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tv   Your Job in Germany and Frank Capra  CSPAN  December 31, 2014 8:00pm-8:41pm EST

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lectures in history delving into america's past. and reel america, featuring archival government and educational films from the 1930s through '70s. c-span3, created by the cable tv industry and funded by your local cable or satellite provider. during this holiday season we're showing you american history programs. today we're focusing on our series "reel america." next, the first of two profiles of american film directors in the second world war. we'll start with a look at frank crapra's work then focus on george stevens. then director john ford and his movie "the battle of midway." each week, american history tv's "reel america" brings you archival films that help tell the story of the 20th century. in the first of a five-part look at hollywood directors who made films for the u.s. government
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during world war ii, we feature frank capra who made and supervised dozens of films during the war including the "why we fight" series. up next, the 14-minute "your job in germany," a training film for troops occupying the defeated nation. later, we'll show you a four-minute animated "private snafu" training film. first we talk to journalist and film historian mark harris. >> the book is titled "five came back." a story of hollywood and the second world war. joining us from new york on american history tv is author mark harris. thanks very much for being with us. >> thanks for having me. >> as you put together this book and we will see films from well-known director, how much did you know before you researched the topic? >> well, my training as a film writer and film historian, not as a war historian, so for me, what i was investigating was the gap in the resumes of these five directors.
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you know, i would look and see that george stevens made no hollywood movies between 1943 and 1948 or wiler between '42 and '47 and that got me curious about their war service, which is the part of their life that we on the film side of things often ignore. and what it meant to them and what kind of work they did in the war. >> frank capra probably best known for "mr. smith goes to washington" and "it's a wonderful life." but he was also asked to put these films together by general marshall. my question is why did george marshall go to directors like tank capra and not have the military produce them? >> it's a really interesting counterintuitive moment. marshall didn't have the military produce them because he knew and most of the war department top brass knew that military movies had been terrible. many of them were in use since the late 1920s and they were
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just really clumsily made on a filmmaking and communication level. but there's still the question of why marshall didn't turn to the newsreels, nonfiction films, to document the entire war effort and instead looked to hollywood and creators of fiction. and i think it's because marshall really understood the power of narrative film. he had seen its effect during the great depression when, you know, i think his movies were shown often on the sides of trucks to people in the wpa. he understood that movies could really rouse patriotism and fervor in people, and he understood hollywood directors were better at doing that certainly than army filmmakers and also better than newsreelmakers. >> of course america formally entering world war ii in december of 1941.
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but what was frank capra doing prior to that? >> capra was the most successful and certainly the best-compensated director in hollywood. he was on the cover of "time" magazine with the headline "columbia's gem" because he was considered the director who single handedly turned columbia pictures, then a smaller studio into a major force. he had won three academy awards for directing in 1934, '36, and '38. and then followed up those three oscars with "mr. smith goes to washington." so, he was, you know, at an extraordinary peak of achievement and of reputation before the war broke out. >> interestingly, as an italian immigrant, the u.s. was fighting his home country with mussolini in alliance with hitler's germany, correct? >> yes, capra, his family was sicilian and they immigrated to america when capra was a very,
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very small boy, so he really had no particularly deep memories of living anywhere other than america, but he was acutely conscious that his status as an immigrant diminished him in the eyes of many americans who were suspicious of foreigners. and that can sound sort of paranoid or oversensitive but if you look at some of the stories that were written about capra, even at the height of his success, in places like "the saturday evening post," it was not uncommon for writers to sort of compare him to an italian greengrocer. i mean stereotypes were really in full force then and were deployed in a pretty ugly way. so for capra his war work, which was really central to the war filmmaking effort, was in large part, about articulating his patriotism, about asserting his identity as an american.
