Director Frank Capra’s seven Why We Fight film shorts, commissioned by the U.S. Armed Forces in the World World II era, remain a model of the war- documentary form. Three of the films deal with specific battles and tend toward Allied propaganda. However, the first three films in theseries masterfully explain the roots of the Second World War:
Prelude To War (1942)
Japan attacks Manchuria, fascism rises in Europe, and the U.S. struggles with the Depression.
The Nazis Strike (1943)
Hitler comes to power, Germany invades Poland, and Western Europe tries to appease the Fuhrer.
Divide and Conquer (1943)
Hitler’s armies overrun mainland Europe, sending the British back across the Channel.
The Battle of Britain (1943)
England perseveres in the face of devastating German bombings.
The Battle of Russia (1943)
The Nazi invasion of Russia climaxes in the critical Battle of Stalingrad.
The Battle of China (1944)
Less a war documentary than an attempt to introduce U.S. audiences to a country that at that point was still our friend.
War Comes to America (1945)
The effects of the war at home. Capra called it ”one of the most graphic visual histories ever made,” and he’s not half wrong.
The Why We Fight series is in the public domain and is available from a number of distributors.