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Reference Information Paper 70

A Finding Aid to Audiovisual Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to World War II

Table of Contents

Part II: Records of Federal Agencies, Record Groups 107-196

[For more information about the motion pictures and sound recordings described here, contact the Special Media Archives Services Division, Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Unit, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. Telephone: 301-837-0526 Email: mopix@nara.gov]

[For more information about the records identified here as 'still pictures', contact the Special Media Archives Services Division, Still Picture Unit, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. Telephone: 301-837-0555 Email: stillpix@nara.gov]

Contents by Record Group (RG) Number
RG 107 Records of the Office of the Secretary of War

    107.1 Still Pictures. Records consists of 117 photographs recording Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson's visit to the Pacific Theater in 1943. (T)

RG 111 Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer

    111.1 Still Pictures. The records include approximately 200,000 photographs taken by the Signal Corps relating to World War II. The photographs record every aspect of U.S. Army activities, from fighting battles to mundane functions abroad and in the United States. Among the subjects pictured are battles, U.S. civilians and the war effort, and Allied and Axis military personnel and civilians. Photographs of important personages of the period, such as Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Emperor Hirohito, and Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Patton, Bernard Montgomery, Charles de Gaulle, and Erwin Rommel, are also in the records. Additional photographs show Army training programs, maneuvers, weapons, vehicles, military bases and support facilities, medical care, and various ceremonies. Also in the records are 17 scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings of photographs taken or transmitted by the Signal Corps and released to news agencies for publicity purposes, and 412 filmstrips used to train military and War Department personnel. (SC, C, MP, NC, FS, SCA, T, O, P, PC)

    111.2 Motion Pictures. One of the most valuable sources of motion picture records for the study of the physical reality of the war is the Signal Corps series of 35mm black and white unedited film known as the Army Depository Copy file. Most of the 10,000 reels in this series are from the war period. The footage, which covers both Pacific and European war theaters, has been a valuable source for many compilation films and documentaries. The emphasis is on ground operations, but the series also includes extensive naval activities. Personalities, equipment, concentration camps, proceedings of war crimes trials, ceremonies and reviews, army units, and geographic locations are only a few of the larger general subjects. This footage has been well cataloged, on a shot-by-shot basis, and adequately indexed and cross-referenced.

    111.3 The War Department made extensive use of newsreel-type reports for officers and enlisted men. Combat developments were reported from all battlefronts in Staff Film Reports, originally designated for the information of commanding generals and their immediate staffs. One issue, for example, reports on the Battle of France, the Allied fleet in the Indian Ocean, and operations in Guam. Many issues use captured enemy footage. NARA has 46 issues, each running an average of 25 minutes. Combat Bulletins were given general distribution in the Army; NARA has 34 issues, each running about 20 minutes. In many cases, footage from Staff Film Reports, with restricted material deleted, was used in Combat Bulletins. A typical issue shows the invasion of France, operations in northern France and in Burma, and a Japanese attack on a U.S. task force.

    111.4 Among the film records of the Signal Corps are 50 issues of the Army-Navy Screen Magazine released during the war years. Averaging about 20 minutes each, the issues reported general news to the troops, news from battlefronts, and news from home on such subjects as sports, human interest, and award ceremonies. Film Bulletins reported new military developments for the information of officers and enlisted men. The approximately 200 issues held by NARA show ordnance testing, gun carriers, wire testing, barrage balloons, procedures for landing operations, and tests conducted during the war at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Belvoir, and Fort Bragg. Some issues describe German tactics and weapons.

    111.5 The War Department used the documentary-film method for detailed treatment of specific subjects. The small series of Combat Reports contains two of the best World War II documentary films, "San Pietro" and "The Stilwell Road." "San Pietro," directed by Capt. John Huston, shows combat from close range, revealing the heavy toll in lives resulting from American efforts to capture the Italian town from the Germans. "The Stilwell Road" was planned as a filmed record of the construction of the Ledo Road, later known as the Stilwell Road, linking Allied forces in Burma and China. It is also the story of retreat through Burmese jungles and of efforts to supply China by air and at the same time recapture Burma in order to set up airbases and proceed with road construction. The other films in this series are "Liberation of Rome" and "Appointment in Tokyo," the latter on General MacArthur's operations from the fall of Corregidor to the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay.