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>> mark harris let me ask you about two of his bodies of work. first the seven-part series titled "why we fight." what was behind that? >> well, "why we fight" was the first assignment that marshall gave capra when he was trying to induce him to come and join the effort. because cap ra like all of these directors, was old enough to have gotten an exemption from service. and the importance of his civilian work would have gotten him an exemption, even if his age had not. marshall's impetus in suggesting the "why we fight" series was replace a series of very dry, very dull lectures that incomes gis were being given at the ages of 18 or 19 or 20 about what the war was about, what the history in japan and europe had been
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since the early 1930s and why we were fighting. and capra was asked to make a series of movies that would explain that. the interesting thing was the war department never quite got around did to telling capra their version of why we fight. so the answer to the question, why are we fighting, was really created by capra and his team of screenwriters rather than articulated as an extension of war department policy. it was hollywood filmmaker that gave millions of gis the answer to that question. >> as you look through the films, where did the footage come from? what were its sources? >> this was a real necessity is the mother of invention moment. capra was asked to make the movies but he had almost no budget. something like $450,000 to make 50 movies. certainly, he didn't have the budget to shoot film, so he, after seeing lenny riefenstahl's
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propaganda film "triumph of the will" in new york, he came up with the idea that all of the axis propaganda filmmaking, the film from germany and italy and japan that had been confiscated by the treasury department could be incorporated into these "why we fight" movies. and in a way the enemy's propaganda could be turned against them. and between that and his very innovative idea to have animation in the movies, you know, animated maps showing, you know, black ink spilling across europe or crab-like pincers or octopus-like tentacles reaching in to grab other countries. those were two really innovative ways of getting around the fact that he didn't have the money to film, for instance, battle scenes. >> in just a moment our c-span3
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audience will have another chance to see another of frank capra's work. this is a 14-minute documentary titled "your job in germany." mark harris, who was the audience? >> the audience for "your job in germany" was the group of soldiers who were stationed in germany after we won, the occupying forces. this was essentially a training film for them to tell them how to deal with and how not to deal with the german people who had been defeated. and as you'll see, it contains some very, very tough material and unsentimental instructions in that regard. >> you spent a lot of time researching this for your book, "five came back." what surprised you the most about director frank capra? >> capra's politics were really complicated. and they're impossible to track through his entertainment
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movies. everybody sort of sees him because of the popularity of films like "mr. smith goes to washington" as a great populist a man of the people. he was actually a conservative republican who boasted that he never voted for fdr in any of his four presidential elections. and he thought he was being overtaxed by the government and he really disliked unions. so his politics were kind of all over the place. at one point he was really infatuated with mussolini. and what doing this book made me realize is that war kind of crystallized his politics into patriotism. it was the time in his life when i think capra was actually the clearest about what he felt about america and when his patriotism really overrode any political leanings he might have. >> mark harris, with that background, we thank you.
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now written by theodor geisel, director frank capra, here is a 14-minute training film titled "your job in germany. ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> the problem now is future peace. that is your job in germany. by your conduct and attitude while on guard inside germany, you can lay the groundwork of a peace that could last forever. or just the opposite. you could lay the groundwork for a new war to come. and just as american soldiers had to do this job 26 years ago, so other american soldiers, your sons, might have to do it again another 20-odd years from now. germany today appears to be beaten. hitler, out. swastikas, gone. nazi propaganda, off the air. concentration camps, empty. you'll see ruins. you'll see flowers. you'll see some mighty pretty scenery. don't let it fool you.
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you are in enemy country. be alert. suspicious of everyone. take no chances. you are up against something more than tourist scenery. you are up against german history. it isn't good. this book was written chapter by chapter, not by one man, not by one fuhrer. it was written by the german people. chapter one the fuhrer bismarck. the title "blood and iron." the armies, germany. under the prussian bismarck, the german empire was built. the german states combined, serving notice to all that their religion was iron. that their god was blood. bismarck's german empire built itself by war at the expense of denmark, austria and france.
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and became in 1871 the mightiest military power in all europe. enough conquest for a while. time-out to digest it. europe relaxes. the danger's over. nice country, germany. tender people, the germans. and very sweet music, indeed. ♪ >> chapter two, a new fuhrer kaiser wilhelm. a new title "deutscheland uber alles." germany over all. and the same tender german people who smacked us with their world war i against seesh yeah. russia. france. belgium.a. russia. france. belgium.. russia.
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france. belgium.e. russia. france. belgium.r. russia. france. belgium.b. russia. france. belgium.i. russia. france. belgium.a. russia. france. belgium. italy. britain. and the united states of america. it took all of us to do it. but we finally knocked that fuhrer out. defeated the german armies. second chapter ended. we marched straight into germany and said, why, these people are okay. it was just that kaiser we had to get rid of. you know, this is really some country. when it comes to culture, they lead the whole world. we bit. we poured in our sympathy. we pulled out our armies. and they flung chapter three in our faces. fuhrer number three, slogan number three. today, germany is ours. tomorrow, the whole world. sxhtd tender repentant, sorry german people carried the torch
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of their culture to austria.and the tender, repentant, sorry german people carried the torch of their culture to austria. czechoslovakia. poland. france. england. norway. holland. denmark. belgium. luxembourg. russia. yugoslavia. greece. and the united states of america. over the shattered homes, over the broken bodies of millions of people that let down their guard. we almost lost this one. it took everything we had.
