Sept. 1940 Selective Service Act, but new draftees "haven't the slightest enthusiasm for this war or this cause. They are not grouchy, they are not mutinous, they just don't give a tinker's dam." (Kansas newspaper editor William Allen White to White House adviser Lowell Mellett)
new Army Morale Branch failed to improve morale due to the "deadly effects of prepared lectures indifferently read to bored troops." (George Marshall)
Harold Ickes, Frank Knox, Henry Stimson wanted to created a national propaganda agency, but FDR opposed until after Pearl Harbor
FDR on Dec. 18, 1941, appointed Lowell Mellett as Coordinator of Government Films to officially mobilize Hollywood for war
Office of War Information created in June 1942, but slow to do anything about soldier education; Mellett's film office became the Bureau of Motion Pictures, but its World at War in 1942, the "first officially sponsored feature length motion picture" of the government, was a failure; OWI review power over studio productions (Robert Riskin worked for overseas OWI branch in 1943 and was told to ban Meet John Doe, the film he wrote for Capra in 1941, as "unsuitable for foreign screens at this time." (Doherty p. 51)
Major Frank Capra assigned to the Morale Branch in Feb. 1942; ordered by Marshall to "make a series of documented, factual-information films - the first in our history - that will explain to our boys in the Army why we are fighting, and the principles for which we are fighting." (Marshall quoted by Capra)
Capra saw Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, a film that "fired no gun, dropped no bombs. But as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal." (Capra) He used clips from this film and other Nazi films
Released Oct. 30, 1942, shown to war plants in April, 1943, to the general public May 27, 1943.
By 1943, War Dept. had developed a large and significant program to bring movies to all soldiers on every battlefront; next to guns, what "the boys need most is movies and more movies" (Ike) and 2400 picture shows were shown each night in European/Mediterranean theaters by 1945; films were designed to be "educational, inspirational, recreational" (Will Hays)
Popular films included the bi-weekly action-orientedArmy-Navy Screen Magazine, with its Private Snafu dog mascot from Tex Avery at Warner Bros., the 3-minute sing-songs, cartoons such as Disney's Der Fueher's Face, the 10-minute Victory films like Jimmy Stewart's AAF recruit short Winning Your Wings, Historical Information films such as William Wyler's The Memphis Belle in April 1944, and Hollywood feature films such as the 1942 Flying Tigers.
Free world vs. Slave world
Freedom vs. Power
Weakness vs. Strength
A single totalitarian world-wide conspiracy
Capra, Frank. The Name Above The Title New York, 1971.
Doherty, Thomas. Projections Of War. Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
Hanlon, Mary. Capra, Smith, & Doe M.A. thesis, American Studies, University of Virginia, August 1997.