The March Toward War: The <em>March of Time</em> as Document and Propaganda
Introduction The Time Empire MOT as Document Marching into War Voice of Conscience Timeline/Index
The Shadow of War
Germany's Rising Power
The World Prepares for War
America Prepares for War
American Neutrality
Failure of the League
Failure of Versailles
England's Failures
Ambiguous Russia
Plight of the Jews
Humanizing Dictators
Americans All
War Zones
Italy Seizes Ethiopia
Japanese Conquests
Chinese Resistance
Spain's Civil War
The Mediterranean
Pearl Harbor
 Load torpedo

American Neutrality

 Lake Tana dam
(1) Ethiopians build the dam to Lake Tana and (2) location of the dam on a map of Ethiopia.
Map of dam
(3) Mussolini, looking imperial and (4) the real Selassie.

"Ethiopia," September 20, 1935 Play movie

This film explains the strategic reasons Italy wants Ethiopia, suggesting that the conquest might tighten Italian control of the world's waterways and lead to further conquests by Italy. The film also heavily emphasizes America's determination to remain neutral despite attempts to draw the country into helping Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia "lies a lake seldom visited by white men, yet of vital importance to at least one great white nation....Out of it flows the eastern branch of the Nile." England needs the Nile for trade purposes and helps Ethiopian Emperor Selassie (4) build a dam to control the Nile's flooding (1-2). Once again, Italian aggression interrupts the peaceful agreement: "Eying England's plan for years, but with plans of his own in mind, is the most imperially minded man in Europe today—Benito Mussolini (3). Needing room for at least 3 million of Italy's bursting population, and seeking to restore Rome's ancient imperial glory, he sends his troops down through the Suez Canal, into Italian Eritrea. For six months this movement continues before the world takes it seriously."

Italians move toward the capital of a nation never conquered in 7,000 years of its history.

With rain delaying action, newsmen have little to do but read about attempts to stop the coming war. England tries to line up American support to curb Mussolini, but has the effect of spurring neutrality legislation. "In Washington a tired Congress suddenly awakens to the popular demand for some kind of neutrality legislation." Intertitle: "The Neutrality Bill is passed, making sure that the U.S. will not be involved in other nation's quarrels for at least six months."

Selassie actor Meeting re-enactment

(5) An actor plays Selassie in a re-enactment of an agreement to deed half of Ethiopia to U.S. and British interests. (6) The long shot masks the identity of the actor, continuing the illusion and (7) the actor playing Selassie is almost off-camera in this medium shot. (8) The results are reported in newspaper headlines.

Click on the photos for a larger view.

meeting re-enactment Half Ethiopia Deeded to Standard Oil

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"Nobody Wants to Go Back to the Ethiopia Front, Newsreels Dilemma."

Word gets out that in a last-minute attempt to get America involved and save Ethiopia from invasion, Selassie has deeded half of Ethiopia to U.S. oil and British interests (8), so America may have to defend those interests. But Secretary of State Cordell Hull steps forward and has the oil deal canceled. The Voice of Time is reassuring that America will not get involved. "Ethiopia waits, ready to go down fighting in a war that could become a world conflict. But between Abyssinia and the United States, between America and the world war clouds, roll 3,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean. Time marches on!" Americans can take solace in their distance from war, the narrator suggests—out of sight, out of mind.

 Disguised Japanese
Japanese stock traders
The above shot of Japanese stock traders may be older footage but it offers an example of how shooting the ceiling makes its own effect; here the Japanese traders look puny in comparison to the room.
Pressure on industries
  businessmen react in mid-American way
don't expect a war boom
make barb wire for cows only
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"NEUTRALITY," October 18, 1935 Play movie

This segment stands out for beginning with an odd dramatization about a Japanese college boy masquerading as an Ethiopian to impress a waitress (1), but ends up discussing America's devotion to the idea of neutrality. The vague connection? Ethiopians wear one of Japan's prime products—cheap cotton cloth. The League of Nations covenant requires members to stop trading with aggressor countries. The League's boycott of Italy delights Japan, no longer a League member. Japan's stock market has risen sharply. A title appears: "Another non-League nation is the United States of America, which also profited fatly from the last war. Now, as then, the U.S. wants peace."

To support its supposition, a scene shows FDR announcing, "We not only earnestly desire peace, but we are moved by a stern determination to avoid those perils that would endanger our peace with the world."

