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This post was written by Heidi Holmstrom. Heidi works in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, which is responsible for performing conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you already know that there are some amazing films at the National Archives and Records Administration (see: Curious Alice). One of my favorites is No Fuelin’, We’re Poolin’: An Altogether Way of Getting to Work.

Aside from having one of the best titles of any government film, No Fuelin’, We’re Poolin’ is entertaining and informative. It is, at heart, a love story. We watch Ron and his vanpool rescue Linda when she experiences car trouble. Ron and Linda bond as he explains the many benefits of vanpooling and how she can get involved in the program. Will Ron and Linda end up together in the same vanpool? I think you already know the answer . . .

The Department of Energy produced No Fuelin’, We’re Poolin’ during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. On February 2, 1977, President Carter addressed the nation about energy policy and the important role of conservation in confronting the nation’s energy shortage. During the next several years, the Department of Energy produced several films about energy conservation measures such as vanpooling or energy-proofing your home.

RonandLinda

Ron tells Linda how the computer makes vanpool matches.

Behind the cheesy acting and the 1970s fashion there is a lot of good information in No Fuelin’, We’re Poolin’ about how a vanpooling program works. When someone applies for a spot in a vanpool, a computer program maps out their location and identifies others nearby interested in ride-sharing to the same destination. The program in the film is coordinated by Ron and Linda’s company, but in some places public transit authorities provide vehicles for vanpools. The end credits mention the involvement of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which still facilitates a similar service today.

President Carter’s emphasis on energy conservation also resulted in films and public service announcements from other government agencies. Though retro, these films often contain advice and information that continues to be relevant. For a great example, check out this PSA featuring Ed Asner for the Department of Housing and Urban Development:



On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, marking the official start of the Second World War. Sixteen days later, Russia invaded Poland from the east. By the end of September, Poland had succumbed to the dual attacks. The nation was divided between Russia and Germany according to boundaries established in a secret clause of a nonaggression pact the two nations had signed the previous week. Although Polish military forces were overcome, a strong Polish resistance existed throughout the duration of the war.

This week we are featuring two Universal newsreels, covering both the German and Russian invasions. The initial invasion prompted Universal to release a special edition on September 4th, 1939, while the newsreel covering the Russian invasion contains a full slate of stories. The narration tracks for these reels no longer exist, but the audio for President Roosevelt’s neutrality speech has survived. We have also scanned the script for the September 4th, 1939 Special Release.

Germany invades Poland, Universal News Vol. 11, Rel. 803 September 4th, 1939:

Russia invades Poland, Universal News Vol. 11, Rel. 807 September 18, 1939:

Release sheet for September 4th Special Release:

SPECIAL RELEASE ALLIES DECLARE WAR ON NAZIS  Dramatic scenes of a new conflict that may envelop the world in flames!  Hitler’s war machine rolls into Poland-encouraged to strike by the new pact with Stalin’s “Red” Russia.  With Danzig seized, Polish infantry and cavalry rally to the defense of their homeland.  Italy remains in the background, while Nazis pour into the Siegfried Lines to stem a possible Allied thrust.     ENGLAND. Tense eleventh-hour scenes in London, as Prime Minister Chamberlain declares a state of war exists!  Troops mobilize and air raid defenses are manned to prevent bombing attacks.  Thousands of helpless  children are evacuated to the countryside!     The French war machine swings into high gear as France follows the lead of Britain in declaring war!  Bus loads of troops leave the city enroute to the “Front.”  Eight million men under arms, ready to strike!  The Maginot Line ready to repulse any attack!    Dazed New Yorkers throng Times Square as news of the fateful conflict reaches the U.S. “Extras” proclaim the news in blaring headlines, and Americans wonder what the future holds in store!    WASHINGTON, D.C.  President Roosevelt, his peace efforts failed, appeals for national unity in the crisis and pledges his fight for neutrality!     NEPORT NEWS, VA.  The S.S. America, largest liner ever built in the U.S. , is christened by Mrs. Roosevelt.  Shortly after, the world is shocked when the British ship “Athenia” with 300 Americans aboard, is torpedoed and sank!

