Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Military News, War Coverage, Life Magazine and Airplanes!

The public has always clamored for news during times of conflict.  While access to that news could be considered a right, especially since the public is footing the bill and their elected officials authorized the funds to fight, it's no secret that the Military has shaped the narrative during wartime.   The earliest conflicts were only detailed after the termination of hostilities.  Thucydides was an observer of the Peloponnesian Wars and later wrote the history of the conflict- an account and a war so significant that it is required reading at our War Colleges.  Otherwise, history is written by the victors.

One of the first war correspondents documented the battles during the Crimean War (Oct 1853-Feb 1856), but these accounts usually took several weeks to publish after being written.  The telegraph was a big leap in battlefield reporting as it allowed daily reports to be filed and accounts could be written and published as they were unfolding.  The first use of the telegraph was during the Russo-Japanese War (Feb 1904-Sep 1905), but reports were highly censored and reporters heavily restricted.  WWI (Jul '14-Nov '18) also saw significant censorship, but some correspondents were given government authorization.  However, with that authority came government control over where they operated and what they saw.

During WWII, the public was given the most coverage of any event in the world's history up to that point, with a pressing need to receive support for the troops and the war effort in general.  However, the government provided most of the footage necessary to publicize the war, thereby heavily controlling both what and how the war was shown to the folks back home.  That footage in the form of Newsreels was one of the primary forms of news for much of America, shown prior to feature films in Movie Houses across the country.   These newsreels are considered important historical documents as they are often the only account of certain aspects of WWII.

How the newsreels depicted the war helped shape public opinion about our effort, how the enemy was depicted, and how many war bonds were sold.  It was not a hard sell however, and the public's appetite for war coverage was well fed.  These newsreels were kicked into overdrive once the war started, but newspapers and periodicals were there from the beginning of hostilities in Europe.  Life Magazine was one such publication that documented the events leading up to America's entrance into the war after Pearl Harbor.  War sold magazines like no other event, and the covers of Life showed a change from one war story every 3 or 4 weeks prior to Dec 7th, to practically every weekly cover throughout the rest of war.  You can see them here:

It wasn't just the covers of Life Magazine that showed the war.  The war was well documented in the pages of the magazine, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words- two thousand if it's a picture of airplanes!  There are hundreds of pictures here, but some of my favorites are below.

PBY off the Aleutians
Dauntless over the South pacific
Same Dauntless up close

More Dauntlesses
Helldivers in the overhead stack
Operation Torch
Luckily, there was no need to shape any narrative when it came to just showing awesome pictures of airplanes.  As the Commander of USCENTCOM ('03-'07), General John Abazaid said after the Abu Ghraib debacle, "The media is terrain."  I was planning on going into the current War on Terror, or whatever it's being called now (more narrative shaping), and how Strategic Communications affect both the enemies efforts and the public's perception, but I got distracted by all the pictures I found. That info would have been interesting material for this post, but it turned out to just be a good excuse to show some nice airplane photos, and I threw in some other history to make our gracious host happy.  I hope you enjoyed it.


  1. I always enjoy it when someone is made passionately happy, whatever the subject. I'm not as big an aviation geek as you and the various sergeants around these parts, but I take joy in your joy. Nice job!

    1. ...and the various sergeants around these parts...

      Us sarjints are in the minority in these parts, Jim. We're overrun with ossifers who used to drive airplanes. Or otherwise fly in 'em. ;-)

    2. I don't discriminate - ossifers, civvy-illians, sergeants and other ranks are all welcome here.

      Senior Non-Commissioned types are screened carefully. Sort of.

    3. ... are screened carefully. Sort of.

      Emphasis on the sorta bits. Otherwise... ?


    4. Ya never know what kinda riff-raff could wander in off the streets. Present company excepted of course.

  2. Great pics, and yes entirely DIFFERENT times... (and media)

    1. Thanks, but I just posted 'em. The Combat Cameraman gets the real credit. Here's another vid for you. The best part starts at 1:50 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaBeEP5Y018


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