This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss is the supervisor of the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab.
Ten months after the D-Day invasion, Allied forces were sweeping through western Europe. Germany in April 1945 is often depicted as the Allies capturing scattered Axis soldiers and liberating citizens from the clutches of the Third Reich. Small offensives, cutting supply lines, and rounding up fractured German units was far from the reality of the situation, however. American troops encountered some of the most tenacious and ruthless fighting of the war and faced the cruelest and vilest of human nature as they liberated concentration camps throughout the region.
The culmination of the war in Europe brought with it the most mechanized force the planet had ever seen with the sheer firepower of the United States military. In spite of Allied superiority in weaponry, divisions often had to fight in close quarters with hand-to-hand combat. Limited maneuverability in small German towns resulted in heavy losses. The men fighting in Germany were either battle-hardened or green recruits, but all of them were sleepless and racing to end the war at breakneck speed. The new feature film, Fury, depicts the last month of the war in these startlingly real terms.
Allied tanks in the German city of Koblenz. (Still from Universal News)
Fury’s fictionalized account of events at the end of the war focus on a small platoon within the 2nd Armored Division. The 2nd Armored Division was created in July 1940 under the command of then Colonel George S. Patton. Parts of the division were among the first U.S. military armored divisions serving in North Africa when they landed at Casablanca on November 8, 1942. After nine months the division moved on to Sicily in July of 1943. On June 9, 1944, the 2nd Armored Division landed on Omaha Beach in the invasion of the Normandy. There the division known as “Hell on Wheels” fought the Germans near Avranches and then crossed through France as part of the Third Army before reaching Germany in September 1944. The 2nd Armored Division was the first to reach the Elbe River in mid-April 1945, which is where the Fury story begins.
During their period of service in World War II, the 2nd Armored Division took 76,963 prisoners of war, liberated tens of thousands of Allied POWs, and destroyed or captured thousands of enemy tanks, including Panzers and Tigers. Between 1942 and 1945, the 2nd Armored Division lost 1,160 men in battle.
To get a sense of what the men of the Armored Divisions experienced as they fought to end the war, we can look to the Universal Newsreel Collection and see the stories the public was shown at the time. While there may not be specific footage of the 2nd Armored Division, these Universal News stories feature tank warfare in Germany during April 1945.
The Sherman Crab (aka Sherman M4 with Mine Flail) clears mines. Sherman tanks and infantry take Koblenz. [From 3:10 to 5:00] Release date: April 5, 1945
Tank warfare, taking German POWs, and rocket attacks by The Third Army. [From 3:57 to 5:36] Release date: April 9, 1945
Allied troops taking cities in West Germany, trying to keep the peace in conquered cities, and liberating work camps. [From 2:14 to 5:32] Release date: April 23, 1945
The tank battles in Fury feature face-offs between the M4 Sherman and German Tiger tanks. Tank warfare was an integral part of the war in Europe and mechanization for the war effort occurred rapidly. At the start of the war, U.S. forces had only a handful of tanks in use even though light tanks had been in production since 1940. Medium M2 and M3 tanks, among others, soon went into production, first to supply to Britain, and later for use by the U.S. Army.
The new M4 Sherman rolled off the line in 1942 and was first employed in North Africa. Until the German Panzers up-gunned to 75mm L/48s in mid-1944, the M4 Sherman was clearly superior. New tanks introduced by Germany were a significant threat: the Panther and Tiger tanks had stronger armor and a longer firing range with more penetrating power and higher accuracy. The Shermans were not back on equal footing with German tanks until 76mm guns were added in December of 1944. While the Shermans were not as well armored as the German tanks they were much easier to maneuver and more adaptable so that tanks could be fitted with bulldozer blades (Sherman Dozer), rocket launchers (T34 Calliope), flame throwers (M4A3R3 Flame), and mine flails (Sherman Crab).
What is captured by Fury, that isn’t included in the Universal Newsreels is how horrific the conditions were that men faced at the end of the war. The Volkssturm protecting the towns in Germany, mainly made up of older men and Hitler Youth, were relentless and fanatical in their attempt to hold out against The Third Army. While the Allies won the day in the long run, they paid dearly for the honor in men, minds, and morale.
I still remember the coloring book I received after a man from the power company came to my school and showed us a cartoon about a cat that is repeatedly “zapped” when it makes bad decisions around electricity. Like visits from the fire department and McGruff the Crime Dog, coloring books are a staple of public safety education for children.
