Victory at Sea

The premier of this 26-part television documentary was Sunday afternoon, 3-3:30 pm, October 26, 1952. It was conceived and produced by Henry Salomon who had worked as a research assistant for Samuel Eliot Morison who was in the process of writing a 15-volume history of the Navy in World War II. Morison helped Salomon get Navy approval for the documentary, and that persuaded NBC chairman David Sarnoff, father of Salomon's Harvard classmate Robert Sarnoff, to finance the $500,000 cost of production. NBC recovered its cost later from sponsors, although in its first run no ads were allowed to be inserted in middle of the program, only at the beginning and end. The Navy would use the films for recruitment and training. NBC set up a special production unit in January 1951 and scoured 10 countries for motion picture film. Most of the film would come from Navy archives. "The first thing we had to do was set up an index system of 60,000 cards just to be able to figure out what film we could throw away. We had to eliminate 99.9% of the 60 million feet at our disposal" said Salomon. Each half hour show ended up with 2377 feet of actual film used. "The problem has not been to patch up film clips and run them through a projector. Our job has been to select and edit the film in such a way that the essence of various events is captured." Salomon emphasized feeling rather than fact. "Victory at Sea is an emotional understanding of what the war was all about in terms of Navy men who fought the battles" said director Clay Adams. It was a battle-centered history that focused on human drama. The basic formula for each episode was the drama of preparation, tense waiting, battle, loss, victory. The Broadway musical composer Richard Rodgers created the score: "It was something new for me since not words were involved in the music. I had to express a mood and even a picture with music. In this way the job has been challenging." The arrangements by Robert Bennett blended sound effects of natural elements such as crickets and frogs into the music, and airplane engines at F Sharp Minor matched the music score.


Produced by Henry Salomon
Written by Henry Salomon with Richard Hanser, based on the multivolume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison
Directed by M. Clay Adams
Music by Richard Rogers
Musical arrangement by Robert Russell Bennett conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra
Narrated by Leonard Graves
Edited by Isaac Kleinerman
Technical Advisor Capt. Walter Karig, U,S,N.
Film research by Daniel Jones and Douglas Wood
Television coordinator Robert W. Sarnoff

And Now . . .

TV Date Episode Subject
October 26, 1952 DESIGN FOR WAR Battle of the Atlantic, 1939-1941
November 2, 1952 THE PACIFIC BOILS OVER Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
November 9, 1952 SEALING THE BREACH Anti-submarine warfare, 1941-1943
November 23, 1952 MIDWAY IS EAST Japanese victories & the Midway Battle
November 30, 1952 MEDITERRANEAN MOSAIC Gibraltar, Allied & enemy fleets, Malta
December 14, 1952 GUADALCANAL Guadalcanal
December 21, 1952 RINGS AROUND RABAUL Struggle for the Solomon Islands
December 28, 1952 MARE NOSTRUM Mediterranean Command, 1940-1942
January 4, 1953 SEA AND SAND Invasion of North Africa, 1942-1943
January 11, 1953 BENEATH THE SOUTHERN CROSS War in the south Atlantic
January 18, 1953 MAGNETIC NORTH War from Murmansk to Alaska
January 25, 1953 THE CONQUEST OF MICRONESIA Carrier warfare--Gilberts and Marshalls
February 1, 1953 MELANESIAN NIGHTMARE New Guinea campaign
February 8, 1953 ROMAN RENAISSANCE Sicily and the Italian campaign
February 15, 1953 D-DAY Normandy
February 22, 1953 KILLERS AND THE KILLED Victory in the Atlantic, 1943-1945
March 1, 1953 THE TURKEY SHOOT Conquest of the Marianas
March 8, 1953 TWO IF BY SEA Peleliu and Angaur
March 15, 1953 BATTLE FOR LEYTE GULF Sea battle for Leyte Gulf
March 22, 1953 RETURN OF THE ALLIES Liberation of the Philippines
March 29, 1953 FULL FATHOM FIVE U.S. submarines, 1941-194
April 5, 1953 THE FATE OF EUROPE Black Sea, south of France, surrender
April 12,1953 TARGET SURIBACHI Iwo Jima
April 19, 1953 THE ROAD TO MANDALAY China, Burma, India, and Indian Ocean
April 26, 1953 SUICIDE FOR GLORY Okinawa
May 3, 1953 DESIGN FOR PEACE Surrender of Japan & aftermath of war
*table from Richard C. Bartone, "Victory At Sea," Film and History, 1991 p. 129.


Filmnotes | revised 12/10/02 by Schoenherr