Roosevelt sets the neutrality machinery in motion and goes beyond the current neutrality law. Secretary of State Cordell Hull announces, "The president at the same time issues an official statement warning that any of our people who might voluntarily engage in transactions of any character with either of the belligerents, do so at their own risk." (3—the real Hull)

But as the narrator notes, "foreign sales to the belligerents continue," even without the protection of the flag. Again the intertitle flashes across the screen: "Against a policy of absolute neutrality, the pressure of basic American industries is bound to be tremendous." (4) This year's wheat crop is below normal, but there is much left over from last year that could go toward warring countries. During the last war, U.S. businesses exported $1.5 billion worth of steel. American businessmen are thus "eager to risk trading with these belligerents."

The textual narration supplies, "But in mid-America, one U.S. businessman is found who reacts to foreign war business in his own mid-American way." (5) The text offers up the Midwest as a kind of patriotic heartland that others should emulate. James B. Harris's business in Jamesville, Wisconsin made profits from barb wire in World War I. Today, "we don't want any foreign war business. Our country's doing fine just like it is, and so is our company." A sign shows:

"Notice to Employees: This company will accept no war business, so don't expect a war boom. We will just go on making barb wire to keep American cows where they belong.

James B. Harris

Figure 6 shows the initial shot and figure 7 shows the camera close up on the final statement. American determination to remain neutral was portrayed as steadfast and patriotic.

"PACIFIC ISLANDS," January 7, 1936 Play movie

 Pacific islands map
The map above was featured in the film and shows the islands in question and their proximity to Japan and Australia.

"Pacific Islands" follows a "secret mission" for young men of royal Hawaiian blood. (Aristocracy could make the story more thrilling.) America is "reaffirming an old claim" by taking formal control of Jarvis, Baker, and Howland islands, ostensibly to create an airline connecting Hawaii with New Zealand and Australia. But the real owners of the islands—Great Britain—are embarrassed. Since 1858, the islands were part of the British empire, and at the time of the takeover, leased to an Australian trading company.

"Also concerned is Tokyo. Japanese naval officials discuss the strategic importance of the three new American islands, uncomfortably near the Caroline and Marshall islands, which were mandated to Japan after the World War, and which she seized for her own when she left the League of Nations." According to The March of Time, the Australian Pacific Islands Co. in Melbourne, which owned the lease, is most concerned. Yet the dramatization of an exchange between two employees seems forgiving of the Americans: "Well, I don't suppose they'll takae the islands home with them. And I hear the Americans still have money to spend."

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The film returns to the young Hawaiians who have been camping on the islands. They are "advance agents, not of territorial conquest, but of another aerial transport project, which will bring the ends of the earth closer together." The filmmakers seemingly desire to reassure viewers the assumption of the islands is purely a business-related venture. While the island played no major role in World War II, the CIA World Factbook notes that "American civilians evacuated in 1942 after Japanese air and naval attacks during World War II; occupied by US military during World War II, but abandoned after the war."1

"VETERANS OF FUTURE WARS" April 17, 1936 Play movie

Soldiers march
(1) Hitler is shown as one reason the United States is headed toward war. (2) Filming from below gives these soldiers a larger-than-life appearance and not including their heads make them seem less human and therefore more ominous.
three likely pieces of cannon fodder generate an idea
Princeton students
(4) The "likely pieces of cannon fodder. (5-6) The scene pokes fun at the fascist salute.
  The itching palm
itching palm close-up
tongue in cheek
WWI troops
(8-9) Footage from World War I shows the risk the young men may take overseas.
WWI graves

The March of Time's coverage of disgruntled college students made a faux movement into a half-serious one with "Veterans of Future Wars." The segment documented the efforts of a group of Princeton undergraduates who were interested in getting the military bonus for the war they would likely soon be in, because they might die in battle and never see the benefits veterans regularly get.

The students were a few of the half million youths born during the war years 1914-1918, the narrator explains. While many Americans denied that war would reach its shores, "Few illusions has the undergraduate of 1936. Eighteen years after the war to end wars, from across oceans he hears the rumble of new wars. In Africa, in Asia, and in Europe, new threats of greater wars, as puzzled statesmen talk and talk and talk to avert disaster. In the loud orations of dictators defending what they call national honor, the undergraduate thinks he sees the prelude to another 1914." During the narrator's monologue scenes of soldiers marching (2) and Hitler (1) and Mussolini speaking flash across the screen. The film then cuts to a student lounge.

