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Following is the official OnlineBookClub.org review of “The Ministry Communications Unit” by Gordon Smith.
Review by e-tasana-williams
Remember the old newsreels that used to play in theatres before the feature film was shown? In The Ministry Communications Unit: It didn’t happen, but it could have!, author Gordon Smith transports readers back to movie theatre during World War II, and allows the viewer of the newsreel to step through the projector screen into the reality of the crew creating the films.
The story centres around a specialised film propaganda unit (the first of its kind in Australia) assembled to create short films with the goal of relieving fears of a Japanese attack on Australia. The shorts were designed to help prevent mass exodus from the northeastern coastal cities and, as a by-product, convince the Japanese that this area would be too difficult to infiltrate to be worth their effort. The need to allay fears grew from the Japanese bombing of nearby Singapore, and the fact that trade agreements between Australia and Japan prior to the war gave Japan intimate knowledge of shipping channels into Brisbane.
The film unit adopted the name (defence) Ministry Communications Unit, later abbreviated to the MCU. Their headquarters was located in Brisbane, a strategic location on the northeast coast of Australia. Brisbane was also the headquarters of the allied forces in the South Pacific, with the U.S. General Douglas MacArthur in the lead. The propaganda unit started with six members tasked with producing films as well as magazine and newspaper articles and later grew into several teams. The book is set in several Australian locales, but mainly in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra. The reader is also taken to London, Los Angeles and San Francisco as the story progresses. It was interesting to read about media production during WWII. Although this was a work of fiction, there are actual historical elements included.