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Prelude to War (1942)

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The official World War II US Government film statement defining the various enemies of the Allies and why they must be fought.


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Title: Prelude to War (1942)

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Credited cast:
Victor Bulwer-Lytton ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Lord Lytton)
Kai-Shek Chiang ...
Himself (archive footage) (as General Chaing Kai-Shek)
Walter Darré ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Darré)
Otto Dietrich ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Dietrich)
Hans Frank ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Frank)
Joseph Goebbels ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Doctor Goebbels)
Hermann Göring ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Goring)
Rudolf Hess ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Hess)
Himself (archive footage) (as Hitler)
Saburo Kurusu ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Kurusu)
Robert Ley ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Ley)
Yosuke Matsuoka ...
Himself (archive footage)
Frank McCoy ...
Himself (archive footage)
Benito Mussolini ...
Himself (archive footage)
Henry Pu-yi ...
Himself (archive footage)


This famous propaganda piece, used as a U.S. Army training film in WWII before theatrical release, asks 'why we fight.' The answer compares the 'free' and 'slave' worlds. Included: development of dictatorships in Italy, Germany and Japan, while anti-militarism and isolationism rise in the USA; a look at enemy propaganda; and the first acts of aggression. Walter Huston narrates a combination of archival footage, maps, and other graphics. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Your boy wants you to see it!




Release Date:

27 May 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Why We Fight, 1  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the year 2000, the United States Library of Congress mandated that this film (and the other six documentaries in the 'Why We Fight' series)were "culturally significant" and selected them for preservation in the National Film Registry. See more »


Followed by The Battle of China (1944) See more »


Ave Maria
(1572) (uncredited)
Music by 'Tomas Luis de Victoria'
Sung by offscreen chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

I enjoyed it
24 April 2000 | by (De Kalb, Illinois) – See all my reviews

I found this short film fascinating. It very clearly lays out to the "common man" the argument in favor of getting involved in WW II. Yes, the animation is crude by today's standards and the voice-over is melodramatic, but considering most people of fifty-odd years ago never got anywhere near a college campus and their lives stopped at the city limits of their hometowns, this film does a good job of spelling out what was going on around the world and what was at stake. The earnestness with which it is presented may be seen as campy today, but just imagine what it must have been like, trying to understand it all and trying to guess what it would mean to you and your family.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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