Script for the September 4th Special Release covering Germany’s invasion of Poland:

Click the arrows below to see all three pages of the script. Click on the image to open a new window to read the text.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.



What would you do if you were a popular general in the United States Army, a tireless advocate for military aviation, and instead of getting a promotion to Chief of the Air Service, you were demoted and sent halfway across the country? If it was 1925 and your name was Billy Mitchell, you might just have a giant barbecue, complete with a roster of attendees that reads like a who’s who in the history of military aviation. The bash featured in this week’s film was likely Mitchell’s last big celebration, because by the end of the year, he was embroiled in a court-martial that permanently ended his military career.

Brigadier General Billy Mitchell may have faced demotion and exile, but that didn’t prevent him from throwing a fabulous party.

Long before Billy Mitchell was known as the father of the United States Air Force, he enlisted in the Army to fight in the Spanish-American War. When Mitchell was appointed assistant to the head of the Signal Corps Aviation Section in 1916, he had already served for nearly two decades. Advancing military aviation became Mitchell’s life’s work. During World War I, he planned the air campaign for the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and led nearly 1500 planes (the largest number of planes used in warfare to that point) in the battle.

Mitchell returned from the war believing that future wars would be fought with air power. He became the primary advocate for military aviation, criticizing the War Department and the Navy for not developing a national air force. Mitchell also made sure that military aviation stayed in the papers, speaking publicly about new innovations in flight and pushing military pilots to break flight records. Mitchell rankled his military and civilian superiors, but he gained the support of the press and the general public.

After Mitchell made repeated public declarations that a coordinated air attack could sink a naval ship, the secretaries of the War Department and Navy reluctantly agreed to test the claim in the summer of 1921. Even with strict limitations imposed by the Navy, Mitchell’s air crew sank three captured German vessels, including the battleship Ostfriesland. Mitchell got what he wanted when budgets for military aviation were increased, but showing up the military establishment and exposing the weakness of the naval fleet certainly did not make Mitchell any new allies in his chain of command.

In the few relatively calm years before Mitchell’s demotion and court-martial, he was sent on assignments that seemed designed to keep him out of the public eye. Most notable was a 1924 inspection tour of Asia and Hawaii. In an extensive report that was later published as Winged Defense, Mitchell accurately predicted the circumstances of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, even coming within half an hour of the actual time of attack.

The beginning of the end for Billy Mitchell’s military career came when he was called to testify before the Lampert Committee in 1924. After the end of World War I, Congress had convened more than a dozen commissions, committees, and boards to investigate military aviation. The Lampert Committee provided an official venue for Mitchell to broadcast his opinion of the United States military’s lack of support for aviation. Mitchell ripped the Army and Navy to shreds, calling out the leadership and other witnesses.

Billy Mitchell was obviously a problem for senior military officials. When Mitchell’s term as Assistant Chief of the Air Service expired in March of 1925, he was not reappointed to the position. Mitchell was sent to a lower-profile job in San Antonio, Texas and lost his temporary promotion to Brigadier General. The assignment might have been routine, except that Mitchell was at the forefront of military aviation and had requested to keep his position as Assistant Chief of the Air Service. The reassignment was widely viewed as an exile intended to punish and silence the outspoken Mitchell.

mitchell-6

“Showing the General getting ready to testify before the Aircraft Committee.”

Before he made the big move, though, Mitchell’s supporters threw a booze-filled farewell barbecue in his honor. John Bockhurst, a newsreel cameraman who had filmed Army flyers on the first round-the-world flight, recorded the event for posterity.[1] If anyone ever wondered whether Mitchell reconsidered his public criticism of military officials, watching this film should clarify his position, particularly when an intertitle references his testimony before Congress. A shot of Mitchell sharpening a large knife is preceded by: “Showing the General getting ready to testify before the Aircraft Committee.”

