The Big Picture
December 10, 2013 11:05 AM   Subscribe

This is The Big Picture, an official television report of the United States Army, produced for the armed forces and the American people. Now to show you part of The Big Picture here is Master Sargent Stuart Queen
The series consists of ~822 documentaries produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service from 1951 to 1971 to educate both soldiers in uniform and the American public about military concerns as well as things like historical battles, world geography, famous soldiers, the latest weapons, space exploration, strategic objectives, peaceful initiatives, and the life of a soldier. Being a product of the Federal Government it belongs to the the American people, and is thus freely available to all to copy and distribute. Most can now be viewed on

Some of my favorites from the collection include,
Defense Against Enemy Propaganda
"THE BIG PICTURE" examines enemy propaganda and its danger to American way of life -- This is an absorbing film presentation set in an exhibit room containing examples of media used by the enemy to disseminate propaganda. Actual samples are used including pamphlets, posters, broadcasts, photographs, and other material to show what enemy propaganda really is. To dramatically present this subject, THE BIG PICTURE includes stock footage and original shots to show the use of enemy propaganda during war and in peacetime situations. This film uses a narrator from the Office of Special Warfare, since that office, charged with the function of psychological warfare, contains those who are best able to recognize propaganda, describe its purpose, and discuss the methods of dissemination which may be utilized. Produced for troop information use this year, "Defense Against Enemy Propaganda" is being released for public television use on THE BIG PICTURE because of its tense and exciting approach to this much discussed subject. In 28 minutes, viewers learn that the best defense against enemy propaganda is the ability to recognize it for what it is -- lies and distortions with little or no basis in fact. It concludes by pointing out that our country can never be defeated so long as we act like Americans.Also mirrored on youtube

Salute to the Canadian Army
This episode in the current THE BIG PICTURE series, filmed in Canada by U.S. Army Signal Corps cameramen, had its world premiere on October 28 at 9:30 P.M. over the coast-to-coast facilities of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Tracing the history of the Canadian Army from the middle of the 18th century to present, the film examines the historic relations of Canada and the United States. The fruitfulness of Canadian-American solidarity is nowhere more evident than in the shoulder-to-shoulder fighting shared by Canadian and American soldiers on the battlefields of Europe and Korea. Evident throughout the story is the vigorous neighborly spirit which has contributed so mightily to the strength of Canada and the United States alike. As presented on THE BIG PICTURE, Canada's modern Army embodies a living tradition begun long ago and nourished by the many soldiers who contributed service and sacrifice, who led its regiments and filled its ranks on the battlegrounds of the world. Also mirrored on youtube

Why Vietnam?
This film documents the buildup to the Vietnam War, from the withdrawal of French troops to the bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the intense fighting our troops engaged in to combat Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong. The footage features President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Also mirrored on youtube

Missile Man
"THE BIG PICTURE" covers training of the Army's missile man -- In this era of both missiles and missile men, THE BIG PICTURE covers training activities at three of the major centers in which the Army's missile men receive their highly specialized training. The United States Army, as almost everyone knows, is placing an ever-increasing emphasis on guided missiles, projectiles which can deliver deadly conventional or atomic warheads to enemy targets hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about these amazing weapons is that they have all been developed in little more than a decade. The combination of nuclear weapons and guided missiles have, in a very real sense, revolutionized our concepts of warfare. Although the nation has entered a new era, it is not an era of "push button" warfare. For to function, one of these new weapons requires more soldiers, better-trained and more highly-skilled, than any other weapon in the history of war. "Missile Man" dramatically tells the story behind the training of these young men who are taking their places in tomorrow's Army. It is a picture dedicated to this new kind of soldier -- the Army Missile Man. Also mirrored on youtube

Atomic Battlefield
Cameras of "THE BIG PICTURE" focus on Desert Rock, Nevada -- In this issue of THE BIG PICTURE, the camera swings to the barren flats near Desert Rock, Nevada, where in the latest atomic blast, one of the new Army's Pentomic organizations was actually employed in the field in conjunction with an atomic detonation. Since this is the age of the atom, the importance of the Army and its mission--seizing and retaining control of the land -- takes on a new meaning. The land may he scarred and seared by weapons which stun the power of reason, but so long as it remains vital to victory it is the task of the soldier to secure it and hold it. The battlefield of the future, if it exists, may well be an atomic battlefield. As is explained in this film presentation, that brutal fact has forced upon the Army the absolute necessity of testing both men and tactical concepts under atomic conditions. In test blasts over the last few years, the Army has learned much about the response of the individual soldier. Out of the special needs imposed by atomic conditions -- the need for wide dispersion of forces, for instance --the structure of a combat force in the field has been developed to provide a mobility and a fluidity which troops in warfare have never had before. Also mirrored on youtube

