American film footage of the Second World War was captured primarily by motion picture cameramen assigned to Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard signal photographic units. While this footage was captured mainly in black and white, some combat cameramen shot large quantities of color footage.
Some people may be surprised to learn that 16mm color film of the 1940s offers resolution that rivals the quality of today’s high definition. Yet locating this footage for use in WWII in HD was often a challenge.
Many of these materials have changed hands over the years. They were in private collections or were donated to military museums—stored and forgotten.
Ultimately, the two-year, worldwide search paid off. Hundreds of hours were obtained of rarely- and never-seen footage, documenting activity in every theater of conflict for the war. Now they can be seen for the first time in decades, and in many cases, for the first time ever.
The material used for WWII in HD now represents one of the largest military film collections in the world. Footage in poor condition was painstakingly cleaned, digitally transferred, detail-logged and stored in preservation canisters. Even film in near-pristine condition could be improved (scratches removed, color corrected, detail enhanced) using modern technology.
The result is a treasure trove of unforgettable imagery, from pulse-pounding aerial combat sequences over Europe to heartwarming shots of a GI sharing water from his canteen with a frightened Japanese child to the truly chilling sight of Hitler playing with children and tousling their hair. It’s all there onscreen: history reassembled, history preserved.
With WWII in HD, HISTORY has created a vividly presented canvas that paints the definitive portrait of World War II.