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‘Undercover,’ John Ford’s instructional film gives tips for WWII spies behind enemy lines
01.11.2018
09:39 am
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During World War II, John Ford worked as chief of the Field Photographic Branch of the OSS, the intelligence agency that preceded the CIA. When he went on active duty, Ford had already directed 1941’s Sex Hygiene, an Army training film with tips for avoiding the clap and the syph on R&R leave (“I looked at it and threw up,” was the review Ford later gave Peter Bogdanovich). To this, Lt. Commander John Ford added the Oscar-winning documentaries The Battle of Midway and December 7th. Bogdanovich writes that, after the war, Ford’s group began work on a seven- or eight-hour film that was to have been used as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials; in the end, the task fell to Budd Schulberg, also a member of the Field Photographic Branch, whose The Nazi Plan was entered into evidence at Nuremberg.

Some of Ford’s wartime movies were exclusively for OSS consumption, such as 1943’s How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines, a/k/a Undercover, an instructional film about how to be a spy. Like most movies of its kind, it teaches by illustrating dos and don’ts—Ford appears in the only speaking role of his career as the pipe-smoking case officer assigned to the “don’t” agent—and lays heavy emphasis on a single lesson, here the supreme importance of maintaining a believable cover story. Agonizing sequences depict spies blowing their cover through inattention to detail: anything from paying the bar tab with bills no longer in circulation to using “hair grease” they can’t get in Enemytown since hostilities began.
 

John Ford in ‘Undercover’ (via National Archives)
 
Undercover is available on Netflix, but the dialogue sounds like it was recorded with a Kleenex stretched over one end of an empty cookie dough tube, as if all the Allies’ microphones had been melted down for the war effort. The YouTube version embedded below is much easier to follow. If I owned a movie house, I’d program this with the short Don’t Kill Your Friends, a contemporary U.S. Navy training film starring my own grandfather as an inept pilot who offs civilians during aerial gunnery practice.
 
Watch it, after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.11.2018
09:39 am
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Political ‘propaganda kimonos’ from pre-World War II Japan
11.16.2016
12:46 pm
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There’s something very alluring about secret codes intended to transmit a message of solidarity to a select few. Just recently in the wake of the presidential election, a significant number of people have adopted the practice of wearing a safety pin as a sign of resistance to President-Elect Trump and as a message of support to groups likely to be marginalized under a Trump administration such as African-Americans, Muslims, and women. Gee thanks, white people.

One example of this that I learned about recently was the Japanese practice of wearing militaristic propaganda in a way that only close friends and family would be in a position to notice—on ornate, specially designed kimonos. They were mainly reserved for inside the home or at private parties. Since the designs were often on undergarments or linings, a host would show them off to small groups of family or friends. These “propaganda kimonos” are called omoshirogara—denoting “interesting” or “amusing” designs—and were popular from 1900 to 1945, and for the first half of that period they had little to do with warfare.

For instance, in the 1920s and 1930s, many omoshirogara featured a bright consumerist future with gleaming art deco cityscapes and chugging locomotives and ocean liners. In the late 1920s, however, conservative and ultra-nationalist forces in the military and government started to assert themselves. In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria and installed a puppet regime there, marking the start of a period of extreme militaristic nationalism and aggression as well as isolation from the West.

Norman Brosterman is one of the world’s foremost collectors of propaganda kimonos, and his website is a trove of arresting imagery. All of the kimonos depicted on this page come from his collection. He writes:
 

The Japanese tradition of pictures on garments took an insidious turn in 1895 and 1905 with the Sino-Japanese, and Russo-Japanese Wars, when kimono were first made with images of troops, cannon, and battleships. In the 20th century, kimono with a plethora of themes were produced – travel, sports, politics, fashion, and in the 1930’s, an outpouring of imagery of war. From 1931 and the Japanese annexation of Manchuria, until Pearl Harbor and the complete war footing it necessitated, Japanese propaganda in the form of clothing for men, boys, and more rarely, women, was produced and worn in Japan in support of the efforts overseas.

 
Here are some excellent specimens of the form:
 

This boy’s kimono with an image of a streamlined car.
 

This detail from a kimono from 1933 depicts the popular figures of “the Three Brave Bombers,” real-life soldiers who perished while laying explosives to clear out the enemy’s barbed wire defenses.
 
Many more remarkable kimonos after the jump…......

