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Reference Information Paper 70: A Finding Aid to Audiovisual Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to World War II

Table of Contents

Appendixes

  • Appendix I: A list of Federal departments and agencies and their associated record groups (RG)
  • Appendix II: Descriptions of Major Photographic Programs, World War II
  • Appendix III: List of Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings

Appendix I: Federal departments and agencies and their associated record groups (RG)
    Records of Presidential Agencies
      • Records of the Office of Government Reports (RG 44)
    Records of Executive Departments
      Department of Agriculture
      • Records of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (RG 145)
      • Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (RG 83)
      • Records of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering (RG 54)
      • Records of the Extension Service (RG 33)
      • Records of the Forest Service (RG 95)
      • Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture (RG 16)
      Department of Defense-Joint and Combined Military Agencies
      • Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 331)
      • Records of the Office of Strategic Services (RG 226)
      • Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (RG 218)
      • Records of US Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 260)
      • Records of the US Strategic Bombing Survey (RG 243)
      Department of Defense-Air Force
      • Records of the Army Air Forces (RG 18)
      • Records of US Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations (RG 342)
      Department of Defense-Army
      • Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1917- (RG 407)
      • Records of the Army Staff (RG 319)
      • Records of Headquarters Army Ground Forces (RG 337)
      • Records of Headquarters Army Service Forces (RG 160)
      • Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (RG 111)
      • Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers (RG 77)
      • Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance (RG 156)
      • Records of the Office of the Chief of Transportation (RG 336)
      • Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army) (RG 153)
      • Records of the Office of the Secretary of War (RG 107)
      • Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army) (RG 112)
      • Records of US Army Commands (RG 338)
      • Records of the US Regular Army Mobile Units (RG 391)
      • Records of the US Theaters of War, World War II (RG 332)
      • Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165)
      Department of Defense-Navy
      • General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1798-1947 (RG 80)
      • General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1947- (RG 428)
      • Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics (RG 72)
      • Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (RG 52)
      • Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel (RG 24)
      • Records of the Bureau of Ships (RG 19)
      • Records of the Bureau of Yards and Docks (RG 71)
      • Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments (RG 181)
      • Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (RG 38)
      • Records of the US Marine Corps (RG 127)
      Department of Health and Human Services
      • Records of the Social Security Administration (RG 47)
      Department of Housing and Urban Development
      • Records of the Public Housing Administration (RG 196)
      Department of the Interior
      • Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (RG 75)
      • Records of the Bureau of Land Management (RG 49)
      • Records of the National Park Service (RG 79)
      • Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior (RG 48)
      Department of Justice
      • General Records of the Department of Justice (RG 60)
      • Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (RG 65)
      • Records of the Office of Alien Property (RG 131)
      Department of Labor
      • Records of the Women's Bureau (RG 86)
      Department of State
      • General Records of the Department of State (RG 59)
      • Records of the Agency for International Development (RG 286)
      • Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State (RG 84)
      Department of Transportation
      • Records of the Bureau of Public Roads (RG 30)
      • Records of the Federal Aviation Administration (RG 237)
      • Records of the US Coast Guard (RG 26)
      Department of the Treasury
      • General Records of the Department of the Treasury (RG 56)
      Department of Veterans Affairs
      • Records of the Veterans Administration (RG 15)
      Current Independent Agencies
      • National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized (RG 242)
      • National Archives Collection of World War II War Crimes Records (RG 238)
      • Publications of the US Government (RG 287)
      • Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission (RG 117)
      • Records of the Commission of Fine Arts (RG 66)
      • Records of the National Archives and Records Administration (RG 64)
      • Records of the Public Buildings Service (RG 121)
      • Records of the US Information Agency (RG 306)
      Discontinued Independent Agencies
      • General Records of the Federal Works Agency (RG 162)
      • Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (RG 239)
      • Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps (RG 35)
      • Records of the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (RG 262)
      • Records of the Foreign Economic Administration (RG 169)
      • Records of the National Youth Administration (RG 119)
      • Records of the Office of Censorship (RG 216)
      • Records of the Office of Civilian Defense (RG 171)
      • Records of the Office of Community War Services (RG 215)
      • Records of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (RG 229)
      • Records of the Office of Price Administration (RG 188)
      • Records of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (RG 227)
      • Records of the Office of War Information (RG 208)
      • Records of the Philippine War Damage Commission (RG 268)
      • Records of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RG 234)
      • Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards (RG 220)
      • Records of the US Maritime Commission (RG 178)
      • Records of the War Assets Administration (RG 270)
      • Records of the War Production Board (RG 179)
      • Records of the War Relocation Authority (RG 210)
      • Records of the Works Projects Administration (RG 69)

