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Colonel Melvin E. Gillette, the "architect of Military Pictorial Service" organized and direct Fort Monmouth's first training Film Field Unit in 1937 and the first Training Film Production Laboratory in 1940.
When the laboratory was moved to Long Island City, New York, in 1942 and was incorporated into the new Signal Corps Photographic Center, Long Island City, New York, Colonel Gillette became the Center's first commanding officer.
Colonel Gillette was born in Berwick, Illinois, on Nov. 15, 1892. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree from Des Moines (Iowa) College, he served with the Iowa National Guard, first on the Mexican Border and, with the outbreak of World War I, with the Guard's Quartermaster Corps.
In 1920 he received a Regular Army commission in the Infantry and served for the ensuing nine years as an Infantry officer. Three of those nine years were spent in the Canal Zone.
His Signal career started in 1929 when he transferred to the Signal Corps. He became immersed in the Corp's Pictorial Branch and studied motion picture production methods in Hollywood, headed the Signal Corps Photographic Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and was actively engaged in the production of military educational film before organizing the field film unit at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
Gillette served as the Army pictorial representative on General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Allied Headquarters staff in North Africa and as photographic officer with the Fifth Army in Italy under General Mark Clark. He was decorated with the Legion of Merit for his service with the Fifth Army for "planning and establishing an effective photographic system to cover the Allied operations in Italy." His citation states further:
"His filming of special motion picture sequences and rapid distribution of photographic news events to the United States was a tribute to (his) brilliance in the field of photography and organization ."
In 1945 he served as pictorial officer for MIDPAC and later as deputy signal officer and chief signal officer, AFMIDPAC.
He returned to San Francisco in January 1947, suffered a heart attack that July and died on September 11, 1947.
Colonel Gillette also held the Bronze Star for his service with MIDPAC, the World War I and II Victory Medals, the World War I Mexican Border Service Medal and several campaign ribbons.
In 1948, the Pictorial Center of the Presidio, San Francisco was dedicated in his memory and named the Gillette Pictorial Center. Colonel Gillette is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.