US National Archives and Records Administration

I’ve just returned from an amazingly fruitful trip to the US National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD (aka NARA II) where I was researching the history of the American Forces Television Network. Thanks, in part, to Larry Suid, who wrote the official fiftieth anniversary history of the AFRTS and kept meticulous records–including transcripts of the 130 or so interviews he did with various founders, DJs, on-air personalities, engineers, Hollywood liaisons, and policy makers–I found a goldmine!

AFKN Pamphlet, circa 1960s

Pamphlet for AFKN, circa 1960s. NARA II, College Park, MD.

Records at NARA II include the textual records of the Department of Defense and the US Information Agency (USIA), as well as millions of still photos, posters and graphics from all military branches, and very rare film and audio footage from USIA overseas activities, military radio and TV programs, indoctrination materials, and so on. Best of all, the motion picture division will allow you to tape, record, or download copies of stuff that has been processed for public viewing. Alas, much stuff has NOT been so processed; thus, I recommend contacting the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Research Room staff well before you visit so they can transfer non-public materials to a publicly consumable form before you arrive!

I know some of you have also visited the site, but for those who haven’t, you should contact the archivists at least 6 weeks before your visit to ensure materials are there, available and cleared for use (if necessary). Be as specific as possible about the materials you are interested in, including file and box numbers if they are listed in the NARA catalogue: Note that many specifics are not listed in the catalogue, but your first day involves a consultation with a staff member who can help you identify materials and fill out pull slips. On day 1, arrive early to get a “Researcher’s Card,” which takes about 15 minutes, then go directly to the consulting room. Pull your stuff and go! They have a limited number of scanning stands available for both cameras and iphones. I used one of the stands for iPhone and the ScannerPro app ($3.99) to copy 35 boxes worth of material in 5 days and sent it all immediately to the cloud! Needless to say, I highly recommend ScannerPro.

If you have visited an archive or found a digital source worth sharing with our members, register to contribute to the site. Post your thoughts, and we’ll make sure they get shared!

AHA’s GI Pamphlets (WWII; US DOD)

So, once again, in pursuit of my own research interests, I’ve discovered a trove of online materials that others might find useful. The American Historical Association, it seems, produced a series of pamphlets under the rubric “GI Roundtable” in the 1940s. Here’s how the AHA describes the series:

As texts, the AHA’s G.I. Roundtable series provides a unique insight into a particular moment in time. . . .

The G.I. pamphlet series was prepared under the direction of the Army’s Division of Information and Education between 1943 and 1945 “to increase the effectiveness of the soldiers and officers as fighters during the war and as citizens after the war.” The accent in the pamphlets is on what the postwar world would look like, and reassuring servicemen that they would have a place in postwar America.


Of particular interest are the pamphlets:

Pamphlet from the AHA's GI Roundtable series: "What is Propaganda?"

Pamphlet from the AHA’s GI Roundtable series: “What is Propaganda?”

What is Propaganda? which offers a comprehensive overview of 1940s thinking about propaganda and how to properly conduct it in a democratic society.


GI Radio Roundtable — a how-to guide for hosting your own radio chat session with GI’s, whom, we’re told, “like to talk things over”


How Far Should the Government Control Radio? — A real question in war time as the government struggled to craft a positive message for the home front but held little control over the airwaves.


What is the Future of Television? — which considers the likely shape and impact of television on government, businesses, individuals and families after the war. A nice snapshot of TV’s state of development circa 1945.

I also came across the “Handbook for Military Government in Germany” while searching for info on radio in post-war occupied Germany. It’s the full handbook, so you can see for yourself the instructions US Army personnel were given in 1946. It includes info about how to handle radio and film–both production facilities and movie releases–among other things.

Finally, some of you may know this tome, but I somehow missed it until now (insert hand smacking head emoji): David Culbert and Lawrence Suid’s Film and Propaganda in America: A Documentary History, 1945 and AfterIt’s full of amazing primary source material regarding relations between the US Defense Department and film producers and distributors. A literal gold mine! 

I’m off to the National Archives to dig into the history of the American Forces Television Network. Will file a report on that when I return! Until then, happy document hunting.

Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry

Find of the month…

Did you know that Indiana University has placed a fully digitized copy of the US Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry online. The collection includes talking point memos, as well as the general manual. Here are the details:

Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry
Corp Author(s): United States. Office of War Information. Bureau of Motion Pictures.
Publication: [Washington, D.C. : Office of War Information,
Year: 1942.]