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War Comes to America (1945)

Part VII of the "Why We Fight" series of wartime documentaries. This entry attempts to describe the factors leading up to America's entry into the Second World War.

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(uncredited), (uncredited)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Dean Acheson ...
Himself (archive footage)
General Bergeret ...
Himself (archive footage)
A.A. Berle ...
Himself (archive footage)
Arno Breker ...
Himself (archive footage)
Neville Chamberlain ...
Himself (archive footage)
...
Himself (archive footage)
Galeazzo Ciano ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Galleazzo Ciano)
Édouard Daladier ...
Himself (archive footage)
Charles Edison ...
Himself (archive footage)
Francisco Franco ...
Himself (archive footage)
Joseph Goebbels ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Josef Goebbels)
Hermann Göring ...
Himself (archive footage)
Rudolf Hess ...
Himself (archive footage)
Heinrich Himmler ...
Himself (archive footage)
Hirohito ...
Himself (archive footage)
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Storyline

In this final installment of the "Why We Fight" propaganda series, the subject focuses on the United States of America. We learn of its good qualities and the things worth fighting for. With that established, we learn of the history of the United States' population shifting opinion towards siding with the Allies against the Axis until the attack on Pearl Harbour which brought America into full scale involvement in the war. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary | War

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

14 June 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Why We Fight, 7  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

Twice there appears an animated clip showing about a dozen fully-equipped US troops in gray silhouette marching briskly left to right over a background graphic; however, a close look shows the "soldiers" actually wearing narrow-brimmed office-worker-style civilian hats rather than army helmets. See more »

Quotes

[the film explains the dire consequences for the United States of an Axis victory in Eurasia]
Narrator: German conquest of Europe and Africa would bring all their raw materials, plus their entire industrial development, under one control. Of the two billion people in the world, the Nazis would rule roughly one quarter, the 500 million people of Europe and Africa, forced into slavery to labor for Germany. German conquest of Russia would add the vast raw materials and the production facilities of another of...
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Connections

Follows Prelude to War (1942) See more »

Soundtracks

Rhapsody in Blue
(uncredited)
Music by George Gershwin
Played during the Modern America montage
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User Reviews

 
The war at home and abroad
13 January 1999 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

This is the seventh and final documentary in director Frank Capra's wartime series, "Why We Fight". The films in general are skilfully directed, using footage from a wide variety of sources, plus animation and some subtle recreations.

The early films in the series focus on specific time periods or theatres of operation. This film is a little different. It is in two unequal parts, the first showing American soldiers what they are fighting for -- a look at America in the years up to 1945 -- while the second gives an overview of the war beginning with Manchuria in 1931 and ending with Pearl Harbor.

The first part is interesting for its contemporary portrait of America. It presents a view of US society which tries to be liberal and inclusive. It does show some conventional imagery, Coke bottles, drum majorettes, and the like, but it is more provocative than that at times. Trade unions are acknowledged. Prohibition is forcefully declared to have been "a mistake".

The film strives to enfold all ethnic, cultural, and social groups within the Stars and Stripes. There is a long sequence showing different nationalities -- Hungarian, Portuguese -- and this sequence ultimately includes the American Negro and the Chinaman, to use the terms current at the time. By my count, there are seven brief scenes showing the former, two the latter. The liberality of the filmmakers required that blacks and Asians by shown; the context of the time required that they be shown to this limited extent. This makes an illuminating "inclusivity benchmark" for anyone who is keeping track of such matters. The images of blacks are mostly stereotypical -- picking cotton, fishing, racing, sitting in church -- but at least the final one shows a black man firing back at Pearl Harbor.

The parade of national groups in the US makes another point which could be noted. The list does include Italians and Germans, but the Japanese are omitted. (The Japanese of course were receiving special treatment in internment camps, as they were here in Canada.)

Social groups are shown, one face at a time, partly to the rhythm of the rhyme "Rich man, poor man, ... doctor, lawyer, ...". The first half of the actual rhyme, "beggarman, thief", is left out for obvious reasons, but the second is also avoided: "Indian chief". In 1925, or even 1935, the temptation to cut to a shot of someone in a Sioux headdress would have been irresistible, but that does not happen here. Does this sensitivity presage the new approach to native issues in the post-war adult Western?

The second, larger portion of the film is a retrospective, dealing with the progress of the war throughout the world. The lead-up to 1939 is well summarized, and includes footage of Ethiopia (Haile Selassie) and Spain (Der Führer shaking hands with El Caudillo). American legislative changes in response to the evolving world situation are covered in detail, with attention given to Gallup poll results. The war in its different campaigns is then reiterated.

Some of the political assumptions in the latter part of the film caught my notice. The Unholy Trinity of the Axis Powers ("Death, Inc.") consists, as it does throughout the "Why We Fight" series, of Mussolini, Hitler, ... and Emperor Hirohito, NOT Gen. Tojo, or any other member of the army clique. (After the war, the decision was made to preserve the Japanese monarchy, so the God-Emperor was falsely exonerated and blame passed to the military.)

The section on subversion shows quite a lot of the German-American Bund, including footage of American Nazi goons beating a heckler in Madison Square Garden. We also see a little of isolationist Lindbergh, Hitler's chum. Great attention is given to the threat to South America, where sinister German immigrants are shown conspiring in Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil (side by side with Japanese immigrants there). This is still a propaganda film so hemispheric solidarity is absolute and unimpugnable. There is no admission made at all of open Latin American sympathy for Fascism or of coercive American arm-twisting to get governments to toe the US policy line.

The film ends with the "day that shall live in infamy", but a modern viewer is left thinking of the hopeful vision shown of America still to come -- hydroelectric projects (to the tune of Rhapsody in Blue), that tribute to US "inventiveness and enterprise", the "television", and especially what the film calls "the future", the cloverleaf highway interchange -- the goals attained through so much sacrifice. How prescient.


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