Why We Fight (1942-1945) U.S. War Department

The Battle of Russia (1943)

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Video Description

ARC Identifier 36071 / Local Identifier 111-OF-5 - Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. (09/18/1947 - 02/28/1964) - 1943 - This motion picture film examines the war in Russia, 1941-1943. Reel 1 dramatizes Russia's military history. Alexander Nevsky defeats the German knights in 1242. The Swedes are defeated in 1704 in a cavalry battle at Poltava. French troops retreat from Moscow in 1812. Kaiser Wilhelm inspects troops on the Eastern front in 1917. Reel 2 shows mine operations, agricultural scenes, oil fields, and manufacturing scenes. People of many ethnic groups present native dances. Civilian and military units parade in Moscow. Maksim Litvinoff asks the League of Nations to aid Ethiopia in 1935. Reel 3 maps Axis expansion into eastern Europe. Hungarian, Rumanian, and Bulgarian troops parade prior to Nazi occupation. Footage shows puppet leaders Admiral Miklos von Nagybanya Horthy, General Ion Antonescu, King Michael of Romania and King Boris of Bulgaria. Adolf Hitler and Generals Wilheim Keitel and Alfred Jodl meet. Nazis march through Hungarian cities. Yugoslavian cities are bombed and Greece is occupied. Tanks roll from Russian assembly lines and troops are inducted. German panzer divisions invade Russia in June 1941. Reel 4 maps the German advance in 1941 and analyzes Russian strategy. Hitler makes a victory speech in October. Footage shows intense street fighting in Sevastopol. Russians of all ages are mobilized. In Reel 5, houses, factories, and a large dam in the Ukraine are burned or dynamited before the advancing Nazis. Guerilla units draw arms and then dynamite Nazi installations. Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, and other leaders pose. Red troops parade in Moscow in Dec. 1941. In Reel 6, citizens pray in churches on Christmas Day. Russian tanks, cavalry units, and ski troops advance beneath air support. Villages are liberated and refugees return. In Reel 7, dead and tortured Russian civilians are found. Footage shows prewar Leningrad. Barricades are erected. The city is intensively bombed. In Reel 8, the city is besieged. Women remove rubble from streets. Defenses are manned. Food is rationed. Shell manufacture continues. Supplies are brought in by truck, tractor, and railroad across frozen Lake Ladoga. Winter snows blanket the city. Nazi planes bomb trucks on the lake. The spring thaw arrives. Children play in the sunshine. German prisoners enter the city. Reel 9 maps the battle for the Caucasus and the Crimea. Stalingrad is bombarded from the air by artillery and house-to-house fighting is shown. Reel 10 maps the Russian encirclement of Nazis at Stalingrad. Marshal Nikolai Voronoff confers with his aides. The encircling Red armies meet in Dec. 1942. Flamethrowers, rockets, and artillery are used to force the surrender of remnants of 22 Nazi divisions. The final scene maps Russian gains and cites statistics on Nazi losses thus far in the campaign.

Documentary Description

Why We Fight is a series  of seven propaganda films commissioned by the United States government during World War II to demonstrate to American soldiers the reason for U.S. involvement in the war. Later on they were also shown to the general U.S. public to persuade them to support American involvement in the war. Most of the films were directed by Frank Capra, who was daunted yet also impressed and challenged by Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda film Triumph of the Will and who worked in direct response to it. The series faced a tough challenge: convincing an only recently isolationist nation of the need to become involved in the war and ally with the Soviets, among other things. In many of the films, Capra and other directors spliced in Axis powers propaganda footage - recontextualizing it so it promoted the cause of the Allies instead.

Why We Fight was edited primarily by William Hornbeck and is among the best examples of stock-footage montage ever produced, although some parts were re-enacted "under War Department supervision" if there was no relevant footage available. The animated portions of the films were produced by the Disney studios – with the animated maps following a convention of depicting Axis-occupied territory in black.

The films were narrated by Academy Award winning actor Walter Huston. This narration, though factual for the most part, is replete with nationalist and racist rhetoric describing implacably warlike Germans and "blood-crazed Japs." Conversely, it lionizes the courage and sacrifice of the British, Soviets, and Chinese. Realistic sound effects and soaring symphonic music complement the dramatic scenes. At the end of each film, the quotation from Army Chief of Staff George Marshall that "...the victory of the democracies can only be complete with the utter defeat of the war machines of Germany and Japan." is shown on screen, followed by a ringing Liberty Bell over which is superimposed a large letter "V" zooming into the screen, accompanied by patriotic or military music on the soundtrack.

Made from 1942 to 1945, the seven films range from 40 to 76 minutes in length, and all are available on DVD or online.

Episodes:
   1. Prelude to War (1942) (51:35) (Academy award as Documentary Feature) - this examines the difference between democratic and fascist states, and covers the Japanese conquest of Manchuria and the Italian conquest of Ethiopia.
   2. The Nazis Strike (1943) (40:20) - covers Nazi geopolitics and the conquest of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
   3. Divide and Conquer (1943) (56:00)  - about the campaign in Benelux and the Fall of France
   4. The Battle of Britain (1943) (51:30)  - depicts Britain's victory against the Luftwaffe
   5. The Battle of Russia (1943) (76:07) part 1, part 2 - shows a history of Russian defense and Russia's battle against Germany
   6. The Battle of China (1944) (62:16)  - shows Japanese aggression such as the Nanking Massacre and Chinese efforts such as the construction of the Burma Road and the Battle of Changsha
   7. War Comes to America (1945) (64:20) - shows how the pattern of Axis aggression turned the American people against isolationism.

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