Film: 3490

War + Military | 1940 | Sound | B/W


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World War Two air raid warden in the U.S.A. Dramatised training film. Includes excellent simulated air attack on the USA 1940's

A man in a suit and hat walks jauntily down a sunny suburban street, past gardens with white picket fences and nice houses. The narrator begins "This is a short story about John Smith, or Jim Jones, or yourself, call him George Johnson, well thought of by his neigbours, crazy about his kids, all in all a substatial citizen…" George at home, having dinner with his family, seated at the head of the table between his wife and daughter, George carves a bird, "…not so long ago you would have found George at the head of the table with his family about to pitch in on one of those big meals that makes the whoel world envy our American standard of living…" his wife passes a plate down to their son at the other end of the table. "…but now, like all of us, George Johnson's life has changed…" the family dinner fades away to be replaced with an empty chair where George was sitting. "…most of these nights his chair is empty, but he has an excuse that any wife in the land would understand…" the camera zooms out to see a slightly more subdued family sitting around the table for dinner, and his wife carving the meat instead. "…George Johnson is no longer an average man…". The scene fades away into a dramatic and ominous sky, with military aircraft flying in its skies. An aerial view of the land far below as missiles are dropped. "Sunday Dec 7th 1941 at Pearl Harbour they deliver total war to all Americans…" A sunken ship billowing out smoke.
George Johnson marching down his local street with pride "…which is why George Johnson is more than an average man today, for in his hands lies the responsibility of the very lives of his neigbours, George Johnson, air raid warden, has completed 42 hours of training…" He walks jauntily up a garden path to the front door of a house and rings on the door bell, a middle aged woman answers and he asks her questions about her family, the narrator explains that as part of Johnson's work, he visits his neigbours and records who is at each property so he can provide better help should he need to. Johnson visiting a family, he stands in their dining room demonstrating how to use a blackout curtains on a window.
"…he worked out a plan for distributing equipment and tools throughout the sector so that enough would be available for his fire watchers and later checked out to see if all of this equipment was in place…" Johnson leaving a house, followed by another man, they walk into a garage to inspect a pile of buckets, hoses and shovels and then head off to check the owner's attic. Piles of newspapers, camera zooms out to see Johnson and the home owner and his wife standing in their attic, surrounded by newpapers, he outlines his concerns about the comobustable materials they are storing up there.
George back on a sunny street, striding past front gardens, white picket fences and trees. "…now George has learned an important thing about his neigbours, we American's are a funny breed, we don't co-operate very readily when you try and push us around with a show of authority, on the other hand, when you ask with a smile, we'll contribute every time and effort for the protection of our community. Johnson in a family's basement, the owner guides the way down the cellar stairs into the room they've made into their air raid room, Johnson explains that no room is completely safe from a direct bomb hit but it needs to shelter them from shrapnel and glass, they walks through to a second room which has been adapted for the purpose. The little boy draws attention to his dog, Bozo's, new dog house in the corner of the room. Bozo emerges from his little home.
George Johnson walking down a dusty path between two clapboard houses, one of them has a veranda. "…the defence of the sector is on a voluntary basis, and it's up to George ot see that the countless tasks are carried out efficiently and as quickly as possible…" He enters a workshop to visit a man in an apron working at a bench, the young man has made street signs for each sector.
Night time on a street, looking towards one of the street signs we've just seen on the work bench in its final place, wardens in helmets walk together down the dark street. "…By this time several weeks have passed, George has selected and trained his assistant wardens to share his duties and take his place if the need arises. He has obtained the use of a strongly constructed room in the corner of the school basement and has equipped it with all of the items listed in the air raid warden's handbook…" The men decend basement stairs, one of them removes his helmet as they chat to each other. Outside, another group of assistant wardens arrive at the school - one man and two women. They walk down the same basement stairs, they report to George about their recent activities, behind them are posters including 'Men working Together', the women sit down at a table while the others remain standing. George addresses the group and one particular warden with his helmet still on about the proceedure to follow should there be a gas attack - a yellow warning, George gets out a clacker from a cupboard and gives it to the man befire they walk over to a map to discuss what his responibilites are in his sector.
Bomber aircraft flying through a cloudy sky, the sound of their engines emmanating through the scene. On the ground, a man stands just outside a door looking up into the sky through binoculars, he runs into the building to make a call to the air raid warden's premises. A close-up of a different phone ringing, the young woman from the last scene picks up the receiver, shse tells the wardens around her "It's the yellow warning." and they snap into action, George hands out gas masks to the others and puts one on himself, the camera moves back to the woman on the phone.
The wardens out on a dark street, a lamp provides a dim light, one of the wardens knocks on the door of a house. Inside, an elderly woman sits at a table, she looks up "yes?" As she gets up, we realise she is blind and she makes her way to the door, listening to the knocks, she opens the door to Betty Smith who enters rather abruptly, she gently tells the woman off for leaving her lamps on when there's a blackout on, the old woman looks slightly surprised "no ownder my light bills are so high" and she turns the light switch off on the wall, plunging them into darkness. "Mrs Jones will be over to stay with you right away Grandma Blake."
