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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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


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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
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Did You Know?


This film is in the public domain; it was never registered or renewed. See more »


Badenweiler Marsch
(1914) (uncredited)
Music by Georg Fürst
Played in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

Very good to get an idea of perceptions at that time
7 May 2006 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

The series "Why we fight" was US government propaganda to explain to American soldiers, and later the public, why the US was involved in WWII. It is very interesting to watch, and a good way to learn what Americans thought (or were supposed to think) at the time - but on its own this series does not provide an accurate account of the war.

Obviously, this was made before political correctness existed, and you can tell: there is talk of 'Japs', the Holocaust is largely ignored. Also, the movie is necessarily ambivalent about the Russian role, who were allies at the time. For example, the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop pact (especially the annex about the division of Eastern Europe) goes virtually unmentioned, and the Red Army's reasons for showing up in Eastern Poland are nebulous.

On the other hand, the movies are quite detailed about the people involved, the various Nazi leaders and so on - who would have been household names at the time, but would probably be left out of present day WWII documentaries. Also interesting is that one of the reasons, apparently, why Nazism must be fought was their union busting - surely a reflection of the post-Depression Roosevelt era.

All in all, well worth watching. I rate this highly both because it is essential viewing as an historical document, and because it is very well done propaganda (Frank Capra, animations by Disney)! Note that the US government has placed these movies in the public space, which means that perfectly legal, digital versions can be found on the internet.

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