The Third Challenge: Unconventional Warfare
The world has long been familiar with two military challenges posed by the forces of world communism - the challenge of nuclear war and the challenge of large-scale conventional war. The United States and the free world meet these challenges by maintaining the ability to fight both kinds of war-an ability so powerful it has deterred Communists from starting either kind. Today, we are seeing with increasing frequency evidence of another technique the Communists use whenever they consider the occasion appropriate...the technique of unconventional warfare -"The Third Challenge." This challenge involves conspiracy, underground organization and terror. It encourages guerrilla warfare and avoids open conflict and risks by the oblique method of conquering other countries from within. This week's THE BIG PICTURE, narrated by Alexander Scourby, deals with that third challenge and depicts the United States capability to fight this type of war in the far flung reaches of the globe. Also mirrored on youtube

The Making of the Soldier-Policeman (Color - 1971)
Follows a military police trainee through such activities as accident reporting, riot control, and marihuana detection. Also describes rehabilitation program for military prisoners. Also mirrored on youtube

The Feminine Touch (1970)
Spotlights The Contribution Of The 12,000 Members Of The Women's Army Corps In More Than One Hundred Military Job Specialities, Adding The Feminine Touch To The Army. Also mirrored on youtube

The WAC is a Soldier, Too
The privilege of serving the United States Army in uniform is no longer limited to men. To prepare the women who will serve with the Regular Army, the Women's Army Corps recently opened a new training center at Fort McClellan, Alabama. THE BIG PICTURE camera goes to Fort McClellan to film and record this first good look at the new "college" for WAC officers and enlisted women. Since 1942 when the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was created, women training for service with the U.S. Army have had a number of temporary homes, ranging from Florida to Massachusetts, from Iowa to Virginia. Today, the permanent WAC Center is a cluster of 22 cream-colored buildings in a natural setting at Alabama's Fort McClellan. Today, women are playing increasingly important role in the nation's defense. Thanks to the modern WAC Training Center, graduates are better trained and better qualified for more responsible jobs than ever before. Also mirrored on youtube

The Army Nurse Story
Being an Army nurse is being something very special. For thirty minutes THE BIG PICTURE explores the fascinating and varied roles of the Army nurse. From the major U. S. Army medical centers to overseas field hospitals, the Army Nurse is involved in many different facets of nursing assignments. Her education, training and professional competence are thoroughly reviewed in this impressive tribute to the Army nurse. Also mirrored on youtube

The Army Nurse
(Color - 1970) Offers a comprehensive look at the dedicated women and men of the Army Nurse Corps, and their duties throughout the world since 1901. Also mirrored on youtube

The Army Chaplains
We review the heroic and inspiring work of the Army Chaplain, especially the Chaplains who have served so gallantly with our fighting troops. The soldier looks to this clergyman in uniform as a friend and counselor, as well as a spiritual leader. To augment the story in film, Chaplain Edward Martin, Yonkers, New York, First Army Chaplain at Governor's Island, New York, tells of his and the Army's pride in the Chaplains work in Korea and throughout the world wherever our soldiers are stationed. He explains the Character Guidance program in which the Army places such great importance. Chaplain Martin has a special message for parents of men and women in the Army. Also mirrored on youtube

Assignment Iran
This THE BIG PICTURE film takes the viewer to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where soldiers were being trained to assist Iranian guerrillas fighting in Iran. These members of the Military Assistance Advisory Group were being sent to act as advisors in the training of the Iranian Imperial Army Special Forces Group. Also mirrored on youtube

Germany Today
"Germany Today" to be shown on Army TV series -- This is the story of a people desolate in defeat, who found the way back with the help of the military force that defeated them. This is the story of the role played by the United States Army in the rebirth of West Germany. "Germany Today," as seen through the eyes of "THE BIG PICTURE" camera, is an outstanding documentary of a vast reconstruction job. A cycle has come full turn. The Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces which helped defeat Germany is hailed now by free Germans as friend and protector. No other force in military history has done so much to put a conquered nation back on its feet as the United States Army. Because the U.S. Army has been a bulwark, West Germany remains democratic -- a front line for this nation's security. As the film concludes, the narrator says, "We do not know what future dangers may arise in Germany, but the United States Army is on guard and will be ready. The ringing of West Germany's Freedom Bell echoes in all free lands. It calls for eternal vigilance. It calls for readiness to defend freedom with all the power at our command." Also mirrored on youtube