TITLE: At Princeton University, three likely pieces of cannon fodder generate an idea. (3-4)

Student 1: Well, how long do you give us before they start this 1914 business all over again?

Student 2: About [snaps fingers] that long.

Student 3: Will you go?

Student 2: Like it or not we'll all go, just as they all went to the last war.

Student 3: I guess there'll be parades and speeches, and when we come back—if we do come back—we'll ask Congress for a bonus.

Student 1: Suppose we don't come back, why shouldn't we get our bonus now?

Student 2: Sure, cash in advance.

Student 3: Why not? Patriotism prepaid—wait a minute, I have an idea. Listen, give me a pencil.

The March of Time re-enacts the creation of the organization, starting with a manifesto sent to the student newspaper. Their terms include a bonus for those between 18-36, payable immediately as an advance. Undergraduates "roar in approval at the meeting." Their salute looks fascist (5), but upon closer examination viewers can see it is an outstretched itching palm (6).

The filmmakers helped the fledgling organization petition Congress officially and taped Congressmen's reactions.2 At this point The March of Time is not only documenting, but making, its own news. Two students go to Congress and ask to register as lobbyists; they have no trouble convincing some congressmen they deserve a $1,000 bonus. Congressman Maverick of Texas says,"I think you boys have the right idea. If we have to pay for wars in advance, it will make wars ridiculous, if not impossible. And I'm with you on it."

Congressman Fuller of Arkansas notes, "There's no danger of any of these so-called veterans ever volunteering to defend America. Their actions clearly show that they are yeller!"

Filmmakers also show the reaction of veterans groups; the American Legion, for example, declares the students "nuts." An intertitle explains to the audience the movement is not serious: "But, tongue deep in cheek, on march the 'Veterans of Future Wars'" (7).

As the manifesto spreads, students in 204 colleges join in the parody. It's "a sardonic acceptance of the inevitability of war and its consequences, written by the war babies of the last war." The group believe it's inevitable they will be engaged in war sometime in the next 30 years. They want the $1,000 now," otherwise many who will be killed or wounded in the next war will not get the full benefit of their country's gratitude." As this announcement plays, scenes likely shot during World War I flash across the screen, and "Over There" plays on the soundtrack (8). The montage closes with a scene of World War I graves (9).

As Raymond Fielding reported, most of the featured students were in military service during World War II, and several were killed in action.3

MAY 11, 1936: HindenbUrg Swastika Play audio

This short clip suggests that by 1936 many Americans were not feeling neutral about Germany. The town of Lakehurst is the zeppelin Hindenburg's arrival point, but few have turned out for the event and "the whole town's overstocked." Businessmen bought too many supplies, and there's no more of a crowd than every Sunday. "Why do you think they didn't come out here today?" asks the March of Time reporter.

"I'm mayor of this town, and I don't want to get mixed up in any kind of international politics, but have you seen those four big black and white trademarks on the rudders of this new zeppelin?"

"Oh, you mean the Nazi swastikas?"


"You think that's what kept people away?"

"Umhum—and Adolf Hitler."

The bit ends at that and cuts quickly to music, as if closing the story with a zinger.

"JUNK AND WAR," October 1, 1937 Play movie

 Rendino the junk man
Rendino the junk man tranforms himself through war profits: (1) Rendino as we first see him looks like a recent immigrant; (2) Rendino and his family drink and dine at a restaurant; (3) Rendino the American businessman.
Rendino drinks
Successful Rendino

This segment offers a lowbrow companion piece to "Munitions," which discusses war profiteering at the executive level. While the federal government may have been slow to rebuild the military, the private sector is all too aware of war abroad. This 1937 segment studies how junk dealers during the Depression have patiently collected the valuable things people throw away—most importantly, metal. "Not in 20 years has there been so great a world demand for U.S. metal in every form," the narrator explains. U.S. steel mills are junk dealers' best customers. The segment follows one man in particular who has profited, Alphonse Rendino. "These days, junk man Rendino's social standing has risen considerably. Housewives who once hardly bothered to notice him, wait for him now with new interest and anticipation of pocket money." He "knows that the greatest stimulus to his trade today is war and the fear of war." Suddenly Rendino "is a valuable business connection." Here the filmmakers tie in the story of a common man to a larger theme, perhaps to draw in others like Rendino—hard on their luck and as The March of Time sets it up, perhaps dealing in unsavory business to rise from poverty.

