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The Battle of China by Capra, Frank

Chapter VI of Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" series, explains why the Empire of Japan possessed such a strong interest in ruling the disparate lands of China during World War II. 'The Battle of China' describes the history of China, with the founding of the Republic of China by Sun Yatsen, and leads on to the Japanese invasion. The invasion of China is explained in terms of the four-step plan for Japanese conquest, mentioned in the Tanaka Memorial. Finally, the history of the war in that theatre is illustrated.

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 World War II. 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
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 country 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.

Educational interest
Though often blatantly propagandistic, this documentary film provides insight into the minds of Americans two thirds of a century ago. The series was shown to the public in theatres to explain American policy and the war effort abroad.

Historic Interest
In an attempt to break the will of the Chinese people in one massive assault, Japan invades Nanking and massacres forty thousand civilians. The attack results in an opposite effect, galvanizing the Chinese resistance and unifying the separate lands into a single Chinese identity. While the Japanese take control of all Chinese ports, hoping to cut off all resources from its victim, China's allies effectuate an engineering miracle. They construct the seven hundred mile long Burma Road over the mountains of Myanmar, and set up a constant caravan of trucks to ship food and materiel to the Chinese armies, keeping them alive. Frustrated by their inability to conquer China, the Japanese turn their attention to the islands of the Pacific, and the United States.

Political interest
'The Battle of China' is a documentary about the second Sino-Japanese war and the political consequences for the rest of the world. The second Sino-Japanese war started with the invasion of Manchuria which, theoreticaly, marked the beginning of World War II.


  • Directed by: Frank Capra and Anatole Litvak
  • written by: Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein
  • Cinematography: Robert Flaherty
  • Edited by: William Hornbeck
  • Graphics: Walt Disney studios
  • Narrated by: Anthony Veiller
  • Director
    Capra, Frank
    Copyright Holder
    65 min.
    Year of release

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