Nihls J. Dahl remembers his GI service at Army Pictorial Center like this:
Okay, I was at APC from 1964 to 1966 and was a sound man on a field crew that did live sync sound. There wasn't much going at during that period - no neat overseas jobs that the civilians wanted. They preferred Europe. So I got to go on all the overseas film jobs. When the Army Material Command was created, the big boss wanted a movie about its responsibilities. That meant a trip to Turkey - to bases that I still can't talk about - and around the USA - to Tobyhanna, PA, Letterkenny Arsenal in Pa, the Army's boat storage depot in Atlanta, Georgia, and the mothballed storage for tanks - with shots of the famous amphibious vehicle that never got built, Omaha, Nebraska, Corpus Christi in Texas (helicopter repair), etc.
Another trip was to make a pr film about the resettlement of North Vietnamese refugees in the South. That called for a trip to South Vietnam and for a live on location guest - John Wayne in person. What a thrill - being one foot from John as he read his script and I ran the recorder. John wanted to see if "Green Berets" could be shot partly on location. He decided that it was "too damn hot."
This pr film is the ONLY APC film in history to feature end title credits for the crew - which included me and some others. As I recall, the crew for the John Wayne pr film job was James Downey (SP-6) and a sergeant whose name escapes me, and the live sound guys were Frederick Groen and Nils J. Dahl Jr. First Lieutenant Pak was our liason officer. Arriflex self-blimping - probably 16 mm - with Neopilotone sync sound generator that fed a Nagra reel-to-reel portable studio machine - which I got to carry most of the time. Heavy. Swiss made. Nice. RCA lavalier microphones. Our team visited several units for pickup shots - 101st Airborne, etc. Funniest thing I ever saw - this perfect New England wooden church erected in the middle of rice paddies as a part of the refugee support. No a/c of course - heck, no electricity.
On the return trip, we got to stop in Honolulu for a week. Nice. Our flight home had John Wayne in first class.
Not many people know that John Wayne was in South Vietnam or even that such a film was made.
One day at the airbase outside Saigon, they handed me a Graflex 70 mm rangefinder and told me to get into town for pictures. A car bombing. I never could watch "Good Morning, Vietnam" all the way through. You just don't know what the real thing looks like.
Another job was to film General William Westmoreland in his MACV office - a Thanksgiving message to the folks at home. No credits on that one. But I got to shake his hand. Gee.
Things being so slow, I got sent tdy (temporary duty) to Mercury, Nevada, to work in the Army photo team shooting nuclear devices there. In the desert, there are no people. What a place.
And there were other places, people who were unique, and so on.
Mostly, I spent my time taking the subway to Times Square to get free tickets to shows. And I went from Private to SP-5 during my stay at APC - not bad.
What a history - and I missed most of it. The only "name" shipped to APC when I was there was this kid who played the son on The Rifleman tv series, Johnny Crawford. But I do remember Norman E. Parkhurst - Sgt E-5 - a wonderful friend and the film vault custodian during my stay at APC. Norm gave me rides home and back every weekend - to central Connecticut.
Yes, Johnny Crawford - arrived a few weeks before I got out. Pleasant kid. Good at rope twirling.
Also, as a lowly military soundman, I spent most of my time trucking rolls of
film from the rerecording room in the basement to the film processing building
next door. I fondly recall the days in that basement room full of 35 mm
sound machines, joining in the shout of 'throw
Before I left, the electronics hobby room in the basement of the troop barracks closed up. Can't recall if the photo lab was still in operation. I didn't visit the NCO club even once. Things were almost dead even in late 1966. But I can honestly say that the civilians at APC were the nicest group of people I have ever worked with, true professionals at all times, and always helpful.
Lots of memories, most of them very nice ones. The corner store run by Lebanese where we always got sandwiches and a smile.