Appendix II: Descriptions of Major Photographic Programs, World War II

Most of the World War II photographs in the National Archives resulted from the six major programs described in this appendix.

Army

A.1 The Army Pictorial Service (APS) administered all photographic matters for the Signal Corps which, as during World War I, was put in charge of all US Army photography. The primary offices in the United States were the Signal Corps Photographic Center (SCPC) in Astoria, NY, and the Signal Corps Photographic Laboratory in Washington, DC. The SCPC was responsible for training combat photographers at its Photographic School, and for photographic research and development at its Pictorial Engineering and Research Laboratory. The SCPC trained a great variety of specialists besides photographers, among them camera repairmen, lab technicians, editors, and photo librarians.

A.2 During the first two years of the war, the Army's photographic activities suffered from administrative confusion, a lack of cooperation from Washington, a lack of prewar planning, and the fact that few people understood the photographic responsibilities of the Signal Corps. Furthermore, all parts of the War Department wanted different things: the Bureau of Public Relations wanted dramatic pictures for public release; training officers wanted visual aids; and field staff needed tactical photos for immediate strategic uses. The situation improved, and by the latter half of the war, better organization of Signal Corps photo units permitted easier coverage of the war on all fronts. Combat experience and better training also helped to improve the quality of US Army photography.

A.3 By 1943, however, shortages of photographic supplies and APS Still Picture Library personnel necessitated culling the hundreds of thousands of pictures received. Pictures selected for retention had to meet a high standard for strategic, tactical, intelligence, instructional, informational, or historical value. By 1944, these standards were even more necessary, since over 10,000 combat photographs arrived at the library each month. By the end of the war, the library's holdings amounted to more than 500,000 images.

A.4 The prestige of Signal Corps photography increased steadily throughout the war. Better organization of Signal Corps photo units permitted easier coverage of the war on all fronts, and combat experience and improved training also helped to upgrade the quality of Army photography. Thus, by 1945, the true value of US Army photography was recognized both within the military and by the general public. "Combat photographers served as the eyes of the public as well as the Army; millions of Americans at home would have had a very hazy idea of how and where the war was being waged if they had not had the benefit of the newsreels and still pictures that the combat cameramen furnished."

Navy

A.5 During World War II, US Navy photographers were assigned to provide aerial reconnaissance photographs for intelligence and tactical planning, especially in the Pacific theater, and ground photography for both combat and noncombat events. The headquarters for naval photography was located at the Anacostia Naval Station in Washington, DC. Training was centered at the Naval School of Photography at Pensacola, FL; from there Combat Photographic Units (CPUs) were sent to naval facilities, ships, and battle areas around the world.

A.6 Many of the most well-known Navy photographers were members of a group formed by Edward Steichen. Steichen, a photographer of considerable repute, was reactivated to military service during the war and commissioned as a lieutenant commander in the US Naval Reserve. He gathered together a cadre of highly skilled and experienced photographers whose initial task was to document naval aviation training. The photographs produced by the unit were used in recruitment advertisements by the Navy, which vied with the Army Air Forces for pilots. As the Navy's role in combat operations increased, the focus of the Steichen unit was expanded. Steichen and his photographers were soon covering all aspects of naval aviation and were assigned to various task groups in the Atlantic and the Pacific and also worked in Alaska, North Africa, and Europe. The group was given unprecedented freedom of movement. In 1943, the unit served aboard the U.S.S. Lexington and succeeded in taking some of the finest photographs produced during the war.