    111.6 The Signal Corps Miscellaneous series, as described in a Signal Corps catalog, contains "subjects which do not fit into any other series and the doctrine does not completely conform to approved Department of the Army doctrine." These films generally provide a lengthy, detailed treatment of their subjects. Included are a newsreel compilation of the bombing of the U.S.S. Panay; short subjects showing Army activities between World Wars I and II; and incentive films encouraging soldiers to buy war bonds. "Sky Blitz," using captured German film, shows the Nazi attack on Holland; "Report From the Aleutians," directed by Capt. John Huston, shows Army life and Army Air Forces activities in the Aleutians and includes a filmed record of an attack on Japanese-held Kiska; and "War Department Report" is a general report as of 1944 to warworkers on the logistics of a two-front war. One of the most successful films in the Miscellaneous series is "The True Glory." This Anglo-American production on the Allied invasion and conquest of Western Europe used some of the more sophisticated techniques in making documentary films, such as fast editing and multivoiced commentary. Films in this series contain cartoons featuring Private Snafu; discussions about Japanese Government, geography, military, and education; reports of the first and second Quebec conferences; and footage on the campaigns in North Africa.

    111.7 The Miscellaneous series also includes "Nuremberg," a documentary produced by the Office of Military Government (U.S.), which reviews the Nazi rise to power, and highlights the proceedings of the International Military Tribunal. Set against a montage of Nazi atrocities, it shows excerpts from arguments by Allied prosecutors and from testimony by the accused Nazi leadership.

    111.8 One of the most interesting among the Signal Corps motion picture records is the series Orientation Films, consisting of 32 documentaries on the war. The first seven constitute the well-known Why We Fight series, produced by the War Department under the general supervision of Lt. Col. Frank Capra. "Prelude to War," "The Nazis Strike," "Divide and Conquer," "Battle of Britain," "Battle of Russia," "Battle of China," and "War Comes to America," together represent one of the most comprehensive efforts to teach history through film. Designed for new recruits, these films were eventually shown to civilian warworkers and the general public. Capra's staff used the compilation method in these films. Footage was selected from the resources of the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, the Army Pictorial Center, and the newsreel libraries in New York City. Films from Allied Governments and those captured from the Axis were also used in the productions. These films were arranged and rearranged to explain official U.S. policy on the causes of the war and toward the Allied and Axis powers. "Prelude to War" reviews events leading to the war and contrasts American democracy with fascism. "The Nazis Strike" and "Divide and Conquer" detail German expansion toward the east and west. "Battle of Britain" concentrates on the fight against the attacking Luftwaffe and the resilience and courage of British civilians. "Battle of Russia," running almost two hours, quickly reviews centuries of Russian history, emphasizing the theme that the Russian people would ultimately defeat and drive out all foreign invaders. This film shows in grim detail the bitter conditions of fighting on the Eastern front. "Battle of China," quickly withdrawn from circulation after its release, is the least historically accurate of the series. Its footage, obtained from many documentaries on China, shows the magnitude of the struggle between China and Japan and builds sympathy for the Chinese people. "War Comes to America" is the summation of the work done by Colonel Capra's film staff; it is a fast-paced, rhythmical film on the values of American culture and U.S. composition, achievements, failures, and ideals. Although the Why We Fight films generally employ footage of historical events, they are more important for the study of ideas, attitudes, and interpretations than for the facts they present. Other films in the Orientation Films series are "Know Your Ally-Britain" and the controversial anti-Japanese film "Know Your Enemy-Japan." "The Negro Soldier," also included, reviews the contribution of African-Americans to U.S.history, with special emphasis on their participation in the war. "Death Mills" shows Nazi concentration camps as they were found upon liberation.

    111.9 The War Films series consists of incentive films for war industries, many with good combat footage. These films demonstrate the relationship of industrial warworkers to fighting men and include footage of actual and staged events. All have a similar theme, showing the necessity for high production and for all kinds of supplies, from lumber, cotton, and gasoline to B-29 bombers. NARA has 56 issues, ranging from 6 to 27 minutes each.

    111.10 The Signal Corps motion picture records also include educational and training films. The educational films were used for vocational, industrial, and educational guidance and for rehabilitation. Those relating to the war are about various countries, American industry, racial and religious prejudice, and regions of the United States, and they incorporate orientation lectures on servicemen's return to civilian life. The Training Films series includes approximately 1,400 titles relating to Army functions, equipment, job operations, tactics, machinery, gliders, armored-vehicle training, tank tactics, ordnance, barrage balloons, camouflage, map reading, and construction, and to venereal disease. The American film "Baptism of Fire" is also included.