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measure the cost in money, there isn't that much money. measure the cost in lives, we can only guess at that figure. it took burning and scalding. drenching. freezing. it took legs. fingers. arms. and it took them by the millions. it cost hours, days and years that will never return. we threw in our health, our wealth, our past and our future. it took every last ounce of our courage and guts. now what happens? ♪ >> oh, hell, this is where we came in.
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>> yeah. this is where we came in. >> and chapter four? could be -- it can happen again. the next war. that is why you occupy germany. to make that next war impossible. no easy job. in battle, you kept your wits about you. don't relax that caution now. the nazi party may be gone, but nazi thinking, nazi training, and nazi trickery remain. the german lust for conquest is not dead. it's merely gone undercover. somewhere in this germany are the ss guards, the gestapo gangsters. out of uniform, you won't know them, but they'll know you.
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somewhere in this germany are stormtroopers by the thousands. out of sight, part of the mob, but still watching you and hating you. somewhere in this germany, there are 2 million ex-nazi officials. out of power, but still in there. and thinking. thinking about next time. remember that only yesterday, every business, every profession, was part of hitler's system. the doctors. technicians. clockmakers. postmen. farmers. housekeepers. toymakers. barbers. cooks. dock workers. practically every german was part of the nazi network. guard particularly against this group. these are the most dangerous, german youth. children when the nazi party came into power. they know no other system than
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the one that poisoned their minds. they are soaked in it. trained to win by cheating. trained to pick on the weak. they've heard no free speech. read no free press. they were brought up on straight propaganda, products of the worst educational crime in the entire history of the world. practically everything you believe in, they have been trained to hate and destroy. they believe they were born to be masters, that we are inferiors, designed to be their slaves. they may deny it now, but they believe it and will try to prove it again. don't argue with them. don't try to change their point of view. other allied representatives will concern themselves with that. you're not being sent into germany as educators. you are soldiers on guard. you will observe their local
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laws. respect their customs and religion. and you will respect their property rights. you will not ridicule them. you will not argue with them. you will not be friendly. you will be aloof. watchful. and suspicious. every german is a potential source of trouble. therefore, there must be no fraternization with any of the german people. fraternization means making friends. the german people are not our friends. you will not associate with german men, women or children. you will not associate with them on familiar terms, either in public or in private. you will not visit in their homes, nor will you ever take them into your confidence.
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however friendly, however sorry, however sick of the nazi party they may seem, they cannot come back into the civilized fold just by sticking out their hand and saying, "i'm sorry." sorry? not sorry they caused the war. they are only sorry they lost it. that is the hand that heiled adolf hitler. that is the hand that dropped the bombs on defenseless rotterdam, brussels, belgrade. that is the hand that destroyed the cities, villages, and homes of russia. that is the hand that held the whip over the polish, yugoslav, french and norwegian slaves. that is the hand that took their food. that is the hand that starved them. that is the hand that murdered,
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massacred greeks, czechs, jews. that is the hand that killed and crippled american soldiers, sailors, marines. don't clasp that hand. it's not the kind of a hand you can clasp in friendship. >> but there are millions of germans. some of those guys must be okay. >> perhaps. but which ones? just one mistake may cost you your life. trust none of them. someday, the german people might be cured of their disease. the super race disease. the world conquest disease. but they must prove that they have been cured beyond the shadow of a doubt before they ever again are allowed to take their place among respectable nations. until that day, we stand guard. we are determined that their plan for world conquest shall stop here and now.
