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Divide and Conquer by Capra, Frank

Divide and Conquer is the third chapter of the Why We Fight propaganda series. Using newsreel footage and animated maps, Capra delineates Hitler's strategy in overtaking Europe. We watch as the Nazi's occupy Denmark and Norway, push back the British Army, and force France into a humiliating surrender. The film ends on a hopeful note, observing that while Hitler has all of Europe in his thrall, both Britain and the United States are still in the game.

About the series
The seven part "Why we fight" series is considered the most powerful American propaganda ever produced and was the winner of an Academy Award in 1942 for Best Documentary. This outstanding and historic series traces the earliest beginnings of the second world war starting with Library of Congress National Film RegistryJapan's invasion of China in 1931, to the Nazi's march across europe. The series features extensive historic footage from both allied and axis sources. In 2000 the "Why We Fight" series was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry and remains a prime source of archival footage for the period.

The Why We Fight series was a massive effort on the part of the United States government to indoctrinate the millions of young men and women inducted into military service following the American entry into WWII. The making of this series and other large-scale information and education films, as they were called, was planned and supervised by Frank Capra. One of the most popular Hollywood filmmakers of the late 1930s, he had no prior documentary experience.

Concept & style
The 'Why We Fight' series was based on the assumption that servicemen would be more willing and able fighters if they knew the events that led up to, and the reasons for our participation in the war. It had to counteract the spirit of isolationism still strong in this US up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this attempt it offered a gigantic historical treatise from a particular, "liberal" point of view—that is to say the New Deal viewpoint of the Democratic administration, prevalent in the country at the time.

Social interest
Special attention is paid to Nazi atrocities as a result of its blitzkrieg tactics. Dead and injured children are shown en masse and the film explains how the bombing of Rotterdam leads to "thirty thousand men, women and children killed in ninety minutes." The narrator tells how the Luftwaffe bombs small villages so that refugees clog the highways, and how it uses precision machine gun fire to herd the survivors toward the allied armies, who find their progress severely constrained as a result.

Historic Interest
The series was shown to the public in theatres to explain American policy and promote the war effort abroad. 'Divide and Conquer' introduces the tactics and structure of the German army, explaining how they were able to achieve so many staggering victories in the early years of the war. In detail, Divide and Conquer shows the events from the English and French declarations of war against Nazi Germany to the conquest of France by the Nazis.

Political interest
Divide And Conquer looks at the Germany war machine and its Blitzkreig tactics that managed to subjugate almost the whole of Europe. In detail, completed with animated maps, we learn of the political and military tactics that allowed the German war machine to continue its march through Europe. We see how Denmark and Norway fall, the Maginot Line in France crumbles and the country surrenders. The British Army is defeated on the continent and crosses the Channel from Dunkirk.


  • Producer: Frank Capra
  • Written by: Julius Epstein; Philip Epstein
  • Director: Frank Capra and Anatole Litvak
  • Editor: William Hornbeck
  • Music: Dimitri Tiomkin.
  • Narrated by Walter Huston
  • Graphics and animation by Walt Disney Studios
  • Director
    Capra, Frank
    Copyright Holder
    53 min.
    Year of release

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