A.7 During the last six months of the war, Steichen supervised all Navy combat photography. He summed up his experience this way: "In the Navy I started with a handful of good photographers who became experts not only in using the lens but in photographing with their hearts and minds. The influence of that handful spread to 4,000 Navy photographers. Not all were great photographers. But they all contributed to the story of the war."

Marine Corps

A.8 The Marine Corps is administratively part of the US Navy, and during World War II, training of its photographers took place at the Navy facility in Pensacola, FL. Although the Marine Corps had only 430 still and motion picture cameramen on duty in the Pacific (where the Corps saw most of its action), the photographers provided photographic documentation as graphic as any produced by their several thousand counterparts in the Navy and the Signal Corps.

A.9 Among the more well-known photographic sections was the unit attached to Headquarters Second Marine Division. The officer in charge was Capt. Louis Hayward, the motion picture actor. He and his still and motion picture photographers went in with the first waves of Marines at Tarawa, along with civilian news cameramen. According to Captain Hayward's assistant, Gunnery Sgt. John F. Leopold, "We had split up the section to make sure photographers would be in every part of the convoy. It was the first time in the history of amphibious warfare that photographers had landed to take a beachhead with the initial assault waves." The fighting there was intense, as it would be throughout the Pacific. Leopold further recounted: "I don't believe there ever was another group of men who had been so close to death so often in so short a time. They put down their cameras only when they had to use their weapons."

Coast Guard

A.10 The Coast Guard's Public Relations Division ran its photographic operations. Its aims were to acquaint the public with the work of the Coast Guard, to counter the idea that the Guard was not involved in combat, to build morale among Coast Guardsmen and their families, to provide historical documentation, and to increase recruitment. Coast Guard photography stressed the individual: photographers were encouraged to portray the individual man or event as symbolic or representative of a massive struggle. Photographers served aboard Coast Guard ships around the world and participated in amphibious operations in North Africa, Italy, France, and the South Pacific. Photographic processing was done both in the field and at headquarters in Washington, DC. The latter operated 24 hours a day. At the end of the war, over 80,000 images were on file, and Coast Guard photos were being published on the front pages of newspapers across the United States.

Army Air Forces

A.11 The bulk of Air Force photography for World War II has not been transferred to the National Archives. One exception is the set of records of the Air Transport Command (ATC). The ATC, which was established in 1942, was responsible for ferrying Army Air Forces airplanes to overseas destinations, and for transporting men, equipment, and mail by air for the armed services and Allied forces. "Since American pilots often found themselves flying into foreign airfields which were completely unfamiliar to them, often while maintaining radio silence and using only the crudest navigational devices, some good visual briefing before flights was required. The ATC wanted the best possible film footage and still photographs of airfield approaches and was willing to give the project very high priority."

A.12 To that end, documentary filmmaker Pare Lorentz was put in charge of the project and assembled a unit of top photographers, with Russell Lee overseeing still photography. The photographic project was given a Presidential priority, and a new B-24 bomber specially modified for aerial photography was assigned to the unit. The nose of the airplane was fitted with a high-grade glass so that shots could be taken through it without distortion. The still photographers used specially constructed cameras.

A.13 Tracing all US transport routes, the unit initially photographed any airstrip used by American pilots, no matter how small. Russell Lee recalled: "We'd get a shot down each particular runway, for example. That was standard. Then we'd circle the field 1500 or 2000 feet and try to get any significant landmarks...Any features of terrain were important." Later the unit, at Lorentz's suggestion, photographed living conditions for pilots on the bases and among the native populations who lived near the airfields used by the Air Transport Command. In recognition of their fine and important lifesaving work, the members of the unit were given commendations after the war.

