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Prelude To War Essay Samples

Why We Fight: Prelude to War

On 27 May 1942, the first of seven films in the series Why We Fight was released. Entitled “Prelude to War,” the piece was directed by noted filmmaker Frank Capra who had by then already gained fame with his work on films It Happened One Night and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and would go on to direct the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. For his contributions to the war effort, Capra earned the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.

An immigrant from Sicily, Capra served in the US Army during World War I and became naturalized shortly thereafter. He reenlisted after Pearl Harbor, offered a commission as a Major at the age of 44. Under normal circumstances, the Signal Corps would have likely been assigned the creation of these films, but with a talent like Capra available, Chief of Staff George Marshall bypassed the Signal Corps and assigned Major Capra the job of creating seven films that would be seen less as propaganda pieces, and more as the inspiring films Capra had proven himself more than capable of making.

The first of the series introduces itself as a film “to acquaint members of the Army with factual information as to the causes, the events leading up to our entry into the war and the principles for which we are fighting.” Prelude to War won the 1942 Academy Award for documentary feature. Many of the subsequent films in the series would use the enemy’s own propaganda films, namely Leni Reifenstahl’s infamous Triumph of the Will. What Germans saw in her film as inspiring and patriotic, Capra turned on its head to show as a frightening force against which America must fight. 


This post by Curator Meg Roussel

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"Prelude to War," Chapter I of Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" series,
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.

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Reviewer:A.G.DeM. - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 30, 2017
Subject: Common Sense For Troubled Times

Frank Capra's touching and brilliant work, is to be watched for a glimpse of an america united against a well defined evil, during it's greatest historical moment. People like Jonathan Price below, seem to fail to grasp it's message, that fanaticism, xenophobia, and hero worship lead to the degradation of mankind. Yes, the Tanaka Memorial was perhaps a forgery by well intentioned agents, a forgery only in that it hid it's true sources in order to protect the agents involved. Japan's later actions only proved that it was true for all intents and purposes, as COMMON SENSE would have it, history absolved it. He fails to add that all the anti-semitic trash he spews while delirious with fanatical hatred all stems from an even older and more nefarious forgery THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION, that has as its source a game of literary telephone that emerged from old french political propanda that didn't even mention JEWS, but paradise Napoleon III's ambitions. It was hijacked by antisemitic propaganda writers who lacked the creativity to create such a fiction for themselves. As a scholar of medieval literature, I am fascinated by how misinformation is propagated via a diaspora of paper tracts following gutenberg's "invention", and I assure you, we have much to learn from them, as we see the same phenomenon today. The printing press heralded a new age of propaganda, and it breaks my heart to see the same old antisemitic lies in a new form: the internet. Words like "conspiracy of jewish bankers", "the eye in the triangle", "illuminists", and so forth are the stock in trade of proto-nazi and proto-fascists. You don't have to be a scholar to see that hatred is taught by liars, and LOVE is taught by the enlightened. The tree is known by its fruits. Frank Capra was one of the Americans that led this country into a new age of prosperity, while the old world of hatred, marches, and demagogues fell into ruin. Now we see the same thing happening again as people forget the past, and the old lies resurface to be spread in the same game of telephone that only works when we are forgetful. Don't become a Jonathan Price. Witness how hatred blinds one to a sad truth, how a small error made by a well intentioned man can make a document that praises democracy and brotherly love seem like a lie to one who wants to desperatly believe a a bigger lie bred in the seedy garrett of a struggling writer, a lie born from the same propaganda he claims to despise. Frank Capra's own life is testament to what he taught us in "It's a Wonderful Life". Certainly he was a man of his times, bred with many of the errors of his times, but the spirit of his message is far superior to anything this crypto-fascist has to say.

Reviewer:Jonathan Price - favorite - May 19, 2014
Subject: Why We Fight: For International Jewish Interests

So sayeth the propaganda:

"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."

Describes the Jewish Bolsheviks to a tee!

Fact is the real "madmen" were and continue to be those international Jews. Not the little Jew, mind you, but those "top Jews" in banking, media, politics, Jewish pressure groups, etc.

This video is very deceitful, warmongering propaganda created by one of Jewry's many useful idiots during that time period. Rot in your grave, Frank Capra, you miserable fool!

L Dubya, piously asked: "So tell me Eric, would you prefer speaking Japanese or German??"

So tell me, L Dubya, why do you still remain an über-ignoramus and broadcast to the world your lack of knowledge of what really went on during that era by repeating such a laughable, pitiful, long since exposed, bald-faced LIE?

Reviewer:L Dubya - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 24, 2010
Subject: Why We Fought -- it is obvious to me

So tell me Eric, would you prefer speaking Japanese or German??

These films were for US soldiers training in boot camp. We also had similar training during Vietnam

There is a lack of such purpose as we have never seen today....
Our leaders should be ashamed of themselves

Reviewer:Eric Johnston - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 6, 2009
Subject: The value of propaganda

This series of films is propaganda. As an historical account, it is distorted in the sense that we can nowadays access broader truth. But these films are an integral part of history. They can inform us in an easily assimilable way about, for example, the approximate perspective from which many in the English-speaking world may have viewed the struggle, and of how the U.S. authorities evidently felt the millions of men conscripted into the fighting services needed to be imbued with a more offensive spirit. That this latter view was no doubt valid is borne out by US Army statistics of the proportion of soldiers who, while ready to risk their lives, would not shoot to kill. Changes in training considerably reduced this proportion by the time of the Vietnam War.
These films are an interesting example of the genre, and of the use of enemy newsreel footage.
The "Why We Fight" series presents the contemporary situation in a simple, one-sided manner. It is essentially white propaganda. "There can be no differentiation without contrast." See document at http://www.rainbowends.org/mmviii/agitprop.htm (intended to counterbalance the approach to journalism apparently inculcated by some Western trainers of Burmese political exiles).
The films necessarily contain inaccuracies of omission, but also some inaccuracies of fact.
"The Tanaka Memorial" was probably a forgery, possibly by the Chinese Communist Party, which was then controlled by the Comintern. However, it was widely believed at the time to be genuine, not least because it seemed to be confirmed by events.
Stalin's crimes are (understandably, in the circumstances) ignored.
British radar gets no mention: it was highly classified, and fortunately the Luftwaffe failed to appreciate its full significance.
British bombing of Germany during the early stages of the War is said to target only military objectives, although there must have been plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Though nationalism remains a potent force, the future of mankind requires that we go beyond narrow parochialism to give priority to human rights. The Second World War, which produced The Atlantic Charter, was perhaps the first major conflict where the human rights of all peoples was an important motivation for many of the combatants.

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