tv Reel America Why We Fight Prelude to War - 1942 CSPAN August 12, 2018 4:00pm-4:56pm EDT
after the december 7, 1941 attack on pearl harbor, general george c marshall ordered a series of films to explain the causes of world war ii. under the supervision of academy award-winning director frank capra, the u.s. army signal corps produced seven films between 1942 and 1945. they are known as the "why we fight" series. america," "prelude to war," which is 52 minutes and covers the outbreak of world war ii to the pearl harbor attack. the documentary explores the rise of authoritarianism and paints the conflict between the axis and allies as slavery against freedom. "prelude to war" won the academy award for best documentary in 1943.
♪ narrator: just what was it made us change our way of living overnight? what turned our resources, our machines, our whole nation into one vast arsenal, producing more and more weapons of war instead of the old materials of peace? what put us in the uniform ready to engage the enemy on every continent and every ocean? what are these two worlds of which mr. wallace spoke?
the free and the slave. let's take the free world first, our world. how did it become free? only through a long and unceasing struggle inspired by men of vision -- moses, muhammad, confucius, christ. all believed that in the sight of god, all men were created equal. and from that there developed a spirit among men and nation s which is best expressed in our own declaration of freedom, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal". it is the cornerstone upon which our nation was built and the ideal of all the great liberators -- washington.
jefferson. garibaldi. lafayette. kosciuszko. bolivar. lincoln. lighthouses, lighting up a dark and foggy world. >> that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. narrator: fighting. living. dying. for what? for freedom. that for which men have fought since time began. to be free. [bell tolling] narrator: is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? forbid it, almighty god. i know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.
but what of this other world? here men insisted that progress lay in killing freedom. here they were putting out the lighthouses, one by one. here the march of history was reversing itself. in italy it began when an ambitious rabble-rouser set his followers marching on rome. the country, like every other country after the last war, was torn by political unrest, hard times, unemployment. two courses were available to the italian people, they could solve their problems in a free democratic way, or they could let someone else do the solving for them. they made the tragic mistake of choosing the second course. they put their trust and faith in this one man. they believed he represented
them. actually, he planned to betray them for the selfish interests of himself and the group backing him. just as he had earlier betrayed those who first supported him. in germany, another even more forceful demagogue sent his followers marching from the munich beer halls. he too had the sinister opportunity to take advantage of post-war chaos. but he also had certain distinctive german characteristics to play on. to start with, the germans have an inborn natural love of regimentation and harsh -- national love of regimentation and harsh discipline. he could give them that. ♪ the german army and through them the people had never acknowledged german defeat in the last war, and were anxious for revenge.
that too he promised them. the wealthy and powerful industrialists were fearful of losing any of their wealth and power, and were ready to back anyone who would retain it for them. he promised to take care of them, too. this man cunningly played all these ends against the middle, and ruthlessly set out to the -- to murder the newborn german republic. in japan, you expect things to be done a little differently. they were. here, not one man, but a gang disguised as the will of the emperor. to the japanese people, the emperor is god. taking advantage of their fanatical worship of the god-emperor, it was no great trick to take away what freedom they had ever known. yes, in these lands the people surrendered their liberties and threw away their human dignity. >> banzai! banzai!
narrator: they gave up their rights as individual human beings. >> sieg heil! sieg heil! sieg heil! narrator: they became part of a mass, a human herd. although these countries were far apart and different in custom and in language,the same poison made them much alike -- each got a new uniform. in italy, the new bosses wore black shirts. in germany, the shirts were brown. in japan, they hid behind the uniform of the army, but really they belonged to a sinister secret society. their symbol was a black dragon. the other fellows had to have a symbol too. germany, a swastika. in italy, the old roman symbol of the fasces. in germany, they called the new
order national socialism, or nazism. in italy, they had a shorter word, fascism. in japan, they had lots of names for it, the new era of enlightenment, the new order in asia, the co-prosperity sphere. but no matter how you slice it, it was just plain old-fashioned militaristic imperialism. the japs would get the "prosperity", and the others would get the "co". they say trouble always comes in threes. take a good, close look at this trio. remember these faces. remember them well. if you ever meet them, don't hesitate. adolf hitler: [speaking german] narrator: "stop thinking and follow me!" cried hitler. "i will make you masters of the world." and the people answered "heil!"