RG 112 Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army)

    112.1 Still Pictures. The records contain approximately 1,300 photographs documenting the work of the United States of America Typhus Commission in Europe, Africa, and other areas. The photographs show typhus patients, methods for controlling the disease, hospitals, mosquito infested areas, and other subjects. Also in the records are approximately 1,100 photographs of Army Medical Corps activities in Europe during and after World War II, showing wounded soldiers and civilians, transportation for the injured, hospitals, therapy programs, and medical personnel. (T, TS, SGA)

RG 117 Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission

    117.1 Still Pictures. Sixteen photographs, ca. 1980, show cemeteries in the United States and overseas established to honor U.S. World War II service personnel. (AM)

RG 119 Records of the National Youth Administration

    119.1 Still Pictures. A series on youth in California contains 18 photographs of a 1940 student peace strike at the University of California, Berkeley. (CAL)

RG 121 Records of the Public Buildings Service

    121.1 Still Pictures. Records include approximately 5,000 images pertaining to wartime activities of the Public Buildings Service. Included are photographs of drawings, paintings, and lithographs illustrating war industries, civilian defense activities, and the work of the Red Cross. Other photographs show schools, health and recreation facilities, and military personnel and equipment. (WTE, WDAE, WSP, WRC, SHR)

RG 127 Records of the U.S. Marine Corps

    127.1 Still Pictures. Of the approximately 143,000 photographs in the records of the Marine Corps, about 50,000 relate to the Corps during World War II. The majority of the war photographs were taken in the United States or in the Pacific Theater, although a few relate to other locations, such as Iceland and Cuba. Pacific Theater locations include Australia, China, Japan, and various South Pacific islands. Among the subjects pictured are Corps personnel, island landings, combat scenes, Marine and enemy casualties, prisoners, weapons and equipment, aircraft, medical care, maneuvers, and recreation and entertainment. (GW, GS, GC)

    127.2 Motion Pictures. Marine Corps training films describe combat operations in the Pacific Theater. "With the Marines at Tarawa" shows the invasion of that island, the conditions of beach and jungle warfare, and the heavy toll in lives on both sides. "Mud and Soldiers" emphasizes tactics and personal relationships at the squad level during an attack on a village. "Battle for the Marianas" and two Okinawa Bulletins are also included. In addition, unedited documentary footage of Marine Corps combat activity during World War II, photographed by field photographers and arranged by the Marine Corps Motion Picture and Television Archives, shows aviation, amphibious operations, and military leaders. Many Marine Corps-related subjects are interfiled with Navy films in Record Groups 80 and 428.

    127.3 Sound Recordings. Records consist of 21 broadcasts, 1942-45, dealing with recruiting and reports from war correspondents. The recruiting broadcasts deal with Marine aviation, officer training, action on Midway, and air combat over France. Among the broadcasts from war correspondents are reports and interviews concerning the first B-29 and crew to return from a bombing mission over Tokyo; the demeanor and appearance of Japanese military leaders as they prepare to hear Col. Ora E. Hunt read the terms of surrender; the reaction of Roman Catholic missionary priests to the devastation of Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic explosion; a Navy dive-bomber pilot during the course of a mission; and action in the Pacific at Okinawa, Guam, Iwo Jima, and the Marshall Islands.

RG 131 Records of the Office of Alien Property

    131.1 Still Pictures. Records consist of approximately 45,000 photographs seized from the German Railroads Information Office, other German companies, and the German-American Bund after the United States entered the war. In addition to photographs of Bund activities from 1932 to 1941, records include photographs of Nazi officials, German military operations in Europe and Africa, German art, and German cities, industries, festivals, and customs. (GR, N, NO, UFA)

    131.2 Motion Pictures. Records consist of a collection created or acquired by the Deutsch-Amerikanische Berufsgemeinschaft (DAB), German-American Vocational League, the German-American Bund, containing approximately 40 reels of motion picture footage (1937-40) of Hitler Youth summer camp activities in Offenburg, Germany; Camp Bergwald, in the Catskill Mountains of New York; and a youth vacation camp in St. Louis, Missouri. Film from Offenburg provides an overview of Hitler Youth camp activity in Germany, showing tents displaying Nazi flags, German officers arriving at the camp, and boys assembling to hear an address by the officers. Film from the camps in the United States shows, for example, boys preparing a camp by cutting down trees and digging trenches; a Hudson County (NY) group enjoying an excursion-boat trip around Staten Island, with scenes of the island and individuals aboard the boat; and indoor scenes of the New York headquarters of the German-American Vocational League, with boys and girls in uniform sitting at tables as the boys engage in discussion with youth leaders and the girls knit and sew. These films were seized January 5, 1942, under authority of a Federal Grand Jury subpoena served on the national headquarters of the German-American Vocational League in New York City.