Korea Today
A few short years ago, the rugged Peninsula of Korea was the scene of some of the hardest and most bitter fighting of modern times. "Korea Today," released for the Army's television series "THE BIG PICTURE" becomes a study of American soldiers helping a nation to help itself. As seen in this film, the savagery and violence created by the war have been wiped away with the generosity and love of the American soldier on duty in Korea. Housing, public buildings, businesses and transportation facilities have been patched together or constructed from scratch. American Army know-how, Army supervision, and Army equipment have played a vital role in this rehabilitation, working closely with the Korean people. Just as important has been the creation of a new Republic of Korea Army. This small force which was available for Korea's defense prior to the outbreak of the fighting, is now a part of history. Thousands of inexperienced young men have been trained by battle-seasoned American and Korean soldiers and turned into a smooth, well-drilled modern army, equipped with American weapons. Also mirrored on youtube

Korea Revisited
Presents A Look At The Republic Of Korea Today To Show The Progress And Development Of The Nation And Its People. Also mirrored on youtube

U.S. Army in the Andes
This film deals with the benefits that were received by Bolivia and Peru from the Military Assistance Program. Scenes show the local U.S. Army mission as they delivered textbooks in La Paz, boats reconditioned with U.S. monies transporting Bolivian and U.S. Military Assistance Mission medical personnel to hard-to-reach areas, and a course in U.S. Army counterinsurgency techniques that was taught to Bolivian officers and soldiers. Included also are scenes in Peru, with Mission representatives as they assisted local officers with surveying technology, aerial photography, and other important aspects of cartography. Also mirrored on youtube
posted by Blasdelb (6 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I remember this from my childhood. it was my first exposure to MilPorn.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:23 AM on December 10, 2013

Apparently it ran on local stations well into the '70s after its run on the early ABC ended in 1964
posted by Blasdelb at 11:28 AM on December 10, 2013

In the years around WWII the military actually had a need to educate a lot of the troops. As the war progressed, the standards of the draft changed -- and eventually very little formal education was required, or even taken for granted. WWII vets I know have told me stories of soldiers needing to be taught what most of us consider very basic skills (e.g., brushing teeth) but which the army decided were important for keeping basic health & safety standards.

This is the origin of the old "there's a right way to do everything, a wrong way, and The Army Way" line: in reality, there really was a way they wanted you to do pretty much everything, if only to ensure you were doing it at all. It started with matching uniforms and a new (super low-maintenance!) haircut, and from there went to how to run and how to fight and how to drive, &c., &c.

Another way that this need was filled are the Army's books on countries where troops would be deployed, titled "Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq" or France or Britain or Australia. (I have never seen one for Germany; I expect it would contain little more than encouragement to put down the book and get back to shooting at gray uniforms.) And around 2003 a new guide for Iraq was produced by the 1st Infantry Division for its troops to get oriented that I found both interesting & instructive.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:24 PM on December 10, 2013

Fascinating stuff; it's a shame there isn't more information on when the programs were made. The first one, for instance, says "Defense Against Enemy Propaganda. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. U.S. Army Audiovisual Center. (ca. 1974 - 05/15/1984)." The dates suggested in the parenthesis are wildly misleading; the film must be from no later than 1960, since it shows a Communist rally with large photos of both Khrushchev and Mao and thus antedates the Sino-Soviet split (not to mention that the entire production, including the colonel's dramatic way of talking, screams 1950s).
posted by languagehat at 12:32 PM on December 10, 2013

I have a copy of that guide for American servicemen in Australia. It's bloody hilarious. I particularly like how it explains how to pronounce "bastard" properly.
posted by pompomtom at 12:32 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Master Seargeant Queen strikes me as the blueprint for so manyfuture sketch comedy depictions of The Army. I could see him being played by Dana Carvey, or Scott Thompson, Johnny Carson, Michael Palin, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz...

Anyway, thanks for posting -- I watched most of the Atomic Battlefield just now, dumbfounded. I wonder how ignorant/innocent/stupid/short-sighted we'll look to people living sixty years from now.
posted by not_on_display at 4:14 PM on December 10, 2013

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