>> sieg heil! sieg heil! sieg heil! narrator "stop thinking and believe in me!" bellowed mussolini. i will restore the glory that was rome!" and the people answered, "duce! duce!" "stop thinking and follow your god-emperor!" cried the japanese warlords. "and japan will rule the world!" and the people answered, "banzai! banzai!" each system was alike in that the constitutional lawmaking bodies gave up their power. the reichstag in berlin, the house of deputies in rome, the diet in tokyo. and these elected representatives became collections of stooges, rubber stamp organizations. >> sieg heil! sieg heil! narrator: applauding on cue the words of the leaders. each system did away with free speech and free assembly.
each system did away with a free press, and substituted a press controlled by the party. through their ministries of propaganda, each took complete control of the theater, the movies, the radio, every cultural activity and every channel of information was controlled by the most important members of the party. each did away with free courts and trial by jury, and substituted courts and judges run by the party. each abolished labor unions and the right to bargaining for wages. an wages. >> [speaking german] >> danke. heil hitler! >> heil hitler! >> weiter arbeiten! narrator: and under the pretext of patriotism established a system of forced labor. each enforced its decrees by an army of secret police who held
the power of life and death over every individual. and for the few who still believed in freedom and said so, there was a ready answer. >> [speaking italian] narrator: "the greatest intellect in the world can be silenced with this," that is an exact translation of the words these blackshirts cheer so lustily. >> [speaking german] narrator: "whenever i hear anyone mention the word "culture," the first thing i do is reach for my gun." yes, they have the answer, the blackjack, and the gun. [gunshots]
narrator: the word of god and the word of fuhrers cannot be reconciled. then god must go. "i am absolutely clear in my own mind and i think i can speak for the fuhrer as well, that both the catholic and protestant churches must vanish from the life of our people." thus spoke dr. alfred rosenberg, and if you have any doubt that he spoke for his fuhrer, here's what happened.
["o come, all ye faithful"] thousands of other men of god -- protestant, catholic, jewish -- were persecuted, arrested, confined in concentration camps. >> our fuhrer is the intermediary between his people and the form of god. everything the fuhrer utters is religion in the highest sense." it is only on one or two exceptional points that christ and hitler stand comparison, for hitler is far too big a man to be compared with one so petty." narrator: every day in all
narrator: that was the way of life, or better, the way of death, in that other world. now what of our world, the democratic world? what did we want? what did we do about it? first of all, we wanted peace and security. and to prove our sincerity, in 1921 we initiated the washington disarmament conference. this resulted in two vitally
important treaties. one to reduce the size of the british, japanese, french, italian and american fleets. and the other, the nine power treaty, which guaranteed the integrity of china, and incidentally, one of the powers signing this was japan. later on in 1929, we signed the kellog-briand pact, which was supposed to abolish war as a means of settling international disputes. this pact was signed by 47 nations, including germany and japan. henry stimson: president, i have the honor of handing you the london naval treaty. narrator: faithful to our treaty obligations, we scrapped more than 60% of our naval tonnage. and our army was reduced to a standing force of 136,000 men. smaller than that maintained by the little state of romania.
we let our hopes for peace become so strong that they grew into a determination not to fight unless directly attacked. we let ourselves be influenced by those who said we could find security through isolation. the confusion in our way of thinking was apparent in the slice of public opinion as it appeared in pathe news in 1939. >> another war, not for me. this time america should keep out and i know i will. >> if war breaks out in europe, i think this country should heed the advice of its first president, and avoid all foreign entanglements. >> i haven't the slightest idea of european affairs. >> in the event of war in europe, i think we should stay out of it entirely. >> and all our efforts should be made to keep out of the fight. >> let europe fight her own battles, they mean nothing to
us. >> we should mind our own business. >> by all means, no. >> yes, fight. >> no. >> no. >> yes. >> if my country calls, yes. >> no. narrator: we simply did not want to understand that our individual and national problems were, and always will be, dependent upon the problems of the whole world. and we had individual and national problems to worry about. plenty of them. just as germany, italy and japan had. but we faced them in a democratic way. we passed laws to give working men a chance to improve their lot. we established the insurance program for those without jobs. we began to give old folks protection against want and hunger. we organized the ccc to provide our young men with healthy and useful employment.
