Photos of people and events are wonderful, but with the use of film, such scenes can come to life for the viewer. Newsreels shown in local movie theaters during the 1930s through the 1950s were the main source for learning of national and world events for the general public.
One of America's and our ancestors' greatest event was the involvement during World War II (1941-1945). Whether the ancestor served in the military or as a civilian on the home front, everyone was connected and affected by the war.
The 'United News' produced newsreels for the U. S. Office of War Information (OWI) between 1942 and 1946. Here was chronicled on film not only the latest news concerning the war, but also citizens and their lives across the country.
Ancestry.com, the subscription fee-based Internet site has the database of these video films in digital format to be viewed. This is an outstanding opportunity for the family historian to see and hear the same newsreels that their ancestors viewed some 70 years ago.
Just a sampling of some of the vintage topics and scenes shown are: the 1943 West Point Cadets graduate Into U.S. Army, the Japanese-Americans help construct living quarters in a relocation camp, Japanese-Americans training in the U.S. Army in 1942, torpedo boats patrol the Atlantic coast line, a farm family in the U.S. makes machine tools in their home in 1942, U.S. soldiers and nurses arrive at Australia, scenes of heroes returning to their hometowns, women joining the Women's Army Corp in 1942, phosphate being mined in Florida, British war brides board the liner Argentina in 1946 coming to America, sheep shearing contest in Colorado, sponge fishing off Florida and market scenes at Tarpon Springs, Florida, along with men and women race on ice skates in Minnesota.
The newsreels cover the numerous battles in Germany, the Pacific, North Africa and in Italy. The famous of the times are shown; such as President and Mrs. F. D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower, General Patton, General MacArthur, along with the stars of Hollywood movies. Seeing the ordinary citizens and soldiers really adds the true patriotic spirit to the newsreels. The films are of the times, 1942 to 1946, and were done to promotion patriotism and keep the public marginally informed (to avoid any military or security secrets from reaching the enemy). However, the researcher may just locate some footage on an ancestral hometown or family.
There are 267 newsreels on the site, with most about ten minutes in length. The search engine with the site allows a year and key words to be used to help narrow down the search. A good summary of the various topics covered in each newsreel is also helpful.