17 June, 2012

17 June 1945

No letter today. Just this:


about The U.S. Army Signal Corps and
United News Newsreels

Today's "embedded journalists" may certainly be compared to WWII's US Army Signal Corps photographers. From the Holocaust Encyclopedia on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's web site comes this:
The US Army Signal Corps began in 1860, with the appointment of Dr. Albert J. Myer, a physician, as Chief Signal Officer. Under his command, the unit transformed sign language used to communicate with deaf persons into a semaphore system incorporating red and white “wigwag” flags. During the Civil War, the Signal Corps operated air balloons and telegraph machines. By the time the United States entered World War I in 1917, the corps had integrated the airplane and more advanced technology into its communications systems.

In World War II, the Signal Corps' size and role in military affairs increased dramatically. From a staff of 27,000 persons, it expanded to over 350,000 men and women by 1945. The need to coordinate swift and accurate communication for air, ground, and naval units required more sophisticated technology and services. The Signal Corps pioneered in the development of radar to detect approaching aircraft as well as mobile communications and deciphering machines.

In addition to its primary role in military transmissions, the unit also played a key role in producing training films for army and civilian personnel, and documenting combat missions. During World War II, noted Hollywood producers, directors, and photographers (such as Darryl Zanuck, Frank Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens) all served in the Signal Corps. They brought their talents in the motion picture studio to the field of battle, while dozens of others provided instruction to the personnel.

In the European theater of operations (ETO), Signal Corps photographers took part in the landings in North Africa, Italy, and later Normandy. On D-Day (June 6, 1944), members of the unit hit the Utah and Omaha beaches, forwarding the first film of the amphibious assaults to England via carrier pigeons. The Signal Corps subsequently documented every major military campaign in the ETO, producing millions of feet of combat film and hundreds of thousands of developed still images. From these sources, the Army supplied the news media in the United States and elsewhere with imagery of the war, using 24-hour air delivery service and later sophisticated telephoto electronic-transmission equipment.

In the course of photographing World War II, the Signal Corps also played a crucial role in documenting evidence of Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust. Many of the early still and moving pictures of newly liberated Nazi concentration camps were taken by Army photographers such as Arnold E. Samuelson and J Malan Heslop. A number of these images were later transmitted to news agencies in America and other countries, where they helped to inform the world about the horrors of Nazism and the plight of concentration camp prisoners.The US Army and the Allied military governments of Germany eventually used these photographs to confront German prisoners of war in the United States and the German population with the evidence of Nazi crimes.
From Ancestry.com's website comes this information about "United News" newsreels.
The U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) was created during World War II. Part of its role was to oversee U.S. propaganda and promote patriotism. As part of this role, the OWI produced 267 newsreels called the United News. These newsreels were shown throughout the U.S., but were targeted to overseas viewers. The reels were released in several languages, including German. However, they were primarily distributed to allied and neutral countries.

Newsreels averaged 10 minutes in length and consisted of U.S. military footage depicting allied military operations and other events from the home front. Much of the footage was taken by military combat photographers and is in excellent condition. Some of the better known WWII events depicted in these newsreels include:
  • Marines Raise Flag Over Iwo Jima
  • D-Day
  • Japanese Sign Final Surrender
  • Invasion of Sicily
  • MacArthur Returns to the Philippines
Here is an example of a United News newsreel.

Here is this newsreel's description from YouTube:

National Archives and Records Administration - ARC 39071, LI 208-UN-164 - FINAL VICTORY ON OKINAWA--ALLIES INVADE BORNEO [ETC.] - DVD Copied by Thomas Gideon. Series: Motion Picture Films from "United News" Newsreels, compiled 1942 - 1945.

Part 1, Gen. Buckner observes artillery of the 10th Army and Navy planes blasting Japanese positions on Okinawa. Australian troops land on Borneo and Gen. MacArthur arrives. Navy torpedo boats assault a Borneo oil depot.

Part 2, sections of a floating drydock are launched in the U.S. and assembled in Pacific waters. A cruiser is repaired.

Part 3, Gen. Eisenhower, accompanied by Eleanor Roosevelt, visits F.D.R.'s grave at Hyde Park.

Part 4, the Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York with returning veterans.

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