “Flotation
Screens” for amphibious tanks were first developed by the British
in 1941 and soon adapted for Valentines. This film shows a U.S. A4
Sherman version as it was deployed on D-Day, June 6th 1944. “DD’
stands for ”Duplex Drive” meaning both propeller and track drive
capable. DD Tanks could swim at up to 4 knots. This fascinating "Top
Secret" report shows in detail how the flotation screens and
twin propellers were deployed and how the tank operated in water.
*Armored Battle Sleds This one has to be
seen to be believed! 3rd Infantry CO BG John O'Daniel demonstrates
his “Battle Sled” prototype in the field to VI Corps CO MG Lucian
Truscott & 5th Army CO LTG Mark Clark near Anzio, Italy,
4/6/1944. Chains of semi-circular armored tubes with Infantrymen
lying flat inside are towed behind Sherman tanks into battle,
avoiding enemy fire until they reach their destination. Then the
troopers jump out and charge!
*Captured German “Goliath”
Remote Controlled Tracked Mines Goliath tracked
mines were wire remote controlled mini-tanks used by the German Army
as explosive filled demolition vehicles during World War II. 7,564
were produced & used primarily by specialized Panzer and combat
engineer units. They first appeared in 1942 and were deployed on all
fronts through 1945, including on D-Day 1944. Here U.S. Army
engineers use captured ones to show how they worked and give a quick
drive around demonstration.
*Snow Suits for Tanks Company D, 353rd
Tank Battalion (attached to 36th Inf. Division) paint their tanks
winter white plus “driving practice for new men,” near
Mackwiller, Bas Rin, France January 10th, 1945. This is another
collection of silent raw archival footage that I edited together &
added sound effects. I was able to identify the exact date & unit
shown through careful research of divisional records and clues in the
footage. This "behind the scenes" film has the quality of a
home movie showing tankers going about their daily business while
held in reserve, having a brief respite from combat. Features M5
Stuart Light Tanks & M-4 Shermans and their crews.
* Japanese Long
Distance Paper Balloon Incendiary Bombs (10 minutes)
This is an
ingenious invention I had read about, but never expected to see -
until I discovered this U.S. Navy training film. During World War 2
Japan developed large hydrogen filled paper balloons that carried
incendiary bombs all the way from Japan to the the West Coast of
North America - from Mexico to Canada. Released near Nagoya at
specific times of the year, they ascended to about 30,000' and road
prevailing winds, traveling at about 100mph, taking about four days
to reach the West Coast. A set of relatively simple instruments
controlled altitude and release of small incendiary bombs designed to
set fire to forests, crops and flammable structures. Some of them
made it all the way, but without causing significant damage. The U.S.
Navy recovered a few that crashed & failed to explode to study
them and to recreate the replicas shown & explained in this
* Seabees in
Normandy – the Creation of Artificial Harbors (20:00 minutes)
After the D-Day
landings on June 6th, until seaports like Cherbourg could
be captured and put in service, artificial harbors had to be created
off shore so essential men, equipment and supplies could be offloaded
from transports and ferried or driven over piers to the beaches.
Giant “Phoenix” concrete caissons were towed and sunk as the
first step in creating large artificial “Mulberry”harbors. A lot
more construction followed to complete the harbor with all its
facilities, as shown in this very detailed film. And they served many
more functions like repair shops, medical aid stations and AAA
installations. “Behind the Scenes” info you won't see anywhere
Americans Fighting for Their Country in Italy 1944 (8 minutes)
This issue of the
“Army Navy Screen Magazine” film series was created to show men &
women in U.S. Forces world wide the courageous and productive service
of Japanese American Units in the Italian Campaign in World War 2.
Soldiers of the 442nd Infantry Regiment talk about their service, the
unit is shown in action and there's a tribute by 5th Army CO LTG Mark
Clark. Members of their families living in Hawaii receive posthumous
decorations for sons who died in combat. Although mention is made
that Japanese Americans should be treated no differently than German
or Italian Americans, unfortunately, no mention is made that
thousands of Japanese American families were unjustly interned in
camps during the War, making the sacrifice their sons made even more