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Mapping Why We Fight

Frank Capra and the US Army Orientation Film in World War II

2. 1929 to 1945

3. 1939–1945

  1. Charles Wolfe

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf040

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Wolfe, C. 2011. Mapping Why We Fight. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 2:3:38.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011


In a “fireside chat” delivered over national radio on Washington's Birthday, February 23, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered an expansive account of the conflict in which the United States was now engaged, the scope of which extended far beyond Pearl Harbor and the events that had propelled US entry into the war 11 weeks before. The oceans of the world, Roosevelt stressed, were no longer buffers but battlefields and vital thoroughfares for communication and logistical supplies. “It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island, every sea, every air lane in the world,” he explained. “That is the reason why I have asked you to take out and spread before you the map of the whole earth, and to follow with me in the references which I shall make to the world-encircling battle lines of this war.” Referring repeatedly to the listener's map — “I ask you to look at your map again …” — Roosevelt identified various continents, subcontinents, and nations where America's Allies were embattled: China and Russia, the British Isles, Australia and New Zealand, the Dutch Indies, India, the Near East, and Africa. “Look too at North America, Central America, and South America,” he advised, and contemplate the consequences “if all these great reservoirs of power were cut off from each other either by enemy action or self-imposed isolation.” Taking pains to dispel rumors that the US Pacific fleet had been completely destroyed at Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt insisted that topography was of greater consequence than surprise in the success of Japan's attack. Here, too, a world map revealed the true source of the challenge the Allies faced — Japan's complete domination of the islands between Hawaii and the Philippines. Yet the Axis Powers should take no comfort in this advantage, Roosevelt assured his listeners, for “Germany, Italy, and Japan are very close to the maximum output of planes, guns, tanks, and ships.” The task for Americans now was to build up production “so that the United Nations can maintain control of the seas and attain control of the air.”


  • animation;
  • Frank Capra;
  • documentary;
  • globalization;
  • George C. Marshall;
  • propaganda;
  • radio;
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt;
  • why we fight;
  • world war ii