The Big Picture: Nurses in the Army

In 1951, the United States Army created a television series called The Big Picture, which they would describe as “the official television report by the U. S. Army to its members and to the American people.” Episodes were made available at U. S. Army facilities around the world, as well as television stations across the United States and on armed forces television outlets overseas. The series aired on U. S. television as a public service. Months after their first airing, episodes were made available on 16mm film for public schools, public groups and professional and civic organizations.

Title sequence from The Big Picture. (Still from 111-TV-290.)

The Big Picture ran on American television for 20 years and over 600 episodes, making it among the longest running series on television. The show was both a document of the activities of the Army and a public relations vehicle for the Army to the general public.  

The bulk of The Big Picture came to the National Archives as part of the series 111-TV. In more recent years, some episodes came to the Archives from the Defense Visual Information Center (330-DVIC), now known as the Defense Image Management Operations Center (330-DIMOC). 

Nurses in the Army (111-TV-290), which originally aired in 1954, depicts the activities of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in the post-World War II/Korean War era.  The original release sheet for the film reads as follows:

Americans are well aware of the great and heroic achievements of United States Army nurses. In World War II and during the Korean War, the Army nurse went through great hardship in performance of her duty — the same dangers endured by the troops which she accompanied into combat. But relatively little has been reported of the Army nurse in peacetime. Yet, she still serves — not only in the States — but all over the world. THE BIG PICTURE gives television audiences some impression of the work of an Army nurse overseas. Not only her work will be shown, but how she spends her leisure time and sometimes what she thinks and feels.

The film opens in Korea, which is still recovering from the recent Korean War. It is a very different picture of the nation than the one presented in To Help Peace Survive some twenty years later. Here the work of the Army nurse is presented as a difficult but rewarding job helping to rebuild a war-torn nation. Following the scene Korea is a travelogue of the various Army medical facilities that an Army nurse may be assigned. It is in these sections that this film is not merely a document of the Army Nurse Corps, but it is also intended as a recruitment film for the Corps. The film emphasizes the opportunities for travel and leisure activities available to members of the Army Nurse Corps.

  • Army Nurses serving food to children orphaned by the Korean War.
  • An Army Nurse working with a Japanese Nurse.
  • An Army Nurse caring for an injured serviceman.
  • Off-duty Army Nurses taking in the sights.

 (Stills from Nurses in the Army. View the complete film in our online catalog.)

For further reading on The Big Picture, read The U.S. Army’s Syndicated Television Program “The Big Picture”, which I found useful in writing this post.