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The Battle of Russia part II by Capra, Frank

THE BATTLE OF RUSSIA PART I & II cover the Soviet war with Germany from 1941 to early 1943. In Part Two, the German army falls victim to the Soviet scorched-earth strategy. The Russian forces flee from the start, retreating deep into their homeland, drawing the Nazis farther and farther away from the German border. As the Red Army falls back, it destroys infrastructure and natural resources, making it difficult for the Nazi army to live off the land. Once the famed Russian winter sets in, Germany is doomed.

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.

Social interest
The series was shown at military training facilities and later to the public in theatres to explain American policy and the war effort abroad. Though often blatantly propagandistic, this series provides great insight into the minds of Americans two thirds of a century ago. It argues that freedom is a threat to the fascist dictators of the Axis powers, who claim that democracy is weak and must be eradicated. It further claims that the ultimate goal of the Axis powers is to enslave the nations of the "free world.

Historic Interest
The film illustrates how the Red Army's method of fighting -- a scorched-earth strategy and a reliance on guerilla and urban warfare -- was bound to defeat the Nazis as it had defeated every invader before them. Part II focuses on the stalwart defense of Leningrad. After the Nazis surround the Soviet metropolis in an attempt to starve out its residents, the Russians outsmart them by constructing a fully operational railroad across a frozen lake to get supplies to the beleaguered citizens. The Battle of Russia ends up as a disaster for the Germans, who lose more than 800,000 men.

Political interest
There was a short summer of good feelings between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted roughly from 1942 to 1947, and both nations muted their criticism of the other. Therefore this movie conveniently fails to mention the German-Russian Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, a treaty that major Allied participants in the war like Winston Churchill could never forget and never mention without revealing their lingering bitterness. For the first and one of the few times Hollywood lauds praise on the heroic & 'free' people of the Soviet Union. Perhaps it's unfair to hold up the message of this movie with the later rhetoric of the cold war, but it is a little startling to hear a government sponsored movie announce that `no invincible armies (can stand) against the determined will of a free and united people' and realize the free and united they're talking about are Soviet citizens.

1943 Academy award for best documentary.

  • Producer: Frank Capra
  • Screenplay: Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein, Rober Heller
  • Director: Frank Capra, Anatole Litvak
  • Editor: William Hornbeck
  • Music: arranged by Dimitri Tiomkin and selected from Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Rimsky Korsakov
  • Cinematographer: Robert Flaherty
  • Narrator: Walter Huston
  • Graphics: Walt Disney Studios
  • Director
    Capra, Frank
    Copyright Holder
    46 min.
    Year of release

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