Reference Information Paper 90
A Finding Aid to Records Relating to American
Prisoners of War and Missing in Action from the Vietnam War Era, 1960-1994
Table of Contents
Part V: Motion Pictures and Sound and Video Recordings
[For more information about the records described in Part V, contact the Special Media Archives Services Division, Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Unit, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. Telephone: 301-837-0526 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]
V.1 The Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch of the National Archives has custody of over 20,000 items documenting United States involvement in Vietnam. These audiovisual documents provide a rich and varied source of official and private historical source material. In general, the records are available for research use and duplication, although some of the material is protected by copyright. Records relating to POWs and MIAs are scattered throughout the branch's significant holdings documenting the Vietnam era. Most of the pertinent audio recordings were taped from radio programs, although the records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs include tape recordings of depositions before the committee. There are two basic types of video and motion picture records: 1) edited footage that may be described in agency distribution catalogues; and 2) unedited, raw footage as it was brought in from the field. The unedited footage contains important material, supplemented by the cameraman's notes, but it is difficult to use because finding aids to it are not yet integrated in an automated system. Edited footage may be more accessible because descriptions of it in agency-prepared distribution catalogues are arranged by subject headings. Researchers should be aware that the collection at the National Archives does not include all the titles in the descriptive catalogues.
V.2 Listed below, in record group order, are the motion picture, sound, and video series that contain footage relating to American POWs and MIAs in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, along with brief descriptions of these series and the finding aids that provide access to them. Additional information about the holdings of the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch may be obtained from the branch at the National Archives at College Park (Archives II), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
RG 46 Records of the United States Senate
V.3 Videotapes of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, 1991-92 (126 items), include recordings of committee hearings, meetings, and trips; Senate floor coverage of POW/MIA debate; statements by Senators; television news coverage of POW/MIA issues, especially relating to the select committee; television documentary and special programs on Vietnam-era POW/MIAs; segments of "Phil Donahue," Pat Robertson's "700 Club," "MacNeil/Lehrer," "Dateline," "Unsolved Mysteries," and "Nightline" shows on POW/MIAs; the 14-hour C-SPAN documentary, "Vietnam Revisited"; and videotapes produced privately by family groups, veterans groups, and concerned individuals. Appendix Mcontains a list of Senate Select Committee videotapes.
V.4 The audio-cassette recordings of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, 1991-92 (151 items), consist of cassette recordings of depositions taken before committee members or staff. Depositions were taken from former Government officials, military intelligence analysts, and a variety of persons interested in POW/MIA issues. Appendix L lists these recordings. Transcripts of the depositions are among the records of the select committee in the custody of the Center for Legislative Archives. See Appendix K for a list of these transcripts.
RG 111 Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer
V.5 Unedited black and white and color documentary film footage, 1964-75 (7,000 items), series 111-LC, covers such subjects as: basic training; military units and operations; psychological warfare; combat briefings; press conferences; civic actions; pacification and Vietnamization activities; ceremonies; awards; change of commands; visits of dignitaries; activities of the ARVN, Thai, Korean, and Australian troops; POWs; refugees; antiwar peace movements; and demonstrations. National-Archives-prepared shelf lists provide access to unedited film footage, which is arranged in rough chronological order. The shelf lists identify each reel by a brief title and an "LC" (Library Can) number. Research in these films can be time-consuming because most reels contain short clips of unrelated subjects and types of action. Researchers must scan the entire contents of each reel to locate needed footage. However, there are production files, arranged by LC number, that contain shot lists and cameraman's notes that provide detailed scene descriptions.
V.6 Army educational, informational and training films, 1961-80 (2,000 items), provide instruction in such subjects as recruitment; training; weapons and weapons systems; medical activities; combat and briefing reports; military operations and lifestyle; civic operations; and incentive, orientational, and public information film production. Included in this series are training films (TF), combat bulletins (CB), educational films (EF), and informational bulletins (IB). The series contains instructional films on subjects related to POW/MIA matters such as "Escape" (TF-21-1973), a 45 minute film, and "Resist" (TF-30-2562), a 29 minute film. Department of the Army Pamphlet 108-1, "Index of Army Motion Pictures, Filmstrips, Slides, Tapes, and Photo-Recordings," or "Index of Army Films, Transparencies, GTA Charts and Recordings," published periodically by the Army, contains a complete list of all such presentation materials. A set of these pamphlets is available in the Motion Picture Research Room at the National Archives.