a federal works program came into being and changed the face of our nation with new roads, bridges, schools. they built great new dams which brought the miracle of electricity to millions of our people. these were some of our accomplishments, but there were others not so creditable. we turned our backs on the league of nations. we passed the tariff act to set a higher wall of isolation around us. we encouraged lawlessness with the farce of prohibition. but in spite of these mistakes, we never had a thought of losing our free institutions. john q. public still ran the country. he had his choice of voting for dewey, willkie, roosevelt or anybody else. in germany they had the choice of voting for hitler, hitler, or hitler.
newsreels, quite often, we laughed. to us, they looked like characters in a musical comedy. but they weren't comic, they weren't funny, they were deadly serious. they were out for world conquest. and what made it deadly serious was, that there were 70 million japanese, 45 million italians, and 80 million germans. all hopped up with the same idea. adolf hitler: deutsches volk, hilf dir selbst! jeder soll helfen narrator: their leaders told them that they were supermen, "herrenvolk" the nazis called them. the master race, destined to rule all other peoples on earth. >> sieg heil! sieg heil! narrator: take a good look at these humorless men.
these were to be the rulers of the ruling race. ernst rohm: auch ihr leben, auch ihr burgerliches dasein ist gesichert in diesem nationalsozialistischenstaat der ordnung narrator: "obey us blindly and you will attain your rightful place in the world. all the people will be your slaves." that's what they promised them. that americans, chinese, russian, south americans, all free peoples would work for them and make them rich. and how they ate it up. >> banzai! >> heil! >> duce, duce! narrator: "we shall restore the glory that was rome." "today we rule germany, tomorrow the world." "the pacific is ours." >> banzai! narrator: it was inevitable that these countries should gang up on us. the little fella is our pal kurusu, who smiled his way into our hearts in december 1941.
here he and his friends are busy carving up the world in advance, staking out their claims. take a good look at these claims. here was the italy that mussolini took over in 1922. and almost his first act was to tell the italians they were the rightful owners of corsica, nice, savoie, albania, tunisia, ethiopia and a land corridor linking it with libya. later on he had an even bigger dream, the old roman empire as it existed nearly 2000years ago, to dominate all the lands adjoining the mediterranean. "mare nostrum," our sea, they called it, just as the ancient romans did. as for the japanese, they had some ambitions, too. by 1920 they had grabbed off formosa, korea and the southern half of the island of sakhalin. then baron giichi tanaka, the prime minister, carefully set
down japanese aims in a document called the tanaka memorial. it was presented to the emperor july 25th, 1927. here was their dream -- manchuria for raw materials. china for manpower. then a triumphant march through indochina, siam, burma, india, the east indies and onto australia and new zealand. and in the north all they claimed was that part of russia east of lake baikal. that was to be the new order in asia. then the japs would move eastward to crush the united states and really start their co-prosperity sphere. now take a look at the bite the nazis reserved for themselves. here is the germany hitler walked into. and here is what he wanted, first europe under his complete political or economic control,
leaving mussolini a share of the loot if he behaved himself. then, the drive to the east. through the rich oil-lands of iran and iraq into india. another push south through africa. then from dakar, jump off to meet the honorary aryans, who were to move in on south america through the pacific. at the same time, start a course from the scandinavian countries, to hook up with his bucktooth pals coming over from siberia, to join in the conquest of the united states. there it is, gents. all they left us was shangri-la. and they'd claim that too, if they knew where. and did they think they had a chance? listen. isoroku yamamoto: [speaking japanese] narrator: "when war comes between japan and the united states, i shall not be content merely to occupy guam, the philippines, hawaii and san
francisco, i look forward to dictating the peace to the united states in the white house at washington." yamamoto wrote those words on january of 1941. yes, the conquering army down pennsylvania avenue. that was the final goal. you will see what they did to the men and women of nanking, hong kong and manila. imagine the field day they'd enjoy if they marched through the streets of washington. but before striking, a preliminary step was necessary. from berlin, from rome, from tokyo, the campaign started. propaganda, to confuse, divide, soften up their intended victims. put them on the defensive, scream you're abused, shout you're oppressed, the world's wrong, you're right. if you shriek it loud enough and often enough, they believe you.
