Essay about Why We Fight

Submitted By kylekeck
Words: 5202
Pages: 21

THAT FELLOW CAPRA:
HOW THE WHY WE FIGHT DOCUMENTARY SERIES CHANGED THE WAR

On December 7, 1942, the United States was brutally attacked by the Japanese air force pilots in Pearl Harbor. This attack quieted even the strictest isolationists. The United States had to prepare the newly drafted and enlisted young men to understand the enemies that they were fighting in Germany and Japan. In order to do this, General George Marshall commissioned a talented director who had just enlisted in the Army. This man, 44-year-old Academy Award winner, was Frank Capra and General George Marshall instructed him "to make a series of documented, factual information films - the first in our history - that will explain to our boys in the Army why we-are fighting, and the principles for which we are fighting.”6 The purpose of this paper is to examine the “Why We Fight” documentary series that Frank Capra created under the supervision of General George Marshall. There are certain events that took place before Capra met Marshall that allowed him to be successful in directing these films. Ultimately, Capra was waging a battle for the minds of the masses. The citizens of the United States were in a position where going to war was not such an appealing idea. After just recovering from a crippling depression and being wrapped in the grip of strong isolationist sentiment, these citizens were not thrilled about fighting a war on two fronts. It was imperative that Capra created films that helped to steer the public opinion towards fighting the Germans and the Japanese. His efforts to improve the morale of the soldiers and sway the citizens towards supporting American intervention were very successful. The use of propaganda in his films is very important because he strictly used the Axis’ propaganda. Capra was genuinely terrified of the Axis Powers’ propaganda machines. Hitler’s speeches were powerful and moving to the German public and the Japanese leaders showed strict discipline in achieving their objective. Overall, Capra achieved his goal of swaying the public towards supporting the war and his documentary series has stayed the test of time and has become an important part of the success of the United States during World War II. The background context of the United States’ entry into World War II is complex and many factors led to the eventual surge by American forces. One of the biggest debates about whether or not the United States should go to war was between the ideological forces of isolationism and interventionism. The isolationists sought for the United States to remain isolated from European problems. They believed that by providing aid and manpower, it would create entanglements that would drag the United States into unwarranted conflicts. George Washington made a famous statement in his Farewell Address stating, “it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."12 This philosophy dominated the United States’ foreign policy for decades. The United States was reluctant to join World War I for this very reason. In the period leading up the United States’ entry into World War II, the citizens of the United States were still harboring the isolationist ideal. The American people had just experienced a severe and drawn-out recession and had felt the real tragedy of World War I. It is safe to say that American citizens were wary of joining a war on an entirely different continent. Before the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the United States had implemented the first peacetime draft in the nation’s history. The Burke-Wadsworth Act required all men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five to register for the draft.13 If picked, those men would have to serve twelve months of active duty. At this time, General Marshall was worried that these men did not understand why the…