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we are determined that they shall never again use peaceful industries for war-like purposes. we are determined that our children shall never face this german terror. we are determined that the vicious german cycle of war, phoney peace, war, phoney peace, war, phoney peace shall once and for all time come to an end. that is your job in germany. >> the film, "your job in germany" from 1945, director frank capra. and joining us from new york is author mark harris, who has been researching this topic. put the timing of this film, 1945, and the audience into
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perspective, if you would. >> well, "your job in germany" was a post-war film made to be shown not to general audiences but to soldiers. they were the "you" in the title, "your job in germany" occupying forces in post-war germany who were trying to deal with a recently defeated german populace, and movie was largely written by theodore geisel, we know better as dr. seuss, who at the time that frank capra recruited him for army work was a left-wing editorial cartoonist in new york. he was strongly anti-german and "your job in germany" is the product of a dispute that was really prevalent within the war department as the war neared its end. not just for germany but for
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japan as well. there was a question of how much should the civilian population, as opposed to the military leaders or the emperor of japan or hitler in germany, be blamed for what happened, and concurrently, how much reconciliation with ordinary germans should there be after the war? geisel was very much of the belief that the german people were -- should shoulder a large portion of the blame. and capra was in agreement with that. he was very strident about the idea that there was something in the german character that made them worship these supermen, these ideal leaders, and that there was a great danger in trusting or befriending or
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reaching out to or even forgiving the rank and file of just german citizenry. so "your job in germany" reflects that very, very tough tone, saying to american soldiers, these people aren't your friends, don't trust them, don't be cruel to them and don't be abusive to them, but don't extend your hand in friendship, don't socialize with them, don't go to their houses. >> one quick followup because your points really came through in the film, providing the audience at the time some historical perspective on germany's role throughout europe. and certainly by today's standard, it wasn't politically correct. >> oh, absolutely not. i mean, you know, there was real belief that -- there was a real belief in enemies at the end of
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world war ii. you know, there was a film made under capra's authority about japan, sort of the equivalent of "your job in germany" about japan, a film that evolved from a movie called "know your enemy japan" that was deemed so brutal and so incendiary when it arrived in japan, which was right after hiroshima and nagasaki macarthur said we're not going to show this. it's, you know we've already made the point, we don't need to do this in a movie. >> mark harris, while we're talking about director frank capra, i want to ask you about "private snafu." 26 cartoons, we should point out, not designed for children. what's the story behind it? >> right. they weren't designed for chirp, and in fact, they weren't designed for adult civilians either. these were adults-only cartoons that were meant to be shown to
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servicemen. and they were technically instructional films. and that private snafu, who is this kind of screw-up private, as you'll see he looks a lot like elmer fudd. because he derives from early drawings of elmer fudd, who was just being created as a character. he was meant to give soldiers instructions on everything from the danger of consorting with prostitutes in foreign countries to how to protect yourself against malaria, to the importance of not gossiping or passing along secrets. and usually these five minute movies, many of which were also by the way written by theodore geisel and they sound a lot like dr. seuss material like "how the grinch stole christmas." usually the instruction was by negative example. private snafu would do something
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wrong, and i think he ended up being dead or blown to bits in about a third of them only to come back in the next installment a couple of months later. >> mark harris, thanks very much for being with us. now from the u.s. army, titled "going home" is the character private snafu used by the army for the u.s. military. ♪ >> a soldier returns from the global grind. home is ahead. the front, behind. a soldier returns and his hometown is proud. look at that brass band. look at that crowd. a returning hero has no doubt, a million things to talk about. safe at home, away from battle, restricted stuff makes harmless prattle.
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>> our outfit's number 999. we hold the center of the line. the british hold the hills just west. a pillbox here. machine gun nest. 200 medium tanks, the best. >> now you got that off your chest, why not go out and blab the rest? >> a landing field. boy is that sweet. it measures 15,000 feet with nine new runways, all concrete. those new jap tanks sure pack a punch. they knocked out battery b. if those nips ever start to push, they'll shove us in the sea. >> flashing to you the news of the day. a new secret weapon did this to the foe. what hit you, tojo? wouldn't you like to know? >> i know what did it, what made the big hole. a new flying bazooka with radar control. you see, i know all about it i was right there, i seen it with my own eyes.
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the propelling charge is attached to the tail and the booster adopter sets off the fuse. therefore, giving it power to the spark plugs. our very next mode, this is straight from the boss. [ slurring words ] naturally, it concerns not only about what we have indubitably, and by the way speaking of convoys, do you know when i sailed with the 9 in my opinionth, without a single ship to protect us, why, the tanks we saw, the places we went. now this is strictly confidential. and you'll treat it so, i hope. but strictly confidentially here's the latest dope. coming in at 74 degrees, we placed our guns in the -- >> you might just as well write it all over the sky.
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♪ >> ladies and gentlemen, the war department regrets to announce that due to recent leaks and restricted military information, our entire 999th division has been annihilated by the enemy. >> the 999th? my own outfit. some guy shot his mouth off. any jerk who does that ought to be run over by a streetcar. >> and joining us from new york is author mark harris. his book is titled "five came back: a story of hollywood and the second world war."
