Colleague Mary Grady sent me a link from Jim Fallows' Atlantic blog making note of an interesting site that publishes public domain government video and other information. Click here for a look.
The video point-outs are of training films done during World War II. You can find them here, too, not to mention all over YouTube. I've seen one of these before, but not the entire series. Fair warning: Don't click on these unless you've got a lot of time, because I promise you'll burn up an hour or more watching them. They're that engaging.
And why is that? I paused them a couple of times to ponder that. One reason is that most of us are suckers for black and white World War II movies. I've seen Hellcats of the Navy half a dozen times and every time it comes around on cable, I watch it again. It's not even about airplanes, but submarines.
Second, as a budding videographer, I am fascinated by how well crafted these training films were. Like entertainment pictures of the time, they move quickly, with shorter shots than today's films and they have dialog that's both crisper and faster paced. Lots of dissolves, too. Today, we do that with the click of a mouse, but in the 1940s, it was all done with cut and splice, not to mention managing the audio track by hand, too.
The script writers didn't shy from technical detail and they presented the stuff in a way that probably kept their audience of 20-something trainees engaged well enough to soak up the details. In a previous blog, I wrote about how the training of World War II pilots was just barely adequate and in some cases not even that. So imagine for a moment that you're fresh out of 40 hours in a T-6 and about to strap into a P-47 for the first time. You'd be paying attention.
One thing I didn't know about the P-47 and the films revealed is that the R-2800's turbocharger is located behind the pilot's seat, so the exhaust runs in ducts on either side of the cockpit. How great would it have been to be a fly on the wall at the engineering meeting where that was first brought up? Also, the turbo is hugeit's about the size of an O-540.
These films are loaded with that sort of detail and well worth the watching. Just don't click them unless you've got a little time.