Prelude to War| (52:21) Chapter I describes World War II as a battle between the "slave world" of fascism and the "free world" of American liberty. In the "slave world," the entire populations of Germany, Italy and Japan have been hoodwinked by madmen, opportunists who capitalized on their people's desperation and weakness to rise to power. These demagogues promised revenge for past losses, and in the process convinced their people to give up their rights and accept dictatorship. In the "free world," the principles of equality, freedom, and liberty characterize the greatest leaders, embodied in the works and words of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. This freedom is a threat to the fascist dictators of the Axis powers, who claim that democracy is weak and must be eradicated. The film claims that the ultimate goal of the Axis powers is to enslave the nations of the "free world," a desire made manifest in the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and Mussolini's destruction of Ethiopia.Other War Films also made by Capra
The Nazis Strike| (42:32) Chapter II summarizes Adolph Hitler's plan for world conquest and Germany's full scale preparation in pursuit of this end. While the Nazis plead poverty and pacifism, they spend incredible amounts of money to prepare a war machine of unparalleled strength and destructive capability. While Hitler assures the other leaders of the world he has no interest in promoting National Socialism, he begins "softening up" future target nations by sponsoring local Nazi organizations in other countries. The film explains that the key to Germany's world conquest is the occupation of central Russia, a heartland rich in natural resources. Hitler begins his march in this direction by annexing Austria and part of Czechoslovakia. With these new territories, he now possesses a massive front against Poland, which he invades and conquers within three weeks. After the invasion of Poland, Britain and France declare war on Germany, which then signs a non-aggression pact with the Soviets so Hitler can re-focus his energy against his enemies to the west.
Divide and Conquer| (56:23) Chapter III begins with Britain and France's declaration of war on Germany after Hitler's invasion of Poland. The film covers the Nazi capture of Denmark and Norway, steps necessary to mount a future attack on Britain, then describes in detail Hitler's strategy as he conquers Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Special attention is paid to Nazi atrocities. Dead and injured children are shown en masse and the film explains how the bombing of Rotterdam leads to "thirty thousand men, women and children killed in ninety minutes." The narrator tells how the Luftwaffe bombs small villages so that refugees clog the highways, and how it uses precision machine gun fire to herd the survivors toward the allied armies, who find their progress severely constrained as a result. An American military officer details the Nazi plan for an invasion of France, which Hitler conquers in just over a month. The Germans bludgeon the French armies into surrender, then "enslave" much of the local population to service the German military regime.
The Battle of Britain| (52:12) Chapter IV begins after Hitler's conquest of Western Europe. Once firmly in control of the parts of France and Norway closest to Great Britain, the Nazis commence their massive air assault on the British isles. Outnumbered six to one, the fighters of the Royal Air Force defend their skies against the Luftwaffe for close to four months. Capra embellishes the British successes, for example the film claims the RAF fought 200 dogfights in the first thirty minutes of the battle alone, and that by the end of the first month they had destroyed 900 German planes. (In truth, the number is closer to 260). However, the success of the British defenses forced the Germans to change strategies, switching to more frightening night raids that terrorized London. But the British resolve won the day, in grand fashion. The film claims total German losses of more than 2,700. The real number is closer to 1,600. The number of downed British planes equaled approximately half that of Germany.
The Battle of Russia| (1:22:57)Chapter V follows the beginning of the end for Adolph Hitler. In Part Two, the German army falls victim to the Soviet scorched-earth strategy. The Russian forces flee from the start, retreating deep into their homeland, drawing the Nazis farther and farther away from the German border. As the Red Army falls back, it destroys infrastructure and natural resources, making it difficult for the Nazi army to live off the land. Once the famed Russian winter sets in, Germany is doomed. The film focuses on the stalwart defense of Leningrad. After the Nazis surround the Soviet metropolis in an attempt to starve out its residents, the Russians outsmart them by constructing a fully operational railroad across a frozen lake to get supplies to the beleaguered citizens. The Battle of Russia ends up as a disaster for the Germans, who lose more than 800,000 men.
