Prelude to War (1942)

Prelude to War (1942)

“We were a nation that wanted peace — but we hadn’t yet learned that peace for us meant peace for all.”

Walter Huston narrates a propaganda film produced by America’s Office of War Information (OWI) on why our country needed to become an ally in World War II.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Documentary
  • Frank Capra Films
  • Propaganda
  • Walter Huston Films
  • World War II

This first entry in Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight” series — comprised of seven films produced between 1942 and 1945 — was initially crafted to convince American troops to join the war effort, but eventually released more broadly to rally public support for the war. At the time, Americans were not inclined to involve themselves yet again in world affairs:

… so a strong case needed to be made on behalf of interventionism. At just 52 minutes, this short film covers the basics of how WWII began, focusing on the aggressions of Japan, Italy, and Germany.

It is very clearly a piece of propaganda, yet arguably a necessary one at the time, with an admirable focus on global unity and concern. As a title in the public domain, this film can be easily viewed at

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A potent example of wartime propaganda

Must See?
Yes, once, simply for its historical relevance. Selected (along with the other six films in the series) to be part of the National Film Registry in 2000 for its “cultural significance.”


  • Historically Relevant


One thought on “Prelude to War (1942)

  1. Agreed – a once-must for its historical importance.

    It’s never a bad idea to look back in history and compare it with where we are now. The quote partially used at the beginning of the assessment given stands out: “Yes, we were a nation that wanted peace. But we hadn’t yet learned that peace for us depends on peace for all.”

    What a load of crap. When has there even been worldwide peace? The best we can hope for is *periods* of peace – respites – in certain parts of the world. Like it or not, being at war with others – with somebody! anybody! – is what mankind has always, somewhere, at sometime, been about.

    When Huston continues on about “the passion of the few to rule the many”, all l I could think about were the ones in the US fighting with all their might to rule America now: today’s [R]s, corporations (and their ‘armies’) and America’s wealthiest.

    It’s especially interesting to see how this doc whitewashes the US (somewhat understandably) as saint and savior for the rest of the world. No doubt American government had a different ideology (overall) once upon a time.

    It didn’t last.

Leave a Reply