While Mitchell had alienated his superiors, the film illustrates his widespread support in the rank and file. One distinguished guest who appears in the film is General James Fechet. Fechet took over Mitchell’s position as Assistant Chief of the Air Service and rose to Chief in 1927. Also appearing is Lt. Lester Maitland, one of the pilots who flew the first successful trans-Pacific flight in 1927. Hap Arnold, a staunch defender of Mitchell’s who would command the Army Air Forces during World War II, also features prominently throughout the film.

mitchell-5

“Scene showing close cooperation between the Air Service and the well known navy.”

The film also shows the pioneering navy pilot Commander Holden C. Richardson, who is referenced in a tongue-in-cheek intertitle that reads: “Scene showing close cooperation between the Air Service and the well known navy.” In the following scene, Billy Mitchell serves an enormous piece of meat to Richardson. Mitchell may have had a fight to pick with the Navy establishment, but he had close friends in pilots everywhere.

Also taking a prominent role in the Prohibition-era festivities were copious amounts of whiskey and beer. In fact, the alcohol gets its first mention at 3:47 when it is named “The life of the party.” Most of the second half of the film is devoted to depicting the progressively more drunken activities of the attendees.

mitchell-8“The life of the party.”

Billy Mitchell likely left for San Antonio with the support of his “associates and admirers” buoying his spirits. His high spirits were not to last long, however. In September of 1925, Mitchell released his most disparaging statement yet, blaming senior officials for the deaths of pilots attempting ill-advised flights, and accusing military leaders of incompetence. By October, President Calvin Coolidge had ordered the court-martial of Billy Mitchell under the 96th Article of War.

In December of 1925, Billy Mitchell was convicted of conduct that brought discredit to the military service and suspended without pay. Mitchell resigned in February 1926 but continued to promote military aviation until he died in 1936. In 1942, President Roosevelt posthumously elevated Billy Mitchell to the rank of Major General and recommended him for a Congressional Gold Medal.

 

[1] John “Bocky” Bockhurst is featured in a Universal newsreel about cameramen preparing for D-Day. You can view it here. Bockhurst sat out the invasion, however, because he contracted malaria.



This week’s story features a demonstration of the “often-forecast” videophone. Today, numerous devices and programs enable video calling, but the videophone as a separate appliance never quite took off. One reason why 1955 was not the year for the video phone is the price tag: According to the Universal news story, the videophone cost $5000.00, or about $43,000.00 in today’s dollars.

From the release sheet:

VIDEO-PHONE DEMONSTRATED

San Francisco–Demonstrated for the first time, the videophone, with two-way picture screens enabling the parties to see, as well as speak to, each other. As simple to operate as today’s dial tone.

 

videophone-2

The videophone included a small screen so that women could “primp” before placing their calls. A mirror would have been less costly and more effective.

Are you wondering what they mean by “today’s dial tone” in the release sheet text? In 1955, the dial tone had only recently come into widespread use; in conjunction with the rotary dial, the dial tone replaced the need to speak to an operator to place a call.

You may view the complete reel, which also includes stories about an oil refinery fire in Indiana, a fur fashion show, and the National Water Ski Championships in Florida, among others, here.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.



Guest bloggers Gene Burkett and Jan Hodges became interested in World War I combat art during their work on a holdings maintenance volunteer project with the textual records of the American Expeditionary Forces at the National Archives at College Park. This article is the second in a nine-part series on World War I Art and Artists.

As one of the eight official artists with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), William James Aylward followed the army from his landing in France through occupation in 1919. By the end of September 1918, he had produced twenty-six works covering a wide range of subjects. From the troopship USS Leviathan to a poignant rendering of a soldier standing mournfully over the grave of a friend, Aylward captured life in the AEF with a deft hand.

aylward, william james

Local Identifier: 111 SC 86627, Capt. William J. Aylward, E.R.C., one of the eight official artists appointed by the War Department. April 1918.

