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Overview

During World War II, American movie-goers were kept up to date with events at home and on the war fronts by twice-weekly newsreels produced by five major film companies. The newsreels were conceived as part of the entertainment package that accompanied the feature film.

As war drew closer to America, concern grew as to whether this was the proper use of the information potential of Hollywood films in a time of crisis. In June 1940 Hollywood established the New York-based Motion Picture Committee Cooperating for National Defense. For the next two years, the committee assisted the federal government in "informing the American people with regard to vital aspects of the defense effort" through newsreels. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7,1941, the committee changed its name to the War Activities Committee--Motion Picture Industry (WAC).

National Film Library Formed In February 1942, the Library of Congress Film Project was begun. This covert government operation was designed to secure information without raising cries of censorship. The Office of Facts and Figures (OFF)--a branch of the Office of War Information (OWI) established by Roosevelt--set up a three-year program of film analysis whose recommendations would be used to build a selective film collection.

In addition to features and short films, the Library of Congress sought all newsreels and news-related films that recorded significant events and occurrences. It is from this archive that the newsreels in this collection were taken.

Newsreels Preserved for the Future Over the 36 months of the Library of Congress Film Project, its analysts studied 1,506 newsreels. The Library of Congress selected 49 newsreels from 1942-1943, 119 newsreels for 1943-1944, and 104 newsreels from 1944-1945. The 272 newsreels are indexed by their release dates. Some sample titles from the collection are:

  • Bombing of Malta
  • Nimitz Decorated
  • Rommel's Retreat in Africa
  • Damage at Pearl Harbor
  • Nazis Retreat in Russia
  • Mme. Chiang
  • Red Cross Rally
  • Hitler and Mussolini

Included in the collection is the newsreel content analysis page which contains the basic information concerning the issue and the list of topics with titles and length of each story, with a total time for the issue. Following the analysis sheet is the narrator's texts for each story supplied by the studio. These scripts are of particular importance, for in many instances the newsreels themselves are not preserved with their original soundtrack although the films are intact. Finally, an issue sheet providing a clear indication of the priorities of the various stories as conceived by the newsreel editor is included.

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