8. Distributing Hollywood films to the troops was a military operation of considerable size
Getting the films from their libraries to the men deployed overseas offered considerable challenges to the services. For troops in training camps and garrisons, it was a relatively simple operation. For the troops at the fronts, and deployed in ships and islands across the Pacific, it was decidedly more difficult. Motion pictures flew in transport aircraft and bombers as they were shuttled to combat areas. On land, troop transports, cargo trucks, jeeps, and even command vehicles all carried films for the troops’ enjoyment. PT Boats, destroyers, minesweepers, and tenders distributed films to ships at sea. When ships encountered each other, including submarines meeting in their patrol areas, an exchange of movies occurred frequently. They even became a form of currency, a more recently released film, or one with bigger stars, exchanged at a higher rate than a Three Stooges short, or an older, less successful film.
Despite FDR’s initial announcement, World War II films produced throughout the war were censored. The severity of the defeat of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor remained a taboo subject throughout the war. Wake Island (1942) depicted the island’s fall to the Japanese, though not its surrender. Instead, the Marines went down fighting against insurmountable odds. And, though Hollywood did not convert to war production, by 1943 it faced restrictions in the budgets expended in new productions, partly due to wartime shortages. No expense was curtailed in distributing their products to the troops overseas. American’s watched movies from the Aleutians to the Southwest Pacific, aboard ships, in camps, and on the front lines throughout the war. Often, they watched films based on the jobs they themselves were doing, developed to encourage other Americans to join them.