chain re-acted

Why We Fight

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 intervention.

Most of the films were directed by Frank Capra, who was daunted and terrified by Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda film Triumph of the Will, and worked in direct response to it. The series faced a tough challenge: convincing an 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. The films were edited mostly by William Hornbeck, and are some of the best examples of found-footage montage ever produced. 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.

All of the films are one hour in length, except the Battle of Russia, which is two hours. All are available on DVD. Most of the videos are made from stock footage collected by the government and granted for use in the film although some parts are re-acted for the film if there is none to show the topic.

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.


  1. Prelude to War (1942) (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 (1942) - covers Nazi geopolitics and the conquest of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
  3. Divide and Conquer (1943) - about the campaign in Benelux and the Fall of France
  4. The Battle of Britain (1943) - depicts Britain's victory against the Luftwaffe
  5. The Battle of Russia (1943) part 1, part 2- shows a history of Russian defense and Russia's battle against Germany
  6. The Battle of China (1944) - 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) - shows how the pattern of Axis aggression turned the American people against isolationism.

Prelude to War and The Battle of China refer several times to the Tanaka Memorial, portraying it as "Japan's Mein Kampf" to raise American morale for a protracted war against Japan. The authenticity of this document remains a topic of historical debate.

In 2000 the United States Library of Congress deemed the films "culturally significant" and selected them for preservation in the National Film Registry. Created by the U.S. Army Pictorial Services, the films are in the public domain; all of them are available for download at the Internet Archive.

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