It’s Throwback Thursday!


Everybody does ‘throwback Thursday’ these days, so why not me.

I came across these quirky but interesting (for a topo geek and an airplane geek) video clips on YouTube and thought I’d share them.

First, a nod to our Air Force friends. From WWII right on through the 1980s the Army Topographic services relied on the US Air Force for wide-area mapping photography support. The Army did pick up some missions using its fixed-wing intel platforms like the venerable Grumman OV-1 Mohawk, but for the most part it was the Air Force (or the Air Force Reserves or Air National Guard) who handled the military requirements for mapping photography. You can read more about the USAF’s photomapping activities at the 1370th Photomapping Squadron’s history site. In fact, as late as 1994 in Panama we were tasking the Air Force to fly Furbish Breeze photo reconnaissance missions over key areas of Ecuador and Peru for cartographic map updates and terrain study development. Furbish Breeze wasn’t a mapping camera system, but it was the best we had available at the time and the Air Force was happy to fly for us.

Let’s start with 1961 and British Guiana. This looks like a home movie shot without sound and it depicts the mundane routine of supporting photomapping missions in British Guiana (today’s Belize). I’m guessing this mission was being run in support of the IAGS. This is the 1370th Squadron in action:

Next, let’s move to Vietnam. Here’s a video showing 1370th operations out of Tuy Hoa Airbase in South Vietnam in 1968. The Army Topographic services had a huge mapping mission in Vietnam – most of the original mapping of the country had been done by the French pre-WWII and was badly outdated by the time US forces got heavily involved in the conflict. Army Topographic units had to re-map the entire country at all scales, and had to do it fast. We relied very heavily on mapping photography provided by the 1370th:

Honestly I have little or no idea what these guys are doing inside the aircraft during flight. I get the general idea that they are checking in with HIRAN ground stations and monitoring camera operations, but that’s about it. If there are any USAF photomapping veterans out there who’d like to provide some insight into what’s going on in the videos please chime in!

Next, it’s something for the Squids (sorry, I couldn’t resist). These videos don’t depict mapping or charting activities, but they are interesting snapshots of photo intelligence activities.

The first video is a short clip showing what I assume is a photo interpretation team aboard an aircraft carrier reviewing stereo photos during WWII:

Next is a formally produced video made during WWII showing the importance of aerial photo reconnaissance in the Pacific Theater. Beyond the ‘mom & pop homefront’ scenes at the beginning and end of the video it’s actually pretty good. And hang in to the end to see Navy Commander R.S. Quackenbush discussing the importance of photo reconnaissance and take note of the stereoscopes and aerial photography neatly arrayed on his desk for dramatic emphasis:

Thanks for watching!

– Brian

One thought on “It’s Throwback Thursday!

  1. I have the answers as to what was going on in the aircraft. I will be happy to share with you. Please contact me – I don’t know where this comment will go.

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