American troops began to arrive in France toward the end of 1917, at ports in the Northwest of France, often at Brest. One of the ships making the voyage between the U.S. and France was the USS Leviathan. It was a huge ship that ran on steam generated by coal furnaces. Ironically the Leviathan was a German luxury ship that had the misfortune to be moored in Hoboken, New Jersey when the U.S. declared war on Germany. It was seized and converted into a transport ship. It made several trips across the Atlantic to deliver American soldiers. After the war ended, the Leviathan returned the veteran soldiers to the U.S. Captain Aylward sketched the USS Leviathan as coal was being loaded into the monster-size ship.

111-SC-31695Local Identifier: 111 SC 31695, Coaling the Leviathan. Capt. W.J. Aylward.

When the American army first arrived in France, it was assigned duties with the French and British. Although General John J. Pershing, the Commander in Chief of the AEF, provided American soldiers to the allies as requested, he was determined that American soldiers would fight under American command. Pershing’s goal was achieved in September 1918, when the United States was assigned to push the Germans out of the St. Mihiel area. The British and French regarded the task as simple. By September, the Germans were already pulling back from the front line. The Americans would punch through; routing the Germans, giving the allies a victory and the Americans confidence.

Aylward made his way to the St. Mihiel area, and drew pictures that captured the life of the soldiers at the front. The first shows the doughboys lining up for a hot meal in a structure that is marked by damage from artillery shells.

111-SC-57042Local Identifier: 111 SC 57042, First Division Headquarters Kitchen, St. Mihiel Drive. Drawing by Capt. W. J. Aylward.

 A simple task isn’t necessarily an easy task. Due to continuing rain in the area, the American infantry had to slog across a muddy plain to get to the enemy’s stronghold. The Germans held the high ground, able to watch the movements of the Americans. To American soldiers with combat experience, going “over the top” to reach the Germans was a grim prospect.  For the untried doughboys, it was to be a march into the nightmare of World War I. Aylward’s second sketch of the St. Mihiel area depicts the moments before the troops receive the order to advance. It’s a quiet scene, with a soldier in the forefront removed from rest of the doughboys, deep in his own thoughts. Other soldiers are huddled in clusters smoking or talking quietly.

The American attack started early in the morning of September 12, 1918, and continued to push forward over the next few days. The army achieved its first goal as an independent unit, winning the battle and capturing more than 15,000 German prisoners and 200 cannons. The casualties on the American side were 7,000 dead, with additional troops wounded or missing. The experience prepared the young army for its next assignment in the grueling Meuse-Argonne offensive.

111-SC-57041Local Identifier: 111 SC 57041, Troops waiting to advance at Hatton Chattel, St. Mihiel Drive. Drawing by Capt. W.J. Aylward.

More than four thousand American soldiers, mostly from the St. Mihiel Battle, are buried in the American Cemetery and Memorial at St. Mihiel. Aylward captured the sense of loss and sorrow of battle in his sketch simply titled “His Bunkie.” The background is empty in the picture; we see only a single soldier, a cross, and a newly dug grave.

111-SC-20063Local Identifier: 111 SC 20063, Drawings by Official American Military Artists. His Bunkie. Capt. W. J. Aylward.

The art of Walter Jack Duncan will be highlighted in the next post in this series about World War I Art and Artists.

Sources:

Barry, Gregory. Argonne 1918: The AEF in France. Ballantine Books. NY. 1972.

Bonk, David. St. Mihiel 1918: The American Expeditionary Forces’ Trial by Fire. Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK. 2011.

Griess, Thomas, ed. The West Point Military History Series: The Great War, Strategies & Tactics of the First World War. Square One Publishers, Inc. Garden City, NY. 2003.

Krass, Peter. Portrait of War: The U. S. Army’s Combat Artists and the Doughboys Experience in World War I. John Wiley and Sons.  New York. 2006.

National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC Army Signal Corps, WWI Combat Artists, by name.

National Archives, Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I); General Headquarters: General Staff: G-2: Censorship and Press Division (G-2-D). Correspondence Relating to the Eight Official Artists of the AEF, 1917 -19.

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