America Goes to War: World War II Review

In the years leading up to the United States’ entry into World War II and the time after, the word “patriotism” took on multiple meanings for the sake of the war effort. For young, able-bodied men it meant enlisting in the military and going out to fight against the Fuhrer and the Japanese, but on the home front the term took on a far more diverse definition. Patriotism became the motivating buzz word that sent industry into overdrive and led men, women, and children to “do their part” in the effort to supply our boys overseas with everything they’d need to win the fight. Though a culture is always reluctant to call its own materials propaganda, United States had more than its fair share designed to elicit a variety of emotional responses in citizens and soldiers alike.

PBS’s America Goes to War, a collection of Home Front presentations, offers a seemingly endless deluge of all the videos America produced during wartime for a variety of purposes including showing soldiers what life was like back home (and how industrious everyone was), warning against sleeping with prostitutes while on leave, and all manner of anti-Nazi pieces often with a very mocking tone of the German opponents. Needless to say, there’s lots of archival footage to be found in this 5-hour set along with many old photos of pin-up girls, movie posters, and pro-industry ads.

One of the more interesting aspects of this collection are the small tidbits of information that are addressed with a passing glance though they’re rather alarming when you consider where we are as a nation today. One such example is the government’s spending tendencies during the war and how they’d pay a set fee to the tank and plane-making industries with no mind as to how much of that was flat profit. It’s the kind of reckless foolish spending that misleads people to believe that wartime will automatically result in a boom in manufacturing. Or how about the utterly foolish strategy that favored quantity over ingenuity? When it became clear that submarines were sinking our cargo ships, American industry didn’t opt to come up with a countermeasure, we simply decided to (and I’m quoting it directly) “produce more cargo ships than the German submarines could sink. And it worked.” Brilliant.

Zapp Brannigan: The Killbots? A trifle! It was simply a matter of outsmarting them.
Fry: Wow! I never would have thought of that!
Zapp Brannigan: You see, Killbots have a preset kill limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own men at them, until they reached their limit and shut down. Kif, show them the medal I won.

DVD Bonus Features


"America Goes to War: World War II" is on sale March 6, 2012 and is not rated. Documentary. Directed by Anthony Ross Potter, Frank J De Meo. Written by Patrick Trese. Starring Eric Sevareid.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


New Reviews