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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11.16.2016
12:46 pm
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Bugs Bunny’s racist adventure
11.25.2014
11:48 am
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So many friends of mine are Disney fanatics, but I’ve always been partial to Warner Brothers cartoons. Most of the classic Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck cartoons still make me bust a gut. When I watch the 70-year-old “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips,” however, it just makes my face burn and sweat pool in my shoes. It’s a long, uncomfortable, ugly eight minutes. Caveat spectator.

For reasons that will be immediately apparent, you probably did not see this extravagantly racist WWII-era propaganda cartoon during the Saturday mornings of your childhood. Wikipedia says it was released on home video collections in the early ‘90s, but these were quickly withdrawn after the studio received complaints. In any event, it was conspicuously absent from Bugs & Daffy: The Wartime Cartoons and the Looney Tunes DVD set that covers this period.

I first saw it on a millionth-generation VHS I rented from a video store in Berkeley, the same place I first found a copy of Robert Frank’s famously unreleasable Rolling Stones documentary, Cocksucker Blues. That bootleg of “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” looked and sounded about as bad as the “restored” version Spike TV posted several years ago, only the color was even more washed-out.

Recently, a much higher quality copy has surfaced online. While it’s not crystal clear, and the top of the frame is still cut off, at least the headache you get watching it will be attributable to racism alone. The wretched quality of the bootleg wouldn’t let you forget the cartoon’s contraband status, which—for me, at least—made the short slightly less disturbing: it was marked as a banned film, never to be screened again. Here, it just looks like another Saturday morning with Bugs. 
 

Definitely NSFW.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.25.2014
11:48 am
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Hear a broadcast from the Tokyo Rose, Japan’s World War II radio propaganda disc jockey
03.06.2014
10:00 am
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Iva Toguri
Iva Toguri D’Aquino
 
The Tokyo Rose is one of the more ingenious and chilling bits of psychological warfare in human history. During World War Two, in an effort to unnerve American GI’s and lower morale, the Japanese broadcast an English-language radio show hosted by a rotating roster of female voices. “Tokyo Rose” was the generic moniker given (by Americans) to all the announcers, but the most famous voice (and probably the one you hear in the broadcast below) was that of Iva Toguri D’Aquino, an American who had the misfortune to have been caring for a sick aunt in Japan when the war broke out. After the war, she was arrested and convicted of treason—apparently being a prisoner of war was no excuse for making a radio show. She wasn’t released until 1956.

The format of the show was actually pretty brilliant; in between coy “updates” on the war, (and insinuations of Japan’s impending attacks), Tokyo Rose would play the hits of the day. The show was incredibly popular among American serviceman. Rumors circulated that she possessed insider knowledge of American military actions. Some said she named specific servicemen as recent captures in her broadcasts—this is completely unsubstantiated, of course, and popular opinion is that the myth of Tokyo Rose flourished in the bewildered minds of her targets. And it that sense, the program was a complete success; Americans did overestimate the power and knowledge of Axis Japan.

Similar programs were employed by other Axis countries, including the insidious Lord Haw Haw in Germany, but none quite had the eery charm of Tokyo Rose, whose sweet voice and romantic tunes belied a brutal war.
 

 
Bonus: I’ve also included the grotesquely racist piece of American propaganda, Tokyo Woes. The 1945 Bob Clampett-directed Warner Brothers cartoon was only intended for viewing by the US Navy. Nothing sells war quite like racism and the promise of a hero’s welcome after a quick and easy victory.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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03.06.2014
10:00 am
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Foxy ‘procurable women’ of World War II venereal disease posters
11.04.2013
05:56 pm
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A few of you may be familiar with the WWII-era poster proclaiming that “98% of all procurable women have venereal disease.” Of course, there’s absolutely no way to prove such a figure, since they didn’t have the data necessary to reach those kind of conclusions. In fact, since prostitutes were among the first to embrace safer sex technology, many public health experts actually believe soldiers were the largest transmitters. Note the happy, healthy little servicemen in the bottom corner of the final picture?

Regardless, the epidemic of syphilis at the time generated a lot of materials warning of the dangers of “procurable women,” some thinly veiled, some fairly explicit. Below is a fantastic little collection of propaganda, each piece somehow managing to make venereal disease look totally worth it. Those are some foxy working girls!
 