above all, use their free press and their free speech to destroy them. >> lebensraum, ja, lebensraum, meine volksgenossen. narrator: "lebensraum," they demanded, living room. "our lands are overcrowded." but at the same time they gave prizes to mothers who bore the most sons. [cheering] narrator: they brought together large groups of young men and young girls for human breeding. read what one of their leaders wrote. of course, the children from this assembly line belonged to the state, to be scientifically trained for conquest.
another howl was the lack of raw materials. they claimed they were the have-nots and we were the haves. but out of this supposed lack they built up the greatest war machines the world has ever. these are the published figures from the german military budget. actually, between 1933 and 1939, hitler's program of rearmament cost more than $80 billion. the nazis alone assembled a striking force of 30 panzer divisions, 70 motorized divisions, 140 infantry
divisions, plus the luftwaffe, the world's largest air force. and they had no raw materials. think of the bread, the automobiles, the good things of life that the german, italian, japanese leaders might have given their people if they had spent this money for peace, instead of war. you know what billions we are now spending to match their military force. no, no these arguments were all smokescreens. when war came, democracies proved to be the have-nots, and our enemies the haves. and when war came, where did it come? remember that date, september 18, 1931. a date we should remember as well as december 7, 1941. for on that date in 1931, the
war we are now fighting began. the place was manchuria, the northern-most province of china. 6000 miles from san francisco. manchuria, the first objective in the tanaka plan. by september 18th the japanese, who by treaty patrolled the southern manchurian railway, had secretly and illegally increased their garrisons. on the korean-manchurian border an entire japanese army was assembled. conveniently equipped for a winter campaign. all they needed was an excuse, they made their own. at 10:30 that night, just after the mukden express had passed by, a section of track was dynamited, causing damage to one rail and two fishplates. japan's honor had been violated.
in half an hour, the japanese railroad garrison launched a coordinated attack on the barracksof the sleeping chinese army at mukden. the slaughter was appalling. by midnight the conveniently placed japanese army poured across the korean border and the first open act of aggression, the invasion of manchuria, was on. in four days they had occupied the whole of southern manchuria, and shortly after, the whole country. manchuria became manchukuo, a puppet state with an obedient stooge on the throne, henry puyi. a weakling whom the japanese had prepared for the job with seven years of women and song. in washington, henry l. stimson,
then secretary of state, now secretary of war, sent out a blistering denunciation of the attack. the league of nations sent a committee of five headed by lord lytton and including our own general frank mccoy to manchuria to investigate. in october of 1932, the committee issued its report. victor bulwer-lytton: we found that the japanese occupation of this large part of china was not justified on the grounds of self-defense, and that the new state which had been set up was a japanese protectorate rather than a genuine case of manchurian self-determination. narrator: shortly after, the league condemned japan as an aggressor nation. >> [translator]: i call on his excellency mr. matsuoka, delegate of japan. yosuke matsuoka: it is a matter of common knowledge that japan's policy is fundamentally inspired by a genuine desire to guarantee
peace in the far east and to contribute to the maintenance of peace throughout the world. japan however finds it impossible to accept the report adopted by the assembly. narrator: in answer the japanese delegates, knowing there were no guns behind this condemnation, smiled, took up their briefcases, and marched out of the league. northern manchuria was dead. collective security was dead. the green light had been given to the aggressors. we and the rest of the world knew that these aggressors should be stopped and punished, but we were unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to back up that opinion. it was impossible to convince a farm boy in iowa, or a driver of a london bus, or a waiter in a paris cafe, that he should go to war because of a mud hut in
manchuria. yet the subsequent course of history makes it clear that that incident, so many miles away, is one of the main reasons that you and millions of others are in uniform today. they had manchuria, phase number one of the tanaka plan was complete. phase number two, the conquest of china. in 1932 without warning, they attacked the chinese city of shanghai. here they met such stubborn
here they met such stubborn resistance, they had to pour more than 75,000 troops into the local battle before capturing the city. this resistance made them to decide to shift their campaign to the north, and in 1933 they added the province of jehol to manchuria. yes, they launched the second phase of the tanaka plan. but they have yet to finish it. a united nation stands against them. under the inspired leadership of general chiang kai-shek, the chinese people fought, and still fight on.