V.7 Department of Defense documentary news release film, 1961-75 (900 items), series 111-DD, consists of edited footage of Army and other defense related activities produced by the Department of Defense for release to commercial newsreel companies and television networks. It includes coverage of ceremonies and speeches at military installations; military planes, ships, tanks, and missiles; personnel and military units; and a wide range of other subjects. POW/MIA related footage includes the "POW Choir," which was formed in Hanoi, celebrating Christmas 1973 at Clark Air Base; "Joint Casualty Resolution Center Operations," filmed near Can Tho, Vietnam in 1973; and "U.S. Air Force Tests Pilot Airborne Recovery Device," in 1970. "DD News Release Summaries" provide access to this series. The summaries are arranged chronologically in loose-leaf binders in the Motion Picture Research Room at the National Archives. Each binder has a summary list in the front, followed by release sheets that indicate the title or subjects of the footage, date of release, length or time of footage, and a brief description of the footage. National Archives preservation binders, Army distribution catalogs, and production files provide additional information.
RG 127 Records of the U.S. Marine Corps
V.8 Unedited black and white and color film, 1964-75 (3,500 items), taken by combat cameramen, documents daily Marine Corps activities and operations in Vietnam and includes coverage of press conferences, briefings, interviews, training, medical activities, and civic action, as well as combat operations. Examples of coverage are: "Operation Dagger Thrust, Vung Mu Peninsula," "Vietnam Crisis: Khe Sahn," "Montagnards," "American POWs Return: Operation Homecoming," "R&R China Beach, 1967," "Operation Choo Choo, Da Nang, 1969," and "Marines in Hue City." Marine Corps edited productions are filed with Navy film productions in RG 80 and RG 428. The unedited film is organized in two subseries: 16mm film, known as 127-R, and 35mm film, known as 127-G. Both film sizes are indexed by the same system. Researchers interested in Marine Corps footage should first consult the "Marine Corps Subject Headings Authority File," available in a binder in the Motion Picture Research Room. This file provides an overview of the descriptive phrases used to index the film, phrases such as: prisoners, POW, military, Vietnam. Pertinent authorized terms can be searched among the "Subject Index Cards" each of which lists four-digit numbers and film sizes that correspond to film relating to the subject of the card. The four digit numbers are "Index Numbers" keyed to cards that provide full descriptions of the film and list cross references.
RG 263 Records of the Central Intelligence Agency
V.9 Sound recordings of monitored foreign broadcast materials, 1950-76 (75 ft.), consist of recordings of live speeches and statements preserved on cassette tapes, IBM belts, and discs, dating from 1950 to 1975. The materials cover a broad range of broadcasts including propaganda and policy speeches; statements by political leaders, revolutionaries, scholars, protest leaders, and deserters from military services: and a variety of types of prepared and extemporaneous speeches and messages from American prisoners of war captured during the cold war and the Korean and Vietnam war periods. Approximately half of the recordings are of or about American POWs.
RG 306 Records of the U.S. Information Agency
V.10 USIA films and videotape on the war in Vietnam, 1961-75 (1,200 items), produced and acquired in the context of U.S. foreign relations, consist of edited productions, documentaries, and information films made in support of official policies, as well as unedited footage. Covered are medical and civic activities, Asian culture, propaganda, Viet Cong atrocities, ceremonies, awards, speeches, press conferences, visits of dignitaries, and "POW concerns." Included are North and South Vietnam productions. Also included is a large series of USIA produced newsreels. A small subject/title card index contains approximately 70 cards under "Vietnam" and 5 cards under "prisoners." The cards contain only minimal information: a subject or title, a film number, the film size, and b/w or color indicator. USIA-USIS distribution catalogs and Motion Picture Branch preservation notebooks contain additional documentation.
V.11 Audio recordings of Voice of America programming, 1962-73 (500 items), include news reports, speeches, documentaries, interviews, press conferences, and informational programs, many of which relate to the Vietnam War. Motion Picture Branch preservation notebooks arranged by Voice Of America (VOA) Tape Library series ENT-T through ENZ-T list the speaker and date of audio recordings. A VOA name and subject index binder provides additional access.
RG 330 Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense
V.12 Network evening newscasts relating to DoD activities during the Vietnam War, 1965-76 (574 items), are filmed excerpts of newscasts relating to Department of Defense activities during the Vietnam war as broadcast by ABC, CBS, and NBC television networks during the period 1965-76. Included is coverage of reports on bombing raids, weekly casualties, the 1968 Tet offensive, defense spending, troop withdrawals, Operation Homecoming activities, protest marches in the United States, and speeches and commentaries by Government officials and news analysts. The audiovisual items also cover related foreign and domestic events, among them U.S. involvement in Cambodia, the Pentagon Papers, and the move to an all-volunteer army. These 16mm black and white kinescopes were made off-air, compiled by the Directorate of Defense Information, and circulated for information and study purposes within the military establishment.