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And of course, the classic…
 
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More after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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11.04.2013
05:56 pm
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‘Food Will Win the War’: Disney’s most surreal war propaganda cartoon, 1942
10.07.2013
10:36 am
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Food will win the war
Not just a potato twice the height of the Rock of Gibralter… a sexy potato twice the height of the Rock of Gibralter

You may be familiar with Disney’s most famous World War Two propaganda, Der Fuehrer’s Face, in which Donald Duck dreams of an alternate life under Nazi rule. It’s weird, but not nearly as weird as Food Will Win the War. During both World War One and Two, the slogan, “Food will win the war,” was bandied about to both discourage food waste and encourage an increase in agricultural yields; the idea was that the U.S. needed to remain war-ready with a food surplus. In the film, however, the slogan is invoked more as a morale booster, and the result is a confusing mish-mash of messaging.

Instead of telling farmers to produce more and families to waste less, the narrator emphasizes our current glut of food, which is really counterintuitive to a message of prudence and industriousness. It’s as if the writers got so carried away with nationalist boasting, that they forgot the actual purpose of the film. Even more strangely, they demonstrate our surfeit of food by means of very strange scale comparisons.

For instance, did you know that if we had made all our wheat from 1942 into flour, we could bury every German tank in it? And if we had made it into spaghetti, we could weave from it a fashionably nationalistic sweater-vest to clothe the entire Earth! Why would you aspire to do such a thing, you ask? Why would we knit a celestial spaghetti sweater?!? Who cares! We’re America, fuck yeah!
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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10.07.2013
10:36 am
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Slaughterhouse-Five: 22-year-old POW Kurt Vonnegut writes home about the War

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Kurt Vonnegut was a 22-year-old Private serving in the U.S. Army, when he was captured at the Battle of the Bulge, in December 1944. Together with his fellow POWs, Vonnegut was marched to a work camp in Dresden, named “Slaughterhouse Five.” In this letter details these events and the infamous bombing in February 1945, that was to inspire his best-selling novel.

FROM:

Pfc. K. Vonnegut, Jr.,
12102964 U. S. Army.

TO:

Kurt Vonnegut,
Williams Creek,
Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dear people:

I’m told that you were probably never informed that I was anything other than “missing in action.” Chances are that you also failed to receive any of the letters I wrote from Germany. That leaves me a lot of explaining to do—in precis:

I’ve been a prisoner of war since December 19th, 1944, when our division was cut to ribbons by Hitler’s last desperate thrust through Luxemburg and Belgium. Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges’ First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out: We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren’t much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight - so we gave up. The 106th got a Presidential Citation and some British Decoration from Montgomery for it, I’m told, but I’ll be damned if it was worth it. I was one of the few who weren’t wounded. For that much thank God.

Well, the supermen marched us, without food, water or sleep to Limberg, a distance of about sixty miles, I think, where we were loaded and locked up, sixty men to each small, unventilated, unheated box car. There were no sanitary accommodations—the floors were covered with fresh cow dung. There wasn’t room for all of us to lie down. Half slept while the other half stood. We spent several days, including Christmas, on that Limberg siding. On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year’s Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn’t….

 
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Via Letters of Note
 
The rest of Vonnegut’s letter home, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.15.2013
07:40 pm
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Needling the Nazis: The subversive cross-stitching of Major Alexis Casdagli

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Red Cross parcels and the joys of cross-stitching kept Major Alexis Casdagli sane during his time as a POW in the Second World War. After 6 months in a Nazi Stalag Luft, Casdagli was given a card by a fellow POW, together some thread from an old cardigan, and he started his now famous needlecraft.

Casdagli spent long hours working on his cross-stitching and between 1941 and 1945, he created a series of subversive samplers, in which Casdagli had hidden, around the Swastikas and Hammer & Sickles, a series of messages in Morse Code, which read:

“God Save The King”

“Fuck Hitler”

According to his son, Casdagli thought of the subversive needlecraft as part of his duty to get back at his captors:

“It used to give him pleasure when the Germans were doing their rounds,” says his son, Tony, of his father’s rebellious stitching. It also stopped him going mad. “He would say after the war that the Red Cross saved his life but his embroidery saved his sanity,” says Tony. “If you sit down and stitch you can forget about other things, and it’s very calming.”

Casdagli also sent his then 11-year-old son cross-stitched letters through the mail.

“It is 1,581 days since I saw you last but it will not be long now. Do you remember when I fell down the well? Look after Mummy till I get home again.”

Major Alexis Casdagli died in 1990, but his cross-stitching has been featured in different museum and gallery exhibitions, as a fine example of grit and determination under pressure.
 
image
 
With thanks to Sig Waller
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.15.2013
09:41 am
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Awesome collection of personalized World War II leather bomber jackets
03.29.2012
02:05 pm
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Sexy hand-painted leather bomber jackets from World War II brought to you by D. Sheley‘s collection on Flickr.

