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Films You Gotta Watch

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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 huge—it'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.

Comments (10)

It is interesting for some of us older folks to see some of the later day Hollywood character actors and stars in these training films. Robert Taylor did a number of them for the Navy.

Posted by: Dick Merrill | January 11, 2010 10:10 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for sharing that, Paul. What appeared to begin as a cigarette advertisement turned out to be a fascinating look into the P-47 for me. Look forward to some other films.

Posted by: Dave Miller | January 12, 2010 3:31 PM    Report this comment

Rats, just what I need, another addiction

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 13, 2010 7:45 AM    Report this comment

The R2800 radial engine was without a doubt one of the great engines of WW2 and was in a variety of aircraft, very dependable and a joy to have up front

Posted by: Anthony.j Ellison | January 13, 2010 8:52 AM    Report this comment

Totally enjoyed the film. Will be looking forward to more... Bob

Posted by: Robert Dobbertin | January 13, 2010 12:24 PM    Report this comment

G'day Paul Loved these films, did you warn us about how much time disappears while watching. Haha...Vince

Posted by: vince bezzina | January 13, 2010 8:02 PM    Report this comment

On Google Video there is an F4U Corsair training video similar to the one for the P-47.

Posted by: Andy Manning | January 14, 2010 8:05 AM    Report this comment

The first link is incorrect. It should be: http://public.resource.org/

Posted by: Michael Kobb | January 15, 2010 2:54 AM    Report this comment

Hellcats of the Navy is an awesome movie. I've seen it tons of times and I even watch it on my little Zune screen. I do have a nice pair of stereo headphones and that sort of makes up for the tiny screen, but if you watch it for the first time, see it on a huge screen with great speakers! It's worth it.

B. Johnson

Posted by: B. Johnson | March 11, 2011 11:59 AM    Report this comment

I admired his life story, his talent and his good fortune back when opportunities seemed boundless. Not that long after Harvard, he was tapped to re-purpose Seattle World's Fair facilities into The Pacific Science Center. Thanks. Regards, Daybed Bedding Sets

Posted by: lafseo wify | March 12, 2011 3:09 PM    Report this comment

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