Sixty years ago, October 26, 1952, was a Sunday. At 3:00 PM in the afternoon, the new NBC Television Network broadcast the first episode of a show that many of their senior executives thought would be an expensive disaster, costing the then astronomical amount of $500,000. It was to be a 26 part documentary and had taken a long time to assemble from over 60 million feet of raw film. It was the pet project of Henry Salomon, who was working with Samuel Eliot Morison on his multi- volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Salomon convinced his Harvard college classmate, Robert Sarnoff, a junior NBC executive, that it was a worthwhile project. Robert's father, David, was Chairman of RCA, the owner of NBC.
Worried about the huge cost overrun (and red ink), some NBC Executives called it "Victory in Red". That's why they chose the middle of a Sunday afternoon to show it; they were sure no one would watch it. But the program "Victory at Sea", a huge success which ran in weekly installments through May, 1953, won an Emmy award in 1954 as best public affairs program, and a Peabody Award, which recognizes distinguished and meritorious public service by radio and television stations. And it all began 60 years ago Friday.
Some of the scenes in Victory at Sea were post war staging. Appropriate footage was used where possible, but the right illustrative scenes were sometimes not available.
As an example, I noticed this (since I am a submarine modeler) in the episode "Full Fathom Five" . The fleet boat shots mostly have painted hull & fairwater numbers (not present during the war) and the late war 5/25 inch guns. Since submarines went out on patrol largely alone, there weren't many good shots of them underway at sea for the program. So, a fair number of the scenes in this episode are indeed staged. But, then again, this is early 1950's television.
On the other hand, there are some scenes that are gems. (Pay attention Jeff Porteous!) There is some brief footage of a Gato (around 11 minutes in on the History Channel DVD) class boat with two officers on the bridge (this Gato boat still has deadlights and an enclosed bridge conning station). The officer on the right is George Grider, and I believe it is Roger Paine on the left. Two scenes later there is an officer on deck clapping his hands and urging his men on. That officer is Dudley Morton, which leads me to believe we are almost certainly looking at footage of Wahoo. Wahoo was one of the early leaders in sinkings under Morton, and two of his junior officers were George Grider (later to command tonnage sunk leader Flasher) and Richard O'Kane (of the legendary Tang). Wahoo and Morton were lost in September, 1943 in the LaPerouse Straits.
Dudley Morton- 1936
Richard O'Kane and Dudley Morton