Via The World’s Best Ever
 
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More bomber jackets after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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03.29.2012
02:05 pm
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Kurt Vonnegut: The bombing of Dresden and the creation of ‘Slaughterhouse 5’

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It took Kurt Vonnegut more than twenty years to turn his experience of surviving the allied bombing of Dresden during World War II, into his novel Slaughterhouse Five. In this short interview with James Naughtie, Vonnegut recalls the horror of Dresden and how it shaped his vision of the world and led to the creation of his most famous work.

“A writer is lucky to be able to treat his or her neuroses everyday. We’re here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is. And teh Arts are one way to help people get through this thing. the function of any work of Art, successful work of Art is to say to a certain segment of the population, ‘You are not alone. Others feel as you do.’ We must have kids now, you know, saying the world is crazy - and indeed, it is.”

Recorded for the BBC’s This Week series in 2005, to mark the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Creative Writing 101 with Kurt Vonnegut


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.11.2012
08:56 pm
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World War II ad claims 98% of ‘procurable’ women have a venereal disease
12.15.2011
01:25 pm
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image
 
98%?! Let me say that again, 98%!!!
 
(via Copyranter)

Posted by Tara McGinley
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12.15.2011
01:25 pm
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Giving the Holocaust an R-Rating: The Strange Case of “A Film Unfinished”

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“…Disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities including graphic nudity.” These are the elements cited by the Motion Picture Association of America in giving an R-rating to Israeli director Yael Hersonski’s intense-looking documentary, A Film Unfinished, which opens widely this month.

Produced and distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories, A Film Unfinished centers around the making of the unearthed last reel of Ghetto, a Nazi propaganda film shot in the Warsaw Ghetto and proffered as a document of life there. The reel contains multiple takes of staged, exoticized footage of Jewish life, including a fictionalized depiction of the contrast between “rich” and poor ghetto dwellers.

The R-rating ensures that the film can’t be shown in public school classrooms, a situation ludicrous enough to be called out by Oscilloscope owner and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch a.k.a. MCA. From what I understand, the “graphic nudity” that the MPAA cites refers to female ghetto dwellers entering a mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath. As for the atrocities, well, kids seem to be exposed to plenty of gratuitous and stupid violence on TV, movies and video games. Maybe it would be worth whatever trauma they may go through watching and discussing A Film Unfinished to not only viscerally understand genocide, but also get a classic lesson in media manipulation.

Nice work, MPAA.
 

 
Oscilloscope Laboratories will also release the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl and the doc William S. Burroughs: A Man Within this fall.

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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08.04.2010
04:30 pm
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July 26, 1943: Los Angeles Invaded by Smog!

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Smog makes it hard to see the Los Angeles Civic Center on Jan. 5, 1948. Photo: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA Library
 
In this age of climate-change consciousness, we’ve been thinking of pollution in epic-scale terms for so many decades that it’s become difficult to perceive it locally or episodically. On Wired.com’s This Day in Tech blog, Jess McNally notes  that on this day 67 years ago, residents of Los Angeles initially suspected that the unseasonable eye-stinging haze descending on their city was a Japanese chemical attack:

As residents would later find out, the fog was not from an outside attacker, but from their own vehicles and factories. Massive wartime immigration to a city built for cars had made L.A. the largest car market the industry had ever seen. But the influx of cars and industry, combined with a geography that traps fumes like a big bowl, had caught up with Angelenos.

 
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Susan Morrow (left) and Linda Hawkins wipe tears from their eyes on a downtown street during a smoggy day in October 1964. Photo: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA Library
 
It took Arie Jan Haagen-Smit, a Dutch scientist working at the California Institute of Technology, to point that out, but that wasn’t until the early ‘50s. Although the term smog—a portmanteau of smoke and fog—was coined in the early 20th century, L.A. made it truly famous.

Check out Wired’s fascinating selection of photos from the UCLA Library depicting the Southland’s struggle against smog from the 1940s through the 1960s.

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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07.26.2010
11:32 pm
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Antony Sutton on Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler
09.15.2009
02:57 pm
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The late Prof. Sutton discusses the role of American corporations in providing the critical financing and expertise needed for the Third Reich. Inglorious bastards indeed!

(Wiki on Antony C. Sutton)

Posted by Jason Louv
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09.15.2009
02:57 pm
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