By Ellie Cook
In the February 3, 1944, issue of The Utah Chronicle, students were invited to attend a campus screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary The War Department Report. The film was originally released to a small number of military personnel on December 7, 1943, by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS). It was directed by Oliver L. Lundquist; David Zablodowsky was credited as the writer, Carl Marzani as producer, Richard Lyford as editor. It was narrated by Walter Huston. (IMBD)
Director Lundquist was described by the Central Intelligence Agency as “a talented architect and industrial designer” who worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s predecessor during World War II. Lundquist also created the logo for the United Nations as well as the one for Q-tips.
The documentary’s project began after a report was made by Major General George V. Strong on “The Strength of the Axis Forces.” The documentary included obtained footage taken of allies by the Germans, Italians, and Japanese. One segment of the film included “startling shots of the Pearl Harbor raid, taken from [Jap] planes.” (“New War Film”)
The American Film Institute notes that the film “marked the first time in history that the high command of the American armed forces made an official report to the country on the strength of the enemy.”
Originally the film was intended to remain “a restricted government film” and was “destined chiefly to be displayed before war plant workers.” (“Cary Grant”) However, it was later publicly released, which eventually earned the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
The War Department Report is still viewed today, primarily used in military training. The OSS is highly praised for the film’s exposure of the war. Katz writes, “Through their pioneering experiments in the visual display of information … in service of the War Crimes trials … they left a small but indelible mark on history.” The film is kept today in the Academy Film Archives.
Leroy E. Cowles, the University of Utah’s president at the time, described the film as containing some of the “finest combat scenes ever photographed by army or navy cameramen.” In a Utah Chronicle story published in 1944, he highly encouraged professors who had classes at the same time of the on-campus screening to make arrangements in order to allow students to attend the viewing, which was held at Kingsbury Hall on February 3. The viewing included a display of “captured enemy pictures” as well as the film’s screening. (“Impromptu”)
Today, free screenings of recent films remain available to University of Utah students. However, the 1944 viewing of War Department Report stands out among many because students were able to see in real time the reality of the war via footage from the enemy’s perspective. The film is still highly acclaimed today and remains an important asset for military training purposes.
Major General George V. Strong, “The Strength of the Axis, delivered before the House of Representatives on 20 October 1943 and before the Senate on 21 October 1943.”
War Department Report. Oliver L. Lundquist, director. United States: U.S. Office of Strategic Services, 1943.
“Cary Grant, McCarey Team on Comedy Plans … ‘War Department Report’ Gives Pessimistic Outlook,” Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1943, 8.
“Impromptu War Film Showing at U,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 2, 1944, 8.
“New War Film Shown In S.F.,” San Francisco Examiner, February 2, 1944, 7.
“Students see War Pictures,” Utah Chronicle, February 3, 1944, 1.
“Documentary (Feature Subject),” The 16th Academy Awards.
Katz, Barry. “The Arts of War: ‘Visual Presentation’ and National Intelligence,” Design Issues 12, no. 2 (Summer 1996): 3–21.
“The OSS Architect Who Designed the UN Logo,” Central Intelligence Agency, June 23, 2017.
War Department Report, IMDB.
War Department Report, American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films.