    131.3 Sound Recordings. Among the holdings of the Alien Property Custodian are 105 recordings from the records of the German-American Bund, of German nationalist songs, symphonies, and operatic selections; speeches by Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler; and Bund rallies in Madison Square Garden and the Hippodrome, New York City, in 1939. Along with the film seized for the Grand Jury investigation, Federal authorities also confiscated approximately 87 sound recordings containing copies of commercial recordings of German marches and band music.

RG 145 Records of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service

    145.1 Still Pictures. Several hundred of the Service's photographs relate to the efforts of the War Food Administration to ensure adequate supply and efficient distribution of food. Among the subjects pictured are food for the Allies, fat-salvage campaigns, canned and dehydrated rations for troops, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and National Guard units training. (AAA, PMA)

RG 153 Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army)

    153.1 Still Pictures. Included in the records are 348 photographs showing Nazi atrocities, war crimes trials, and stolen property recovered by the Allies. Also in the records are 450 photographs used as evidence at the trial of Ilse Koch, wife of the commandant of Buchenwald. (WC, IK)

    153.2 Motion Pictures. "Rome March" a 3-minute silent motion picture, concerns case No. 16-149 from the war crimes case files, 1944-49, U.S. v. Lt. Gen. Kurt Maelzer, former German commander in Rome, regarding the forced march of U.S. prisoners of war in 1944.

RG 156 Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance

    156.1 Still Pictures. Records include 17 posters promoting the correct use of camouflage, photographs relating to activities at Rock Island Arsenal, IL, and photographs showing U.S. and German small arms. (WPC, WPOD, RA, RD, RDI, RDO, RDV, ESA)

RG 160 Records of Headquarters Army Service Forces

    160.1 Sound Recordings. These records, consisting of 131 recordings in foreign languages, were made for teaching purposes by the Army Special Training Division under the Director of Military Training.

RG 162 General Records of the Federal Works Agency

    162.1 Still Pictures. Of the almost 6,000 photographs accessioned, several hundred relate to the construction of war industries, defense housing, airports, and municipal facilities for communities affected by wartime industrial and defense growth. Others show Selective Service lotteries, the construction and operation of recreational facilities for servicemen, and post-World War II housing for veterans. (G, PBA, FWA, WP)

    162.2 Sound Recordings. Holdings include two recordings of radio broadcasts of speeches by John M. Carmody on defense housing.

RG 165 Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs

    165.1 Still Pictures. Approximately 2,500 photographs in the records of the General and Special Staffs show the B-17 bomber Hell's Angels and the B-24 liberator Boomerang, record a simulated war show, document Japanese atrocities, and show Japanese, German, and Russian military equipment. (HE, BBL, WS, JA, MID)

    165.2 Sound Recordings. The Radio Branch of the Bureau of Public Relations in the War Department collected 1,171 recordings during 1942-49. These recordings relate to combat at Salerno, Anzio, several other European fronts, and to the war in the Pacific. The recordings include Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright's surrender of Manila to the Japanese, Gen. Douglas MacArthur's arrival in Melbourne from the Philippines, campaigns, air-sea rescue activities, the death of Ernie Pyle, and the Japanese surrender in the Philippines. Other recordings are of press conferences held by Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger concerning the occupation of Japan and Gen. Lucius D. Clay on the Allied occupation of Germany, and of testimony by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and others before the Woodrum Committee on Compulsory Military Training, 1945. Also included are many recordings in German, Japanese, and Chinese that were used by the Axis for psychological warfare.

RG 169 Records of the Foreign Economic Administration

    169.1 Still Pictures. The Administration records contain over 2,500 photographs relating to the procurement and development of foreign agricultural commodities and mineral resources. (GA, AP, C, GP)

RG 171 Records of the Office of Civilian Defense

    171.1 Still Pictures. The records of the Office include 4,500 photographs documenting all phases of civilian defense activities, including fire-prevention drills, rescue operations, bombs, bomb tests, gas-attack defensive measures, air raid instruction, camouflage material, and camouflaged industries. Also included are photographs showing the work of the Citizens Service Corps, the Civil Air Patrol, and the Forest Fire Fighters Service. (All Series)

    171.2 Motion Pictures. The records of the Office contain incentive and instructional films relating to the role of the Office of Civilian Defense during the war. In addition to civil defense films described under the British section in this paper (paragraph OG.10), records include several films showing planned operations and procedures in the event of an enemy attack. One concentrates on an air raid warden's report, another on the operation of an air raid control center, still another on British methods for combating German fire bombs, and another on the rescuing of persons from bombed buildings. Other subjects include the magnesium incendiary control technique, the preparation of a typical home against air raids, and instructions on what to do in case of a gas attack. One item is a test film, "Glass vs. Bombs," on experiments conducted by the Mellon Institute concerning glass breakage and shattering caused by bomb concussion. All these films were made and released during the war.