In the past nine months, 2.5 tons of scrap iron left U.S. ports for aggressor and more friendly nations. "Italy, without resources of her own, is buying it for fascism. Great Britain, despite her own rich mines, is buying U.S. steel for rearmament. But by far the largest purchaser of American scrap iron has been Japan, totally lacking herself the iron and steel which makes war possible." Only now can we see the irony in this, but then the statement is made with some sense that it might not be a good idea to arm Japan. After this exposition we learn the American business may be threatened by war fears: "As the demands of a war-nervous world send metal prices soaring, to Alphonse Rendino and 250,000 other U.S. junkdealers comes disturbing news—talk of an embargo on scrap."

Filmmakers appear to draw a connection between the gross business of war and the grossness of war profiteers, if Rendino, at the low end of the totem pole, could be called such. "To junk man Rendino [Rendino often has "junk man" spoken in front of his name, to drive home his lowly status], it seems unfair that the junk business should be singled out for an embargo." He sees ships from China and Japan loading finished steel, but the United States is not allowed to send finished planes. "All Mr. Rendino knows, in his new prosperity, is that in a world today more concerned with destruction than it is with construction, the prices of scrap metal are high, his business good. For the first time Alphonse Rendino, junk dealer, finds himself a person of importance, in a world where steel is master." Rendino is thus cast as a slave who believes in his elevated status because of his newfound prosperty, but the filmmakers cast judgment on him—steel is his master, and he is still only a "junk dealer," unaware of the higher morals at stake. The March of Time is comfortable casting stones at rich foreign war profiteers, but when it looks to the homefront, it focuses on the tadpole in the business, perhaps to explain that small businessmen will be affected by an embargo, but also ignoring the richer business executives profiting from their decision to sell metal.

JANUARY 6, 1938: Sinking of the Panay (Ad) Play audio

This ad for the new issue of Life advertises "37 memorable scenes" from the sinking of the U.S. gunboat Panay by Japanese war planes. Four U.S. destroyers accompanied the pictures back to the United States so the Japanese could not destroy them, the narrator explains. The event "will remain a landmark in the history of American relations with the Orient...It is a salient example of Life's primary purpose: through pictures, to inform."

According to historian Samuel Eliot Morison, the Japanese quickly apologized for the attack, saying the Americans—who were fleeing China because of the heightening Japan-China conflict—had been mistaken for a Chinese vessel. Although an investigation by the U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry at Shanghai revealed the attack was deliberate, "the United States government was so anxious to avoid war that it accepted the 'mistake' theory, together with an indemnity. When it did so, a sigh of relief passed over the length and breadth of America."4

FEBRUARY 10, 1938: A Navy Second to None Play audio

Admiral William D. Leahy warns of the intentions of Germany, Japan, and Italy, and declares that "the United States must be prepared with a navy second to none." The narrator notes that this is the first time in 22 years that the Navy has gone on record in naming a potential enemy on the high seas. A re-enactment of his testimony and questioning by congressmen reveals that the 1936 London Naval Treaty allowed the United States and Great Britain five ships each to every three Japan built. Japan reportedly has exceeded their limit. In an exchange revealing the racial prejudices in play, a congressman asks, "Does it take five Americans to lick three Japs?" Leahy responds that although he is not familiar with that expression, but that he would risk fighting with an equal navy. When asked if Americans are in conversations with British admiralty, Leahy responds that he cannot answer the question at a public hearing. One day after his refusal, an announcement is issued from Secretary of State Cordell Hull's office: the United States and Great Britain approached Japan with a request for information on the Japanese naval-building program. If there is no reply by February 20, "the United States, Great Britain and France will consider themselves free to adopt naval armament plans without limitation."