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as we conclude our discussion on director frank capra, how did world war ii and the post-war years change this director? >> well, of all five of the directors i write about, capra was the one who expected to come back, i think, and have the best career in hollywood after the war, and instead he had the worst. he came back and founded a company with two of the other directors i write about, william wyler and george stevens, called liberty films. this was in a way one of the first independent movie companies. it was meant to get powerful directors out from under the oppressive restrictions of movie studios and give them some autonomy over what material they chose and how it was made and even how it was budgeted. originally, the plan was for each of the three directors to make three movies, but the company never got past the first movie, which was capra's film,
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"it's a wonderful life." although we now consider that movie, you know, a perennial holiday classic, "it's a wonderful life" was not a financial success when it came out. it was not a particularly popular movie. it was overshadowed by wylor's film "the best years of our lives," which came out the same year, and it bankrupted the company. capra was so shattered by that failure and by the loss of liberty films that his insecurities about having lost his status in hollywood and his unerring instinct for what would work with audiences really overcame him. he only made about five more movies for the rest of his career, and none of them were successful. his career, as we know it, was essentially over after 1946 when "it's a wonderful life" was released. >> mark harris joining us from new york.
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his book "five came back, a story of hollywood and the second world war." thanks for being with us here on c-span3's american history tv. you've been watching a special presentation of our "reel america" series. join us every sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern for more films by archive at government and military institutions. again, that's reel america every sunday at 4 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. and we'd like to tell you about some of our other american history programs. join us every saturday at 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. eastern for a special look at the civil war. we'll bring you to the battlefields, let you hear from scholars and re-enactors, and bring you the latest historical forums on the subject. again, that's programs on the civil war every saturday at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv. and we'd like to hear from you.
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follow us on twitter twitter @cspanhistory. connect on facebook at facebook.com/cspanhistory where you can leave comments. check out cspan.org/history. the c-span cities tour takes book tv and american history tv on the road, traveling to u.s. cities to learn about their history and literary life. this weekend we partnered with time warner cable for a visit to austin, texas. >> we are in the private suite of lindon and lady bird johnson. this was a private quarters for the president and first lady. when i say private, i do mean that. this is not part of a tour that is offered to the public. this is -- this has never been opened to the public. you're seeing it because of c-span's special access. vips come into this space, just as they did in lyndon johnson's day, but it's not open to our
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visitors on a daily basis. and the remarkable thing about this space is it's really a living, breathing artifact. it hasn't changed at all since president johnson died in january of 1973. and there's a document in the corner of this room signed by, among others, the then-archivist of the united states and lady bird johnson telling my bread soars, myself and my successors that nothing in this room can change. >> so we're here at the 100 block of congress avenue in austin. to my left just down the block is the river the colorado river. and this is an important historic site in the city's history because this is where waterloo austin's predecessor, was. waterloo consisted really just of a cluster of cabins that were occupied by four or five families, including the family of jay carroll and i'm actually standing about the spot where the harrell cabin was. and this is where mirabella mature was staying when he and the rest of the men got wind of this big buffalo herd in the vicinity.
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so, lamar and the other men jumped on their horses, congress avenue or wasn't really the avenue, in those days, it was just a muddy ravine that led north to the hill where the capitol now sits. and the men galloped on their horses. they had stuffed their belts full of pistols. and rode into the midst of this herd of buffalo, firing and shouting. and lamar at eighth and congress, what became eighth and congress, shot this enormous buffalo. and from there he went to the top of the hill where the capitol is and that's where he told everybody that this should be the seat of future empire. >> watch all of our events from austin, saturday at noon eastern on c-span2's book tv and sunday afternoon at 2:00 on american history tv on c-span3. each week, american history tv's "reel america" brings you archival films that help tell the story of the 20th century. in the second of a five-part look at hollywood directors who made films for the u.s. government during world war ii,
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we feature george stevens who was with the invading army 70 years ago on june 6th 1944, to document d-day. stevens assisted in production of the film "the true glory," which includes extensive d-day footage. he also documented the whoever errors of nazi concentration camps, creating films that were used as evidence during the nuremberg trials. first we talk to journalist and film historian mark harris. >> the book is titled, "five came back: a story of hollywood and the second world war" and one of the directors featured by author mark harris is george stevens. mark harris is joining us from new york. thanks very much for being with us. >> thanks for having me. >> in your book, these five directors essentially putting their careers on hold to help the u.s. army and the military during the height of world war ii. why did george stevens get involved? >> stevens had been a director of some of the most successful light comedies and escapist movies in hollywood throughout the 1930s.

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