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The Westminister Choir
This is a unique film in Disney Production's history. This film is essentially a propaganda film selling Major Alexander de Seversky's theories about the practical uses of long range strategic bombing. Using a combination of animation humorously telling about the development of air warfare, the film switches to the Major illustrating his ideas could win the war for the allies. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
RKO Radio Pictures (Disney's usual distributor) saw no profit in this movie, and refused to carry it. Walt Disney therefore contracted with United Artists for theater distribution. See more »
The film claims the German's used air power to break through the Maginot line to conquer France. In reality, the German forces avoided directly engaging the Line and instead completely circumvented it. See more »
Today, a war is very different than the last European war was. Now air power is the dominant feature of military operations. Air power can fly directly to the vital centers of an opposing state and neutralize them. It can destroy the cities, it can wreck the aqueducts, it can knock out the lines of communication, it can destroy the food supplies, and make the people helpless to resist.
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It's hard to endorse a film about a war involving such blood, sacrifice, and hatred when it comes to us in the form of a cartoon. Elmer Fudd is the proper subject of a cartoon, and Mickey Mouse, and The Flintstones.
Yet this is probably the most famous cartoon to come out of World War II, made by the Disney people in a style, about a subject, far different from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." There is no newsreel footage at all, and virtually no still photographs. The whole thing is a cartoon. And the cartoons are both informative and reasonably accurate. A Stuka looks like a Stuka, not like a generic "airplane." Even a lesser known airplane like the Japanese G-4 "Betty" looks like what it's supposed to be.
And our chief source of information, aside from Art Baker's narration, is Alexander P. de Seversky, aviation expert, industrialist, and military strategist. It was his company, Republic, that gave us the P-47 Thunderolt.
Here, the live interludes, are lectures from Seversky outlining his thesis in his Russian accent, which goes something like, "Trow avay da bettleships and built airoplens instead." He doesn't argue that air power is an important means of winning the war. To him, it seems to be the ONLY way. His presentation is very simple and clear but in case you don't get his point, the cartoons spell it out for you in lurid color. A chimpanzee would get it.
Of course this was released in 1943, a year during which the major turning points of the war began -- new Allied anti-submarine defenses, Stalingrad, the fall of Italy, and a tremendous outpouring of American military equipment. Seversky's logic points up the importance of air power but, without a crystal ball and without access to classified information, he made claims that weren't true.
Just a few examples, because he doesn't make that many mistakes. The British and French troops weren't successfully evacuated from Dunkirk because the RAF ruled the skies. The Nazis weren't building ever bigger and more potent submarines. The RAF and USAAF attacks on factories were good at tearing up cities but not at destroying the ability to produce weapons or at breaking the will of the victims. He proudly describes the terrific hammering of a city like Köln without mentioning that our own losses in attacks like these were so appalling that they needed to be temporarily suspended. The guy is full of belief and passion, though, so much so that one wouldn't want to argue with him.
He's certainly right about one thing. The longer your supply lines, the less secure your position. It was illustrated in the battles between Rommel and the British in North Africa. Each army would drive the other back until its supplies were unsteady, then they in turn would be driven back to their source. In 1943, Japan's empire covered a vast amount of territory. Seversky examines each possible approach to reaching Japan and rules all of them out. Island hopping? Nope. Too many islands to conquer one by one. Meanwhile Japan would be siphoning off the necessary materials of war from its own conquered territory.
But it was that approach that we finally used successfully, once we realized that we could skip many of the stronghold and leave them to "wither on the vine." The two B-29s that dropped the big ones and ended the war took off from Tinian Island, one of the Ryuku chain, that we had reached by island hopping. And the Japanese never did continue siphoning off enough war materials because our own submarines (that is, the USN, not the USAAF) made the sea routs impassable to shipping.
I don't mean to be too harsh on Seversky. It's certainly no fault of his that he didn't predict thermonuclear bombs and jet engines. Perhaps his presentation was flawed but his reasoning sound. In 1943, even if you knew about our losses over France, Germany, and Romania, would it have been wise to publicize them? The film is almost like a peek into the past and almost renders our current problems minuscule.
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