Later, on the floor of the Senate, congressmen speak out against the State Department for acting in alliance with Great Britain. The President assures the Senate that this is "not the case." An Idaho senator remarks, "Mr. President, the important thing is that it looks as if we are allying ourselves against an enemy. And when other nations see that we are building a navy, the like of which has never been seen in time of peace, they can draw but one conclusion. These things cannot be whistled down the wind. These things lead to war." Another congressmen responds that the United States must be prepared without alliance to "destroy any power that dares to attack us." This week no reply has come from Japan, but "unofficially"—as the Voice of Time announces—the United States has "officially" entered the world armament race for the first time since the World War. Furthermore, an American Institute of Public Opinion nationwide poll (announced by a voice other than the narrator's) shows the "American people are by overwhelming majority against war and against foreign alliances, yet a majority of 74 percent "favor a navy second to none." Still hoping for peace, the public is now ready to prepare for the worst, or at best, scare off the worst with a powerful navy.

"UNCLE SAM: THE GOOD NEIGHBOR," November 25, 1938 Play movie

 shippin box with vorsicht
(1) Re-enactment of German goods in boxes. (2) German goods include the stereotypical Biergarten and the newer "Mi Lucha" or "Mein Kampf." (3)
German products
Mein Kampf

This segment discusses America's Good Neighbor Policy, but also touches on problems with Japan and Germany. America is making friends with South America because the government "would like to keep the threat of war from the western hemisphere by a mutual understanding among the American republics."

The threat from abroad is economic as well as moral and physical: "Already these markets have been invaded by nations whose dictator-controlled economies challenge all competition." Ominous music plays as Japanese boats flash across the screen. In South America, Germany is buying sorely needed materials using blocked currency—money that can be redeemed only with German goods (1). By this system of barter, Germany has forced on South America her unwanted surpluses.

Moreover, the competition from abroad is unfair: to obtain foreign credits, Germany sent government-subsidized sales organizations (American sales companies are not subsidized). German salesmen have carried Nazi products [identified as Biergartens, military toy figures, etc. in figure 2] into every remote market. The film equates the spread of goods with the spread of ideology (perhaps a theme that would compare well with American goods during the Cold War):"Along with salesmen and shopkeepers have gone the Nazi doctrine which Germany is today spreading throughout the world." This idea is illustrated by showing that Mein Kampf ("Mi Lucha") is one of the German products offered for sale. The German government also operates an airline bringing South America two days within Berlin, heightening the commercial threat Germany poses.

The film also features South American resistance to Nazi "infiltration." In Brazil, when President/Dictator Vargas learns of their spreading doctrine and of his own planned assassination attempt, he declares all Nazi material outlawed. The film shows Undersecretary of State Sumner Wells noting, "it's not too much to say the future of all of us, the future welfare of every one of the republics may necessarily depend upon our continued solidarity." The presidents of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil have pledged support to the Good Neighbor program. The widening divide between Germany/Italy/Japan and the Western world is characterized as one of militarism versus morality and democracy. Secretary Hull defines the nation's foreign policy: "Is the future of the world to be determined on universal reliance on armed force, or will practices of peace, morality, justice, and order govern international relations? There is and there can be no doubt as to the desire of the people of this country. We want security. We want progress and prosperity for ourselves and for all nations."

 Ambassador ordered home

The filmmakers show that Hull's message has spread across the world by featuring images of frontpage news from different nations. Viewers look over the swastika-decorated shoulder of a Nazi soldier at the newspaper. But as 1938 draws to a close there are more disturbing reports abroad, and the American ambassador to Germany has been ordered home (4). Hull plans to carry on with his policy—"the policy of the good neighbor in the community of nations whose relations with the world are governed by peace, morality, and justice. Time marches on!"

"YOUNG AMERICA," February 1939 Play movie

 Godless Russia
(1, 3, 5) The maps show Russia, Germany, and Italy in an ominous light, each with their own darkly glowing symbol.
Lenin's book
Nazi Germany
Mein Kampf
  Doctrine of Fascism
  gas masks
  Showing tolerance
"America's Answer" to Nazism and fascism is the Boy Scouts.
America's answer
The scene above appears while the narrator notes that every religion, race, and creed is welcome; it suggests a boy showing his cross or Star of David, but looks instead like some kind of medal or compass.
  scout salute

By looking at the Boy Scouts, this segment offers a propagandistic alternative to the rising tide of fascism abroad and seeks to define American values in opposition to those of Germany, Italy and Russia. In 1939 the world's next-best selling book is the Boy Scout manual, second only to the Bible. The narrator claims, "today in many a nation the Bible is being replaced by other books of faith," pointing to Lenin's autibiography from "godless" Russia (1-2). "In Nazi Germany, where free thought is forbidden," everyone must read Mein Kampf (3-4); Mussolini has Doctrine of Fascism (5-6)—which asks Italians to "fight and die for the glory of their dictator," as the gas masks indicate (7). In contrast, the 676-page Boy Scout manual "is the handbook for democratic youth the world over. More than 10 million copies have already been sold."

