War Comes to America

Today’s post comes from National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications staff writer Rob Crotty.

Sixty-nine years ago today, the Congress of the United States declared war following the delivery of a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that included these words:  “Yesterday … a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked … With confidence in our armed forces–with the unbounding determination of our people–we will gain the inevitable triumph–so help us God.”

When the House cast the vote to declare war on the Japanese Empire, only one voice rose in dissent, that of House Representative Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress who represented the state of Montana before women could even vote (read our POH post, “Women can’t vote, but they can run for Congress“). As the lone voice in the 388-1 vote, Rankin only said “as a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”

While Rankin may not have been eligible to go to war, men were, and many needed convincing. It was imperative that the nation knew what caused the conflict and why America had entered it. Part of the solution to this was the “Why We Fight” series, an acclaimed look at who America was and why it was at war against the Axis powers.

The series was a who’s who of Hollywood. Frank Capra, who directed It’s a Wonderful Life, directed the series. Dimirti Tiomkin, who wrote a number of scores for Alfred Hitchcock, and Alfred Newman provided the music. Disney created the animations. Anthony Veiller and Walter Huston–an Academy Award winner and grandfather to Angelica Huston–narrated the films.

The result was a seven-part series that revolutionized documentary film making. Below is the final installment of the series, “War Comes to America,” which was released in 1945.


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