V.13 There are several effective ways to access these newscasts: seven loose-leaf binders contain shelf lists of Department of the Army "Network Evening News Summaries." The summaries consist of "news-spot" titles arranged in chronological order for the three network news shows. The daily entries list each relevant item reported on each of the three networks, along with the reel segment upon which it is located. After locating the needed date, the Motion Picture Branch preservation notebooks provide the reel number. An alternate search path makes use of the monthly Vanderbilt Television News Archives Television News Index and Abstract. This publication gives minute-by-minute summaries of each daily network news program. It provides full textual descriptions of the news pieces and covers all news. The Index also leads to the Motion Picture Branch preservation notebooks that provide reel numbers.
V.14 Audio recordings of Secretaries of Defense, 1961-75 (600 items), document the evolution of high level policy making in Washington that affected American POWs in Southeast Asia. The recordings, arranged in chronological order, consist of official speeches, statements, interviews, press briefings, news conferences, and Congressional testimony of Secretaries of Defense Robert McNamara, Clark Clifford, Melvin Laird, Elliot Richardson, and other Department of Defense officials including Assistant Secretaries of Defense; military leaders including Secretaries of the Armed Forces; Joint Chiefs of Staff; military personnel; and other U.S. Government officials. The Defense Department Directorate of Defense Information, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, recorded on a daily basis all public affairs activities that related to high level Defense Department policy during the era of the Vietnam War. This included domestic events, the antiwar movement, and the March on the Pentagon. The Motion Picture Branch preservation notebooks contain lists of the date, subject, speaker, and reel for each recording.
RG 342 Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations
V.15 Unedited black and white and color film of Vietnam related activities, 1964-75 (6,000 items), series 342-USAF, includes coverage of air strikes, gun camera footage, air operations and missions in both North and South Vietnam, pilot debriefings and interviews, psychological warfare, search and rescue, defoliation, air base activities and construction, mobilizations, press conferences, briefings, speeches, awards, ceremonies, changes of command, POWs and MIAs, operation of equipment and weapons systems, aircraft identification, research and development activities, and missile development. Finding aids are not yet available for all of the film series in this record group. The potential relevance of the records is illustrated, however, by the many cards filed under "Operation Homecoming" in one of the existing indexes. These "Operation Homecoming" entries are extensively cross-indexed for personalities, locations, facilities, sites, personnel, aircraft, and organizations.
RG 428 General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1947-
V.16 Edited documentary film and videotape, 1961-75 (1,000 items), produced or acquired by the Army relates to recruiting, training, military lifestyle, civic actions, aircraft recognition, operation and handling of naval weapons systems, combat operations, history of military components, and medical aspects in Vietnam. Included are informa- tional, incentive, motivational, and documentary films, as well as training films on subjects such as escape and evasion techniques, and survival in hostile environments, that could help pilots downed over enemy territory to survive. Navy-prepared distribution catalogues list audio-visual publications under subject headings that allow researchers to identify specific documents, however, not all catalogued items are in National Archives custody. National Archives-prepared shelf lists indicate the film and video items held by the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch.
V.17 Unedited color and black and white film of Vietnam related activities, 1961-75 (3,500 items), series 428-NPC, covers civic actions, air strikes in North Vietnam, carrier actions and operations, ceremonies, awards, changes of command, harbor defense, river patrols and riverine operations, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and handling of POWs and refugees. A Subject Card Index provides access to the available footage. Under the heading "Prisoner, American," there are nine entries; under "Prisoner, South Vietnamese," there are three entries; and under "Prisoner, Viet Cong" there are thirty-two entries. The subject cards provide substantial description of the action on film, and are cross-indexed.
Donated Materials in the National Archives
V.18 The collections of donated motion picture film and video recordings that may contain Vietnam-era POW/MIA material consist primarily of commercial newsreels and documentary footage. Examples include weekly newsreels from Universal, Fox, and Hearst newsreel companies up to 1967; the CBS News Collection that begins in 1974; and the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour Collection that runs from 1978 to 1984. In addition to these major collections, donated materials include several documentaries from various sources. This footage can be accessed by using the Vanderbuilt Television News Archives Television News Index and Abstract, the annual CBS News Index, and the Motion Picture, Sound & Video Branch main card catalog under the heading "Vietnam War".
V.19 Donated sound recordings likely to contain Vietnam-era POW/MIA related material include the ABC Radio Collection and the National Public Radio (NPR) Collection. Both collections include radio news broadcasts, speeches, interviews, documentaries, and press conferences. The ABC Radio Collection can be accessed by means of the ABC Radio card catalog that lists the name, date, and title of programs. The NPR Collection can be accessed using the NPR microfiche catalog by subject, date, name, and program title.
Note: Compiled by Charles E. Schamel. Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, 1996.
Web version prepared 1999. Additions and changes incorporated in the Web version are between brackets  and in italics.