The Boy Scouts' duty is to guard the country and obey scout law, be mentally awake and morally straight. Each year 300,000 Cubs become full-fledged Scouts. The film presents the Boy Scouts as an opposition to fascist and communistic regimes: "In the Scout scheme of character building, there is no place for regimentation, no standard pattern to which every boy must conform. The first principle of the Scout movement is that the duty of the American youth is to improve his general knowledge and fit himself for the responsibilities of good citizenship." Scouts also emphasize "self-reliance, resourcefulness, and character." Above all, Scouts are citizens, not soldiers: as an intertitle explains, "side by side with character building goes the equally important job of preparing young Americans to serve as useful citizens."

The filmmakers cast Boy Scouts as poster boys for democracy and responsible citizenship. Intertitle: "Today the Boy Scout movement is gaining importance by promoting what the world needs most—respect for the rights of others." The film further ties America to England, noting that no organization in Britain receives more whole-hearted support than the Scouts. "England, faced with the possibility of going to war to preserve what remains of Europe's democratic institutions, sees in the Scout movement a sure way to perpetuate at home the tradition which every Britisher cherishes—freedom of thought and speech." The Scout movement has also grown in France. "Today among all of the people of Europe, none is more determined that the traditions that have long been theirs—liberty, equality, and fraternity—shall be inherited by their children."

In 1939 the Scouts held a nationwide drive to enroll more Americans in the movement:

"In this new campaign for recruits, Scout leaders are pointing to their organization as one which promotes tolerance, the foundation of every true democracy. The stress the fact that eligible for membership in the Boy Scouts is every American youth, regardless of race or creed, that throughout the United States there are now 37,000 Boy Scout troops made up of young citizens from every walk and every station of American life. Each Scout, Protestant, Jew or Catholic, is encouraged to be faithful in his own religious duties and at the same time respect the convictions of others (9). And today in the Boy Scouts of America, more and more people see a way to promote a form of sane, practical patriotism and love of country that will contribute to an American future even greater than the American past (10). Time marches on!"

"WAR, PEACE AND PROPAGANDA," June 1939 Play movie

 Japan exhibit
Washington's heritage

The New York World's Fair offers a starting point for filmmakers to talk about propaganda and increasing pressure on the United States to help Great Britain.

Conceived as an "advertising and publicity scheme," the Fair features "59 foreign countries eager in 1939 to promote goodwill and friendship among the American people by propaganda. By definition, propaganda is any organized effort, whether good or bad, to direct public thought." Filmmakers point out that governments, including America's, are making use of propaganda, and others are expert at it. "A grand master of this art is Soviet Russia, whose $8 million pavilion, built of gaskin marble, towers high in the International Court of Peace. Japan's exhibit is pointedly peaceful, designed to make visitors conscious of Japanese culture rather than her warrior spirit (1). Italy glorifies the new Roman empire and the achievements of her people under 17 years of fascist rule." Notably, "Nazi Germany" is not participating. In the British Pavilion there is evidence that "Today England is more desirous of promoting U.S. good will and friendship than at any time since her dark days of 1914." The theme of the British exhibit is the common bond linking the United States and Britain. For example, the exhibit features the Magna Carta, and the British ancestry of George Washington is traced back. The exhibit points out that Washington's British heraldry has stars and stripes (2), that names famous in British history are names common in American communities. The year also marks a historic British campaign to increase ties to America, including through a royal visit. "But even more important to England in the event of war, is the assurance that the United States will be at least a source of arms and food." Royals are not the only ones visiting—royal navy crew members visit, and they are shown playing on the playground and dancing with women. "America finds every Britisher, whether statesmen or seaman, by nature a diplomat."