Office of War Information

A.14 The Office of War Information (OWI) was established in 1942 to coordinate Government information on the war. To achieve its objectives, OWI used press, radio, motion pictures, and still photography resources. The Domestic Operations Branch disseminated information within the United States, while the Overseas Operations Branch's domain was all countries outside the continental United States, with the exception of Latin America.

A.15 The Domestic Operations Branch was initially involved in production, but after 1943 it was mainly concerned with planning information campaigns in cooperation with other Federal Government agencies and the private sector. The Bureau of Graphics assisted in the production and distribution of posters published by the Office of War Information and other agencies. The News Bureau gathered, cleared, and released war-related news stories. News stories were often directed to specialized groups, such as Negro newspapers and that information was coordinated by the Negro Press Section. The Negro Press Section accumulated photographs on the activities of African Americans involved in all phases of the war effort. Many of the pictures taken for the section were by African American photographers. Negro Press Section chief Theodore Poston had strongly recommended hiring the photographers for assignments relating to African American subjects.

A.16 The News and Features Bureau and its Picture Division supplied pictorial materials to Overseas Operations Branch offices. The Picture Division employed a small staff of photographers, but for the most part, the Division functioned as a picture gathering, assembling, and disseminating agency, using already existing photographs taken by other Federal agencies and commercial sources. The images were maintained in a small library in New York, which provided pictures to smaller libraries in foreign countries. The Division sent daily via airmail or radiophoto transmission some 2,500 to 3,000 prints and negatives for use by newspapers and periodicals around the world.


Appendix III: List of Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings

The following is a list of motion pictures and sound recordings with the number of the paragraph in which each title appears in this publication.