Much to my delight, I recently learned that the early anti-drug education film Curious Alice was no exception. In its 1971 publication “A Guide to Drug Abuse Education and Information Materials,” the National Institute of Mental Health (the government agency that made the psychedelic cartoon) laid out its plans for elementary schoolers. An activity book was part of a planned educational package that included the film, posters, and pamphlets.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that the activity book made it into the permanent records of the National Archives. We were, however, able to obtain a copy via interlibrary loan. I scanned the booklet and am featuring some of the best pages in this post. You can download a PDF of the complete booklet here. The booklet contains a range of activities, from class activities like a drug abuse “science experiment” that utilizes a stalk of celery and a pantomime game where a suggested action is the caterpillar smoking his hookah, to individual activities like coloring pages and fill-in-the-blank worksheets.
The Best of the Curious Alice Activity Book
In this exercise, school children are presented with a set of drawings of cartoon characters using drugs. The child is expected to circle the drug and write its name on the line below the picture.
Here’s the White Rabbit in connect-the-dot form:
…and here are some of the best coloring pages. If you would like to color of one of these yourself, click on the image. It will open in a separate tab and you can print from there. If you want to share, take a picture and tweet it to @NARAMediaLabs.
Since the Curious Alice booklet is not technically in the holdings of the National Archives, I’m rounding out this post with a public service announcement from the Everly Brothers. The same year that the National Institute for Mental Health released Curious Alice and the accompanying activity book, Don and Phil Everly filmed an advertisement warning the public about the dangers of amphetamines.
On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. Marshall had a long history of fighting for civil rights in the legal system, most famously when he argued against school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case. Marshall served on the Supreme Court until 1991. He died in 1993.
From the release sheet:
JUSTICE MARSHALL Thurgood Marshall, great-grandson of a slave and the first Negro to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, tries on his official robes. President Johnson named him to replace retiring justice Tom Clark.
Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall with his family.
You may view the complete reel, which includes stories about the start of the 1967 World Series, a train crash near the India-Pakistan border, and others, on our YouTube channel.
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.
As the Washington, D.C. area descends into playoff fever, The Unwritten Record takes a look back to the last postseason match-up between the Nationals and the Giants, the 1933 World Series contest between the American League’s Washington Nationals (also known as the Senators) and the National League’s New York Giants.* The action was covered in two Universal newsreels, released October 4th and October 9th 1933. The soundtracks for these reels no longer exist, but the footage and supplemental material in the production files have survived.
Game one, played in New York October 3rd, 1933, is shown in Universal News Vol. 5, Rel. 186. According to the release sheet, we see “Mel Ott’s first inning homer, Goose Goslin’s four sacker and that famous sixth inning slaughter of the innocents.”
Game three was played October 5th at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C., with President Roosevelt throwing out the the first pitch. Washington beat New York 4-0. According to the cameraman’s “dope sheet,” Will Hays (most famous for the Hollywood production code that bore his name) was also in attendance. The story was covered as a “local” in Universal News Vol. 5, Rel. 187 and shown only in the Washington D.C. area.
The final game in the series shown in Universal News Vol. 5, Rel. 187. The outcome wasn’t great for Washington fans: On October 7th, the Giants took the series four games to one by beating the Senators 4 to 3 in extra innings in game five. The release sheet describes “unusual action pictures of the home run by Mel Ott that clinched the game after a delayed decision by the umpires.” The older gentleman in the stands that the cameraman settles on is Judge Kenesaw M. Landis, the first commissioner of baseball.
Also included in the Universal News production files are original programs for the games, narration scripts, and other related paraphernalia.
1933 World Series program for games hosted in New York.
1933 World Series program for games hosted in Washington, D.C.
Wondering who played? The programs offer photos of players and staff. These line-ups come from the New York program. Click to enlarge the images.
In an effort to provide information on recently declassified motion pictures and sound recordings the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch will publish a quarterly list of newly declassified records.
From July 1, 2014 through September 30, 2014 the following records were declassified.
Operation of System 119-L
No sound recordings were declassified during this quarter.
Descriptive information for declassified records can be accessed by searching for the item number, ex. “341-IR-38-56”, in NARA’s Catalog (OPA). You may also search on the Declassification Project Number (NND), if you know one. For example, searching on the declassification number “NND 64803” returns entries that are part of Declassification Project 64803. A list of declassified textual records can be found on the National Declassification Center’s web page.
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