The March Toward War: The March of Time 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
 Hitler as a youth, center

Marching Into War

The marquis

The March of Time's choice of news items and their tone suggests its creators condemn the actions of the Axis powers and reaffirm "American" values. In its radio and film divisions, The March of Time:

  • Follows stories of countries bordering aggressive nations (victim nations) as they fall to aggressors.
  • At times attempts to be reassuring and optimistic (we and other countries are prepared) while subtext or logic says otherwise.
  • Initially underestimates Germany's and Italy's power within Europe, and Japan's reach.
  • Hammers home the idea that helping the helpless, such as refugees, is charitable and essential.
  • Repeatedly contrasts our ideals with the aggressors' ideals. Nazi, fascist, and militarist ideals are in direct opposition to our own.
  • Following the Munich Pact, the shows blame European nations for not seeing Germany's rising power sooner—after all, he advertised his plans repeatedly in Mein Kampf. While France is let off lightly (Europe division head Dick de Rochemont was an admitted Francophile1), England and the League of Nations take much of the blame. Other European nations are viewed as militarily powerless.
  • Views aggressor nations as threats to the American economy; Japan, Germany, and Italy threaten the marketplace because they can enforce cheap labor through an overbearing government. Again, this is in conflict with American free-market ideals.
  • Shows that aggressor nations are instituting a "new" barbaric kind of warfare: one that threatens civilians in their own homes and towns. Thus the war is between "might makes right" and democratic principles.


Although the radio and film versions are grouped together in this section, they were two distinct divisions of parent company Time, and had different management and staff. The film and audio clips are grouped by subject, and are listed chronologically within each subject area so that the measure of media and public opinion comes through. The audio clips are more sporadic in content and are merely a fraction of what was aired; reproductions of the radio show are rare, while all of the films from the era have been preserved. Some clips appear under multiple subject areas where helpful.

The actual titles of the films vary from the title of each segment, hence though the title says "East of Suez!" for example, the title is actually "Palestine" according to March of Time records.

This section frequently features the term "intertitle," which was often a supplemental feature of silent movies. Intertitles are "printed material that appears on the screen periodically during the course of the movie" to help explain the action or clarify the narrative.2 In the March of Time films they have a number of uses: as a transition piece, as a provider of an omniscient voice other than the Voice of Time narrator, and as a way to emphasize a quote or theme. Intertitles have the potential to be the most memorable and effective of The March of Time narrative tools, because they force viewers to stop listening and read the screen. Printed narration may also feel more truthful, just as people may be more likely to believe a newspaper than a newscast.

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1 Fielding, Raymond. The March of Time, 1935-1951. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. 264.

2 Dick, Bernard F. Anatomy of a Film. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002. 35.