American Film Series
    American Scene, 59.2
      "Cowboys," 59.2
      "Journey, A," 59.2
      "News Review No. 1," 59.2
      "Town, The," 59.2
      "War, The, 1941-1944," 59.2
    Army Air Forces Miscellaneous, 342.3
      "Last Bomb, The," 342.3
    Army Air Forces Training Films, 18.4
    Army Depository Copy, 111.2
    Army-Navy Screen Magazine, 111.4
    Combat Bulletins, I.21, 111.3
    Combat Film Reports, 18.3
      "Expansion to Air Power," 18.3
      "Liberandos," 18.3
      "Mission to Rabaul, 12 October 1943," 18.3
      "Target Planning," 18.3
      "Target System for the Destruction of Axis Oil," 18.3
    Combat Film Subjects, 18.2, 18.3
      "Thunderbolts," 18.2
    Combat Reports, 111.5
      "Appointment in Tokyo," 111.5
      "Liberation of Rome," 111.5
      "San Pietro," I.23, 111.5
      "Stilwell Road, The," 111.5
    Combat Weekly Digest, 18.3
    Film Bulletins, 111.4
    March of Time, 80.2, DM.3, DM.4
      "Arms and the Men-USA," DM.3
      "Battle Fleets of England, The," DM.3
      "Britain and US Public Opinion," DM.3
      "Britain's RAF-The Royal Air Force," DM.3
      "Canada at War," DM.3
      "China Fights Back," DM.3
      "Crisis in the North Atlantic," DM.3
      "Dutch East Indies," DM.3
      "Enemy Japan, The-The Land," 80.2
      "Enemy Japan, The-The People," 80.2
      "Gateways to Panama," DM.3
      "Newsfronts of War-1940," DM.3
      "Peace by Adolf Hitler," DM.3
      "Ramparts We Watch, The," DM.3
      "Uncle Sam the Nonbelligerent," DM.3
      "US Navy-1940," DM.3
    Okinawa Bulletins, 127.2
    Orientation Films, 111.8
      "Death Mills," 111.8
      "Know Your Ally-Britain," 111.8
      "Know Your Enemy-Japan," 111.8
      "Negro Soldier, The," 111.8
    RKO News
      "Western Front, The," 338.2
    Signal Corps Miscellaneous, 111.6, 111.7
      "Nuremberg," 111.7
      "Report From the Aleutians," 111.6
      "Sky Blitz," 111.6
      "True Glory, The," 111.6
      "War Department Report," 111.6
    Special Film Projects, 342.2
      "China Crisis," 342.2
      "D-Day Minus One," 342.2
      "Memphis Belle," 342.2
      "Target Tokyo," 342.2
    Staff Film Reports, 111.3
    Training Films, 111.10
      "Baptism of Fire," 111.10
    War Films, 111.9
    Why We Fight, I.23, 111.8, DM.3
      "Battle of Britain," 111.8
      "Battle of China," 111.8
      "Battle of Russia," 111.8
      "Divide and Conquer," 111.8
      "Nazis Strike, The," 111.8
      "Prelude to War," 111.8
      "War Comes to America," 111.8
American Documentaries
    "Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945," DM.8
    "Barriers and Passes," 210.2
    "Battle for the Marianas," 127.2
    "Battle of Midway, The," 80.2
    "Carry the Fight," 26.2
    "Challenge to Democracy," 210.2
    "Cummington Story, The," 208.2
    "December 7th," 226.3
    "Decision to Drop the Bomb," DM.9
    "Ebensee Film," DM.7
    "Fighting Dutch, The," 59.2
    "Fighting Lady, The," 80.2
    "Film Interviews on the Development of the Atomic Bomb," DM.9
    "Fleet That Came To Stay, The," 80.2
    "For Valor," 210.2
    "Fury in the Pacific," 56.2
    "Geography of Japan," 226.3
    "Girls Behind the Guns," 59.2
    "Glass vs. Bombs," 171.2
    "Go for Broke," 210.2
    "Hitler's Secret Weapon: The V-2 Rocket at Peenemunde, [1924-1945]," DM.7
    "It's Everybody's War," 208.3
    "Japanese Behavior," 226.3
    "Japanese Relocation," 208.3
    "Justice," 56.2
    "Men of the US Navy," 80.2
    "Mud and Soldiers," 127.2
    "Natural Resources of Japan," 226.3
    "Nazi Concentration Camps," 238.2
    "Nazi Supreme Court Trial of the Anti-Hitler Plotters, The," 238.2
    "News Reviews" (No. 1-5), 208.3
    "Parallels: the President and the Dictator," DM.5
    "Planes of the US Navy," 80.2
    "Rome March," 153.2
    "Serving the Merchant Marine," 26.2
    "Ships of the US Navy," 80.2
    "Storm of Fire: World War II and the Destruction of Dresden," DM.8
    "Story of a Transport," 26.2
    "Swastika," DM.8
    "Target Japan," 80.2
    "Unconquered Norway," 59.2
    "War Town," 208.3
    "Way Ahead, The," 210.2
    "With the Marines on Tarawa," 127.2
Hollywood Features