Close-up on the elderly lady "Don't you worry about me Betty, I got through three Indian raids and still kept ma'scalp, so I ain't gonna worry about no air raid at my age." Betty smiles "Goodnight Grandma Blake!"
An air raid siren tower, the sound blares out. Another view of the siren tower. A girl runs across a dark street stright into one of the wardens with a bump "Just a minute, where are you going young lady?"
Close-up on the girls panic striken face "Home! You better get off the street Mr, there's an air raid!"
Close-up of the warden in his helmet " I know, I'm the air raid warden" - he shines a torch in her face - "hey, you're Mary Kelly aren’t you?"
Close up on Mary "Yes."
"Everybody has to keep off the streets during an air raid Mary, you go back to mrs MaCees house and I'll see that your mother knows where you are." She runs off back down the road. George is then bumped into from the otherside, a teenage boy warden, he tells the boy to notify the girls mother where she is.
The narrator starts speaking again as we see several cars parked on a dark street, their metallic finish glinting. " One of the air raid warden's most important duties is to see that the streets of his sector are kept clear for the passage of emergencies, a traffic jam under black out conditions might mean a shocking loss of property and even human lives." Three civilian men talk with each other by the side of a road, an air raid warden comes up behind them just as they are saying how pointless they think all the fuss is about with black out precautions, a loud noise makes him jump and cling to the warden, he tells them they are ante-aircraft guns, he tells them angrily to move their cars to the side of the road and they do so apologetically.
Ante-aircraft guns shooting into the sky. Large air raid lamps projecting into the sky. View from below of aeroplanes flying overhead. Close-up of a lamp. Light sparks as a gun fires, the sound of enemy aircraft booming in the distance. Close-up of the aircraft dropping missiles, they whistle as they decend. The exterior of a house, its windows are illuminated, women's voices can be heard as they run from the building. George runs to a telephone in an air raid warden's premises. Close-up as he informs the control centre of the bombs that have just dropped. A woman's hand writes ona pad of paper at the other end, the camera zooms out to see two telephonists sitting at a station with headsets on, she passes the paper to a boy waiting nearby and he runs off with it. In a room next door he passes the paper to an elderly man sitting behind a desk smoking a pipe who looks at the paper and gives it back to the by who appears to be wearing a scouts uniform. He enters another room with seated gentlemen and gives the paper to them. One of the men says "It's your job Steve." And Steve picks up a telephone receiver. A fire engine races out of its house. Two air raid wardens run to each other, one of them is George, a burning house is out of shot "We tried to stop it but it's too big for us!" The fire engine arrives. Two wardens on a roof, surrounded by air raid lamps shining up into the sky. A bomber in the sky. A closer view of its pilot behind goggles, a number of shots between him and the missile carrier show more bombs have been dropped. The two air raid wardens on the roof again, they look behind them as they hear an explotion. An increasing loud whistle "duck Joe it's a big one!" they crouch down. A longer distance shot of a house completely demolished by the incendiary. The two wardens emerge from behing a brick parapet and look towards the damage. "looks like Bill Martin's place." George Johnson back in his phone booth notifying the control centre of the complete destruction of a dwelling.
A dark street and the arrival of a van. The narrator - "It is the warden's job to take charge of all bombing incidents and direct all operations until he is relieved by a [?] officer, the first unit to arrive from the control centre is the rescue squad…" George directs them to where he know the family's shelter was made in the basement. They rush to remove debris from the wreckage as george Johnson takes control of the situation. Fade as they have constructed a tent under which they can work safely with light. The air raid siren goes off again and they all pause. They call out through a wall "Is anybody there?" And a small voice replies. The warden with the clacker from earluier enters the tent where the men are working and asks if he can do anything to help, George directs him next door. The wardens get to the basement door where the family are and break the door down. Inside the room, we see the wardens enter, the floor is covered in debris and a woman and a man are sitting in one corner. A closer view of the woman who tearfully exclaims that "Dad's hurt pretty bad get him out as quick as you can!" The man is lying next to her. The warden directs his colleagues to take the boy and dog out. We see them crouched, alive and unharmed, in another corner. Mrs Martin kisses her husband as she walks out of the basement and the dog and child are liften out. The warden leans over Mr Martin who is clearly very badly hurt but putting a brave face on it.
Day time, a man in a white jacket stands outside an ambulance parked next to the wreckage, he walks towards the hole where two paramedics are emerging with Mr Martin on a stretcher between them. George comforts him about taking care of his family as he is carried by. George stands and watches as the doors are closed on the white vehicle and it drives away.
Narrator - "Yes the bombers have come and gone but your work must still go on, you inspect the sector to see that everything's in order and then make your report to the control centre." George walks up the road. Fade to his arrival at another destination, he walks over long hoses being carried by and adresses a fire captain standing nearby, they lean casually on the side of a truck, George is still tired and dirty from the night's events, they talk and he walks off again. The narraor continues as George walks proudly, as he did at the start of the film but in his warden's iniform, down a sunny suburban street "…and these are the men who only yesterday were saying 'what can I do?' George Johnson here, or Jim Jones, or yourself, thousands of you, few people to realise how long and hard your job is - danger, no sleep, no compensation. But in your heart you know you've found the real meaning of those lines they made you memorise in the eighth grade, the lines that said 'that this government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.' "

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