Military Monday: The Big Picture

Sometimes you do an internet search and find something completely unexpected and better than what you were looking for in the first place.

That’s what happened the other day when I typed in “1950 map Ottumwa” – or something along those lines – and one of the returns was a link to the National Archives and Records Administration page titled The Big Picture: Ottumwa, U.S.A.

Hmmm…. a segment of a television series produced by the United States Army…. featuring my hometown.

As explained on the website of the Army Pictorial Center:

At the start of World War II, the U. S. Army acquired a defunct motion picture studio at 35th Avenue and 35th Street in Astoria, Long Island City, Queens, New York, taking over  in February 1942.  The studio became the Signal Corps Photographic Center, later Army Pictorial Center, home to filmmakers and still photographers who covered the war and who produced countless training films.

“The Big Picture” was the Army’s ground-breaking television series. The half-hour weekly program featured famous or before-they-were-famous actors and actresses in top quality productions, filmed on the Astoria stages…… The series covered a wide range of subjects, telling the Army’s story in history and in current events.

“The Big Picture” ran on ABC-TV from 1951-1964 and continued in syndication into the 1970s on local television stations. The series even won a couple of Oscars.

I’ll do a separate post on The Big Picture: Ottumwa, U.S.A. In the meantime, here are a couple of episodes that have a different focus than most of the series.

First up (since we are in the midst of the 2012 Olympics) is an episode titled Big Picture: Olympics, which highlights members of the military participating in the 1952 Olympics.

Next is another non-military military film – The Big Picture: Army Talent Show. If you ever watched The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry RFD, The Carol Burnett Show, or F Troop you’ll recognize one of the performers.

The National Archives and Records Administration has made individual episodes of The Big Picture available via Amazon and the Internet Archive, where they can be viewed or downloaded for free. Type “the big picture” in the search box and you will get results for available films. In addition, a catalog listing is available. You can find many of the films on Each episode is just under 30 minutes long.

I don’t remember The Big Picture. Do you?








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