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One of many survival films made during WWII, Castaway shows simple skills that can be used in the event of an emergency. Reel 1 (featured here) shows how to survive a bail-out from an aircraft over the ocean, inflation of a life raft, and navigation to a safe harbor. Along the way are lessons about distilling water and shark repellant. Reel 2 shows survival on a tropical island typical of those found in the Pacific Theater of the war.

Produced by Willard Pictures for the Bureau of Aeronautics in 1944, “Castaway” is a black-and-white film that opens with the sounds of aerial dogfight and a pilot parachuting from his aircraft. “You gave ‘em a big dose of good ol’ American lead. Then that Jap sneaked up and got you from behind,” a voice-over explains at mark 00:45. Now that pilot is headed for the water, “to set up housekeeping in the long, green drink.”

What follows is a dramatic “How To” for any World War II pilot who found himself unfortunate enough to have been shot down. After safely landing in the water, our pilot recalls how to properly inflate his life raft and climbs in (as the narrator chastises his technique and reminds the pilot — and the audience — of the proper way to enter a raft. The majority of the film is set on the water, and at mark 04:45 the stranded pilot begins to take inventory of his survival kit. After consulting the kit’s map at mark 06:15 and trying to calculate his position, our pilot attempts to head for land but a shift in the wind direction stymies his plan and he decides to rest.

Morning comes at mark 08:20, and the pilot must contend with sunburn, a parched throat, hunger, and seemingly diminishing chances of rescue. “But there’s food and drink in the ocean,” the narrator reminds us at mark 11:55. “Try that first and keep the rations as a last resort. A fishing expedition proves successful and at mark 14:13 the downed pilot is reminded that the meat will provide nutrition and the fish juice will save his water supply. The sound of an aircraft lifts his spirits at mark 18:45 as he breaks out a sea marker from his kit but it was an unsuccessful attempt (a splice conceals the subsequent events) and at mark 19:00 our pilot is in the middle of stormy seas as a storm passes — only to have a wave tip over his raft and he loses some of his supplies. The site of a dry island at mark 21:19 gives him renewed hope and he eventually comes ashore and a search for fresh water begins.

This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD. For more information visit


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