Various (Fort Lewis, WA and The Pacific Theatre): [ca. 1941-1944]. Four reels of 8mm film stock. Majority color, with some black and white. Approximately 800ft. total. Metal reels in two-piece outer cans. Cans with etched titles and dates and mounted labels. Stock clean, playback clear. Very good overall. A preliminary digitization of the films is available. Item #19803
Freshly-discovered 8mm color film footage of World War II service, shot by Montana-native Charles W. Hash (b. 26 May 1910, d. 26 Feb 1998) of the 41st Infantry Division. Spread across four, approximately 200-foot reels of film (totaling some 45 mintues), the action covers Hash’s stateside training at Fort Lewis and combat duty with the 41st in Australia (near Rockhampton), Hollandia, New Guinea, Biak, and The Philippines. Highlights include: the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Biak, with soldiers walking around the smoldering ruins of bombed villages; ground advancement and rural airstrip scenes of The Philippines, with views of period planes, nose art, and the like; a beach landing and other troop and operations maneuvers; soldiers climbing among the wreckage of several crashed combat planes; intimate and candid footage of fellow soldiers drinking, eating, cooking, bathing, and shaving; and extended scenes of Pacific-Island natives. The second of the four reels could be mistaken for more pedestrian tourist scenes of Australia, though the remaining three are all of service footage, with majority of that in-theater. Throughout, Hash displays a strong cinematic eye: filming, for example, the advance of ships (presumably toward action in the Philippines) through an unusual vantage point tucked behind a ship’s rope, with the sea and ships in a soft focus. He often seems to be constructing scenes and/or directing others to either humorous or, in the case of a young Filipino woman, alluring effect. And the footage is creatively titled using homemade screens of white pegboard letters laid over a standard G.I. wool blanket to mark dates, locations, and settings. He was clearly an avid hobbyist, with a strong documentarian instinct that belies what must have been his normal day-to-day responsibilities. Hash enlisted in the Army in 1930, served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — earning multiple decorations, including the Silver Star for actions in the Papuan Campaign. He was commissioned as a captain during WWII, commanding Company H (a rifle division) of the 163rd Infantry Regiment of the Montana National Guard. He later commanded the entire Army Reserve Forces of Northern California, and retired a Colonel in 1965. Despite his clear interest and skill, we find no evidence that Hash was officially involved in film at any point in his long and distinguished military career. Therefore, the footage here offered represents an unfiltered, vernacular look into the daily lives of ordinary combat soldiers. This is especially noteworthy because strict censorship regarding photography was in place during the War. And while many GIs captured snapshots of combat and wartime service, only a handful of similar moving picture footage is known. A motion picture camera would have been much more difficult to conceal than a standard film camera (though Hash’s advanced rank perhaps made this less of an issue) and shooting in color would have been both prohibitively expensive and techincally difficult for most soldiers of the era. Indeed, it wasn't until the 1990s, when dramatic 16mm European Theatre footage shot by Hollywood director-turned-G.I. George Stevens was discovered, that color film of the war by Allied forces was even known to exist (this footage was later condensed into a short documentary, GEORGE STEVENS: D-DAY TO BERLIN). Since then, several troves of official color footage have emerged. The National Archives holds thousands of reels of news and officially captured footage of the War, much of it mined for the recent, epic documentaries THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN COLOUR (1999) and THE WAR (2007). And in 2016, the Marine Corp unearthed and subsequently donated a large collection of sanctioned color war films to the University of South Carolina for preservation. Nevertheless, primary, soldier-level film is almost unheard of. Indeed, at the time Stevens' was thought to be the only soldier-shot, wartime color footage known; and only a handful of later discoveries, including a trove of German-shot film, seem to have surfaced since. As Stevens' son said in the wake of the discovery of his father's footage: "World War II was a black-and-white war. That's how we see it. That's how we saw it. And suddenly to see it in colour, it just took on a whole other dimension." Skillfully and intimately captured, Hash's footage vividly documents the ground-level reality of wartime soliders in the tropics. Quite possibly the only entirely amateur WWII color footage by an American soldier extant. Rare, important, and worthy of preservation, prominent institutional placement, and further study.