    "Confessions of a Nazi Spy," DM.5
    "Dispatch From Reuters, A," DM.5
    "Foreign Correspondent," DM.5
    "Man I Married, The," DM.5
    "Manhunt," DM.5
    "Mission to Moscow," DM.5
    "Night Train," DM.5
    "They Dare Not Love," DM.5
    "Underground," DM.5
Foreign Documentaries
    British
      World at War, 208.3, DM.6
Foreign Motion Pictures
    British
      "Desert Victory," OG.10
      "Listen to Britain," OG.10
      "Target for Tonight," I.23, OG.10
      "V-1: The Robot Bomb," OG.10
    German
      "Baptism of Fire," OG.2
      "Campaign in Poland," OG.2
      "Jew Suss," OG.2
      "Nazi Plan, The," 238.2
      "Submarines Westward," OG.4
      "Triumph of the Will," OG.2
      "Victory in the West," OG.2
    Italian
      "Battle of the Ionian Sea, The," OG.5
      "First Blow Against the British Empire," OG.5
    Japanese
      "Battle of Hawaii and Malay Sea, The," OG.6
      "Dawn of Freedom," OG.6
      "Final Battle for Nanking, The," OG.6
      "Japan in Time of Emergency," 238.2
      "Victory Song of the Orient," OG.6
    Russian
      "Battle for Siberia," OG.12
      "Leningrad Music Hall," OG.12
      "Marshal Stalin's Report," OG.12
      "Moscow Strikes Back," OG.11
      "On Future Defense," OG.12
      "Red Army, The," OG.11
      "Red Tanks," OG.12
      "Russian Tanks," OG.11
      "Spring Song," OG.12
      "13th of June," OG.11
Newsreels
    American
      National Broadcasting Company, Television News Service, OG.12
      Paramount News, I.21, DM.2
      Red Cross newsreels, DM.2
      RKO News, 338.2
      United News, I.21, 208.2
      Universal Newsreels, DM.4
    British, 208.2
      War Pictorial News, OG.10
    French
      Free French, 208.2
    German, OG.4
      Actualite Allemande, OG.4
      Ausland Wochenshau, OG.4
      Die Deutsche Wochenshau, OG.4
      UFA, OG.4
    Indian, 208.2
    Italian, OG.5
      Giornale di Guerra, OG.5
    Japanese, OG.6
      New Philippine News, OG.6
    Russian, 208.2, OG.11, OG.12
      "Soviet Newsreel of the Day," OG.12
Sound Recording Series
    America's Town Meeting of the Air, DM.13
      "How Shall We Deal with Germany after the War?", DM.13
      "Should We Support Russia's Plans for Poland?", DM.13
      "Who Should Control the Production and Use of Atomic Energy?", DM.13
    Burns and Allen, 171.3
    Deeds Without Words, 178.2
    Fibber McGee and Molly, 178.2, 179.3
    Fighting AAF, The, 18.5
    For This We Fight, 178.2
    Hasten the Day, 188.2, 208.4
    Heroes of the Merchant Marine, 178.2
    Hundred Million Questions, A, 188.2
    I Can Hear It Now, DM.10
    Information Please, 178.2
    It's Maritime, 178.2
    Men at Sea, 178.2
    John Hickman Collection, "Historical Recordings and Radio Broadcasts," 1931-1977, DM.11
    Men, Machines and Victory, 179.3
    Neighborhood Call, 188.2, 208.4
    OPA Weekly Report, 188.2
    Sing Along, 178.2
    Soldiers of Production, 208.4
    This is Our Enemy, 208.4
    Three-Thirds of a Nation, 208.4
    Uncle Sam Speaks, 208.4
    Vic and Sade, 171.3
    Victory Front, 208.4
    Voice of Freedom, 208.4
    We Fight Back, 208.4
    You Can't Do Business With Hitler, 179.3, 188.2, 208.4
    Your AAF, 18.5
Sound Recordings
    "General William A. Bierderlinden Discussing the Negotiated Surrender of Heidelberg in World War II," DM.11
    "History in Sound of World War II," DM.10
    "Tribute to the US Cadet Nurse Corps, A," 215.1

Note: Compiled by Barbara Burger, William Cunliffe, Jonathan Heller, William T. Murphy, and Les Waffin. Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. Revised 1992.

This web version, originally created in 1999 and periodically updated, may differ from the paper edition. Possible differences include: updated names of NARA organizational units, corrected errors of fact, and incorporation of new descriptive information. Whenever new descriptive information has been added, it has been coded to display between brackets [] and in italics. In addition, the main text has been artificially split into four parts, by record group, to improve efficiency of storage, retrieval, and use.

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