meantime, what of japan's partners? what helpless people were they planning to bomb, slaughter, drive into slavery? hitler was not yet ready, but mussolini was. mussolini had to be. his people were growing restless, fascism hadn't produced the heaven on earth that he had promised them. so he pulled the old trick of launching a foreign war to divert attention from troubles at home. so mussolini beat his chest like tarzan and looked around for a worthy foe. he found one, ethiopia. good country for the beginning of a glorious empire. its army had no machine guns. its army had no tanks. its army did have an air force, exactly one old airplane. one airplane against a nation which had developed a new theory of total air war.
and the blitz, which would wipe out cities, destroy civilians, man, woman and child. in october of 1935, following the japanese example, an incident was provoked at the little settlement of wal wal near the border of ethiopia and italian somaliland. italy's honor had been violated. refusing any arbitration, mussolini moved the whole might of his army through the suez canal to overrun the undefended country. ethiopia's emperor of people before the league of nations. ethiopian] narrator: "i must still fight on until my tardy allies appear, and if they never come, i say to you without bitterness, the west will perish." members of the league half-heartedly stopped trading with italy, but refused the only
they fought, and they died. but in the end, there could be but one result, might triumphed. italy conquered ethiopia. many of our elected leaders warned us of danger. franklin roosevelt: without a declaration of war and without warning or justification of any kind, civilians, including vast numbers of women and children, are being ruthlessly murdered with bombs from the air. narrator: but we were still hypnotized by the fact that two broad oceans stood between us and the rest of the world. we didn't realize that the time when months were needed to span these oceans was ended. that the steam ship had cut these months to days, and that now the whole earth's surface could be covered in the space of hours.
yes, we were a nation that wanted peace. but we hadn't yet learned that peace for us depends on peace for all. nobody would run the risk of war because of some mud huts and barren plains in ethiopia anymore than we would run the risk for some similar huts and plains in manchuria. correctly interpreting our attitude, the aggressors were all but sure that they could get what they wanted. japan had started on her march of conquest. italy had begun her new empire. and now the third gangster, what about him? we take him up in our next film. and show how he joined his partners in putting his bid. for this is what we are fighting -- freedom's oldest enemy, the passion of the few to rule the many. this isn't just a war. this is the common man's life-and-death struggle against those who would put them back into slavery.
we lose it, and we lose everything. our homes. the jobs we want to go back to. the books we read. eight.y food we the hopes we have for our kids. the kids themselves. they will not be ours anymore. that is what is at stake. it is us or them. the chips are down. two worlds stand against each other. one must die, one must live. 170 years of freedom decrees our answer. ♪
>> interested in american history tv? visit our website, c-span.org/history. upcoming films, watch college lectures, and more. american history tv, at c-span.org/history. q&a -- ht on [crying] >> what we are hearing were the cries of children, immigrant children, who had just been separated from their parents in a border patrol detention facility. it was audio i obtained a month and a half ago or so with the help of a lawyer, a civil rights
attorney on the border. she had obtained this tape and thought it was important and shared it with me, and asked what i thought about it. i told her i thought we should try to publish it. decision for easy the source of that tape, who felt that the tape could put them at risk for being identified and fired. agreed source ultimately propublica tod publish the audio. ginger thompson discusses mexico and the united states immigration policy, tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. >> retired u.s. army sergeant
major gavin malco can him -- discusses the tomb of the unknown soldier, and also describes the changing of the guard ceremony and reflects on the meaning of the monument. the national world war i museum and memorial hosted the hour-long event. >> now, it is my pleasure to introduce sergeant major -- retirede 11th from the u.s. army after nearly 23 years of service, where he held key leadership positions, led peace and contingency operations, and earned several declarations. as i watched him walk through incredibly busy memorial day, you can just pick him out of a crowd