    171.3 Sound Recordings. Holdings consist of 200 recordings of radio broadcasts of speeches, discussions, and dramas promoting participation in and explaining the operation of all phases of the civilian defense program by the Office of Civilian Defense, the Office of War Information, the National Safety Council, the Commerce and Industry Association of New York, the Young Men's Christian Association, the U.S. Army, the Burns and Allen show, and the Vic and Sade show. Also included is a series about many aspects of civic defense in England.

RG 178 Records of the U.S. Maritime Commission

    178.1 Still Pictures. Commission records include 150 photographs, charts, and plans illustrating production at the Belair Shipyard, San Francisco, CA, and the Oregon Shipbuilding Corp., Portland, OR. (PA)

    178.2 Sound Recordings. These recordings of 114 radio broadcasts concerning the work of the Commission and the importance of the Merchant Marine in the war effort consist of dramatizations, speeches, interviews, panel discussions, news commentaries, and award presentations featuring Commission members, President Roosevelt, Carl Sandburg, Edward R. Murrow, and many others. Included are broadcasts of "Information Please," "It's Maritime," "For This We Fight," "Heroes of the Merchant Marine," "Men at Sea," "Fibber McGee and Molly," "Sing Along," and "Deeds Without Words."

RG 179 Records of the War Production Board

    179.1 Still Pictures. The Board records consist of 1,600 posters used in various production drives initiated by the Board, 1942-43. Also included are filmstrips and lantern slides used in training staff members and employees of plants engaged in war production. (WP, S, C, FS)

    179.2 Motion Pictures. The records of the War Production Board contain incentive films, aimed mainly at industrial workers, that explain the need for increased production and show how various products benefit the war effort.

    179.3 Sound Recordings. These 120 recordings of radio broadcasts concern the importance of increased war production, the conservation of essential materials, and the improvement of labor-management relations, and consist of dramatizations, speeches, interviews, and entertainment featuring such prominent persons as Eleanor Roosevelt, Donald M. Nelson, Joseph C. Grew, Frank Knox, Leon Henderson, and a number of writers and actors. Included are broadcasts of "Men, Machines and Victory," "You Can't Do Business With Hitler," and "Fibber McGee and Molly." Also included are recordings used in training mail and messenger-service personnel, secretaries, and switchboard operators.

RG 181 Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments

    181.1 Still Pictures. The records contain a few dozen photographs recording the progress of construction, alteration, and repair of ships at the New York Navy Yard. (NA, NYS)

RG 188 Records of the Office of Price Administration

    188.1 Still Pictures. Holdings include about 2,000 photographs and several filmstrips showing Office of Price Administration activities and officials and illustrating the necessity for price controls and rationing. Also included are 69 posters, car cards, and original paintings and drawings used in promoting compliance with regulations. (G, FS, P, PP, PPA, PPC)

    188.2 Sound Recordings. Holdings include 200 recordings of radio broadcasts concerning the importance and necessity of price controls and rationing and the enforcement of the regulations. The recordings consist of news commentaries, dramatizations, panel discussions, speeches, and interviews featuring such prominent persons as Chester Bowles, Robert S. Kerr, Donald M. Nelson, Leon Henderson, Harold L. Ickes, Harry S. Truman, Robert A. Taft, Paul Porter, and Fiorello H. LaGuardia. Included are broadcasts of "Neighborhood Call," "Hasten the Day," "OPA Weekly Report," "A Hundred Million Questions," and "You Can't Do Business With Hitler." Also included is a recording of a congressional debate on the extension of price controls beyond the end of the war.

RG 196 Records of the Public Housing Administration

    196.1 Still Pictures. The Administration records contain a few photographs showing prefabricated housing built for the military, and postwar projects in the United States and England. (M)


Note: Compiled by Barbara Burger, William Cunliffe, Jonathan Heller, William T. Murphy, and Les Waffin. Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. Revised 1992.

This web version, originally created in 1999 and periodically updated, may differ from the paper edition. Possible differences include: updated names of NARA organizational units, corrected errors of fact, and incorporation of new descriptive information. Whenever new descriptive information has been added, it has been coded to display between brackets [] and in italics. In addition, the main text has been artificially split into four parts, by record group, to improve efficiency of storage, retrieval, and use.

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