 The Institute for Propaganda Analysis
(3) The Institute for Propaganda Analysis

The film next dives into analyzing the propaganda Americans face. The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (represented by a group of men in figure 3) aims to help the United States recognize propaganda in any form. Even the King and Queen are sent "to sell us England's point of view on world affairs." The Institute's claims are offered in a separate intertitle structure clearly identifying them as the author—perhaps to indicate they are neutral and not tied to The March of Time. A sample Institute intertitle reads: "Unlike Communist and Fascist propaganda, British propaganda is openly designed to make Americans feel that the interests and ideals of England and America are identical." The film faults Britain for letting the aggressor nations off the hook: For 11 years Ramsey MacDonald "stood by as then Japan invaded Manchuria and Adolf Hitler rose to power." Nazi Germany repudiated treaties banning rearmament and the League of Nations collapsed. "This dread of war was to become resignation to war under [Prime Minister] Neville Chamberlain. In September of 1938 when war seemed but a matter of hours the people of England who for nearly 20 years had been demanding the enforcement of peace through disarmament and collective security found their peace at an end, their security shattered, and their empire threatened by the very nation their statesmen had once disarmed."

Now England has evacuated children from London, and sacrificing Czechoslovakia for peace did not work. Disillusionment reigns as the film shows a viscount noting that submission to Hitler increases the prestige of Nazi government and diminution of this country. Now, the "only thing that counts in international affairs is brutal force," he concludes. Institute intertitle: "Out of Munich grew Britain's new 'Peace Front' which is being propagandized today as democracy's first line of defense against the aggression of dictators..." The film says the strongest link in the Peace Front is the alliance with France. The Rome and Berlin strategy of lightning attacks "must fail" against their resources and endurance. France has "a formidable first line for Europe's peace front." (Figure 4 shows the European map again with ominous German and Italian symbols.)

 European map
  Poland corridor
(5) Hitler demands a 15-mile wide strip across Poland. (6) Britons prepare with gas mask fittings, although in some cases (7) life goes on as before.
  Gas mask fitting
  Mother and baby in a park
  Man working in garden
bombproof flower bed

The Peace Front has pledged to preserve democracies as smaller countries like the Netherlands can only hope to slow the Germans. In Belgium and Switzerland 70 percent already speak German. The Peace Front nations see the greatest danger in Hitler's demands for a 15-mile wide strip across Poland (5). "Should Nazis march across the Polish corridor, the Peace Front is committed to fight," the narrator explains. England is already preparing for war by instituting compulsory military service; great generals are teaching at the military academy; there are gas mask fittings because of fears of mass bombing of civilian populations (6); the Air Raid Precaution (ARP) is established; anti-aircraft batteries are set up; and the RAF is converting outmoded planes to training ships. Institute intertitle: "Almost as important to England as her strength in arms is the assurance that in the event of war, the U.S. will at least be a 'benevolent neutral'."

In the next scene, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is deliberating on neutrality, and the committee chairman is supportive of helping Britain, short of offering an army. "Demanding that U.S. munitions markets be closed to all belligerents is the Senate's isolationist group, men who fear that any trade with warring nations will again lead to war. But holding the balance between isolationists and non-isolationists is a wide section of public opinion, whose spokesmen are such men as Iowa's Guy Angelette: "To keep out of war we must be neutral in spirit and in fact. No matter how we may feel about the right or wrong or the relative merits of controversies in Europe and in Asia, we must not let our emotions and prejudices carry this nation into war." As the scene shifts to Britain, the narrator explains there is new pride in its people of their traditions (said while the formal "Pomp and Circumstance" plays on the soundtrack as a theme for England). The film shows scenes of everyday life (e.g. a baby and mother, 7) as the narrator concludes, "And stronger in its appeal to world opinion than the pageantry of empire and the parading of a king, is the quiet determination of every Englishmen that upon his empire, the sun shall never set." With these final words the scene shows a man working in his garden, and the camera cuts to a close-up of his tulips. Next to them is a sign that says "bombproof." A perennial flower, tulips return each spring. The shot may show the spirit (and humor) of the British people as they face a dark future, but the segment shows signs of being propagandistic itself, stoking American sympathy for the British who are so like them in spirit and habits.

1 CIA World Factbook. 15 July 2004. <>

2 Fielding, Raymond. The March of Time, 1935-1951. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. 145.

3 Fielding, Raymond. The March of Time, 1935-1951. 147.

4 Excerpt from History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
Volume 3: The Rising Sun in the Pacific
(pp. 16-18). Samuel Eliot Morison. <>