In August, an e-mail came to motion picture archivist Carol Swain’s inbox asking about a World War II training film called Security on the March. Richard Herde contacted the Motion Picture unit looking for information about a film his 100-year-old uncle, Corporal Lloyd Heller, had helped make while serving as a tanker in the United States Army. As luck would have it, Heller remembered the exact title of the film, which made it much easier to find, and a beautiful 35mm negative was preserved here at the National Archives. The motion picture preservation lab scanned Security on the March and made a DVD so that Heller could view the film for the first time in over 70 years.
Security on the March (1943) is an instructional film that teaches viewers the safest way to evade detection while traveling in tanks. For example, a tanker should never leave his goggles on the top of his head during the day, or light a cigarette at night. Either could lead to discovery by planes flying overhead.
We do not hold a production file for Security on the March, but Lloyd Heller filled in some of the details about how the film was made. His own involvement began when he and another soldier were the first to finish a grueling hike while in training at Camp Cooke in California. The two were given the option of two plum assignments: running the Golden Gate Bridge marathon or making a training film in Hollywood. The two men rolled dice, agreeing that whoever rolled the higher number would get to choose. Heller rolled an eleven, and said that “of course” he chose Hollywood.
What followed were 28 “long, hot” days on the Warner Brothers lot, with Heller serving as gunner in the command tank. While we never see him on film, Heller’s tank is the third in the column. Heller and the rest of the soldiers working on the production lived in a tent city on the Warner Brothers lot for the month of July. While there, he was able to see Hollywood and spotted several movie stars.
Lloyd Heller’s photographs from the production of Security on the March
(Courtesy of Richard Herde)
After completing the film, Lloyd Heller shipped out to Europe, where he earned three battle stars as a member of the 6th Armored Division, 68th Tank Battalion. He participated in the invasion of Normandy, and received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Seige of Bastogne, during the Battle of the Bulge. He spent seven months in the hospital, and was released the day after the war ended.
See Lloyd Heller speaking about his war experience in this television interview. Thank you to Mr. Heller and Richard Herde, who contacted us and answered our questions about the film.
*Updated 11/11/2016 with addition pictures from the production of the film.