The Battle of China| (1:02:50) Chapter VI explains why the Empire of Japan possessed such a strong interest in ruling the disparate lands of China. In an attempt to break the will of the Chinese people in one massive assault, Japan invades Nanking and massacres forty thousand civilians. The attack results in an opposite effect, galvanizing the Chinese resistance and unifying the separate lands into a single Chinese identity. While the Japanese take control of all Chinese ports, hoping to cut off all resources from its victim, China's allies effectuate an engineering miracle. They construct the seven hundred mile long Burma Road over the mountains of Myanmar, and set up a constant caravan of trucks to ship food and materiel to the Chinese armies, keeping them alive. Frustrated by their inability to conquer China, the Japanese turn their attention to the islands of the Pacific, and the United States.
War Comes to America| (1:02:11) Chapter VII begins by celebrating the American values of liberty and freedom that are threatened by the aggressive forces of Germany and Japan. The early years of the war are seen from the perspective of the United States, with particular focus on the reluctance of the American people to get involved in a European or Asian conflict. As the German army rolls across Europe, Nazi organizations spring up across the United States. The film attributes the rise of such groups to Hitler's policy of softening up future targets with political sympathizers, and shows one surreal Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, where paintings of George Washington hang alongside the swastika. Eventually the American government realizes that war is inevitable and cranks up the production of weapons and drafts the largest army in its history. The film ends with the war's beginning for the United States, the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
The Negro Soldier| (41:02) The army used this film as a means of propaganda to convince African Americans to enlist in the army and fight in the war. Most people regarded the film very highly, some going as far to say that The Negro Soldier was "one of the finest things that ever happened to America". Due to both high reviews and great cinematography, The Negro Soldier proved to be a breakout film that influenced army members and civilians of all races. In 2011, it was chosen to be preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. During World War II, Nazi Germany threatened to take over Europe, North Africa and the Near East. The United States Army was looking for men to enlist. Although the U.S. army was officially committed to practicing segregation, they looked to African Americans to add manpower to the group. Social scientists of the time argued that films and television were the best method of instilling a message within people and pushing them to act towards a common goal. Analysis
Two Down and One to Go| (9:30) A short propaganda film produced in 1945; as its title might suggest, its overall message was that the first two Axis powers, Italy and Germany, had been defeated, but that one, Japan, still had to be dealt with. Presented by the Secretary of War (Henry Stimson) and narrated by Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, the film is notable for its heavy use of animated graphics, spliced with stock footage. Opening with a fasces being splintered over Italy, and a swastika being exploded over Germany, the film cuts to a Arthur Szyk caricature of Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tōjō, an X being superimposed on the respective dictators, then turning to Tojo. Gen. Marshall informs the audience why the United States had chosen a Europe first strategy for the war, noting the supply lines where far shorter for Europe, and that the US simply did not have the material, in the early stages of the war, to launch an invasion of Japan. He also notes that in the European theatre the US had strong fighting Allies and airbases in England which could help them launch an attack on Germany, while in the Pacific theatre we had "no airbases near Japan, and no strong allies, however brave". The general ends the film by reminding the audience that the war cannot be won until Japanese military might is "completely crushed".
Tunisian Victory| (1:15:50) An Anglo-American propaganda film about the victories in the North Africa Campaign. The film follows both armies from the planning of Operation Torch / Operation Acrobat to the liberation of Tunis. Interspersed in the pure documentary format are the narrative voices of an American and a British soldier (voiced by Burgess Meredith and Bernard Miles respectively), recounting their experience in the campaign. The British and American talk separately until the end of the film when they have a dialogue, agree to co-operate after the end of the war, with the other Allied nations to create a more just and peaceful post-war order.
Know Your Enemy: Japan| (1:00:08)The original intention of the film was to prepare U.S. soldiers for war before deployment in the Pacific, though ultimately it never realized this purpose due to the war’s abrupt end soon after its completion.
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