Why We Fight

The Office of War Information, or O.W.I. was established during World War II in an effort to help the United States government gain momentum in developing  influential propaganda and outreach. The government’s aim was to strengthen and build up existing government services as well as to spread heavily patriotic propaganda to Americans both in the states as well as across the globe. The OWI was able to disseminate information far and wide by using hollywood to produce popular pro-war films as well as incorporate big name celebrities during the 40’s, to influence the general public. The United States government attempted to abstain from the war for as long as possible, however it was on December 7, 1941 that Japan bombed pearl harbor. Immediately after this Iconic incident, on December 8, president Franklin D. Roosevelt and the United States congress  declared war against Japan. As mentioned by Baylor University, the intention of the Office of War Information was to persuade American citizens to join to fight, the war on the ‘Homefront.’”(8)  Because the U.S was now involved in the war, the government needed a method of attracting both men and women  to fight for their country, and while doing so the government developed another service directly partnered with the OWI; the Bureau of Motion Pictures (BMP). The BMP, as a subdivision of the OWI, partnered up with Hollywood to create films for the public with the idea of encouraging patriotism.As referred to by, Takeya Mizuno, an author for the Densho Encyclopedia; “President F.D.R, named popular CBS radio news commentator and former New York Times reporter Elmer Davis as the head director of the OWI.” (6) Takeya Mizuno then goes on to say that, “Davis insisted that the agency’s policy was to tell the truth however information could not be separated from interpretation ,thus the OWI told the truth by degrees and with partial bias.” (6) It is very understandable as to why Davis would say this as if the truth had not been told it would potentially cause dysfunction between the community and possibly separate the people from their “Trustworthy Government”. By using the “strategy of truth,” which was a method of releasing information to the people without giving them a forced opinion of the war,  the government was able to steer away from the pressure the media was placing on the United States. The Office of War Information was specifically created to centralize the many United States government’s information services, and create a single line of communication about the war to the American public.  The Office of War Information could be compared to a filter to some extent; They were responsible for sifting through and censoring information of films, radio broadcasts, and news papers to rid them of information deemed to much for the public. Because the OWI kept  some secrets from the public about the truths of war, the civilians were able to carry on through their daily lives while continuing to support their country. It is from this idea that author, Laura Sparaco notes, “The Office of War Information created a propaganda machine… distributing poster, booklets, photographs, radio broadcasts, and films designed to improve morale and boost the peoples patriotism.” (7) The OWI used various forms of media to spread their information and propaganda  throughout the United States. A very effective method, however was to use “leaflet bombs,” dropping them throughout the Homefront. The Leaflet bomb were shells containing roles of published comic books, posters, papers and other forms of propaganda  used to boost citizen morale. (4)  They were an important method to spread propaganda, as they could be used to reach those in rural areas as well as to enemy troops of which they could use the material to surrender to allied forces. (4) Many methods of propaganda worked phenomenally, however it was the government and the OWI that realised that the influence of films and movies could out weight other forms of propaganda. This lead to the development of the OWI’s sub- service being ; the Bureau of Motion Pictures. The Bureau of Motion pictures or (BMP) was an agency, created to publish educational morale boosting films and content. The Agency was dedicated to releasing a variety of films with the hopes that it would gain popularity and encourage the American citizens to join up or involve themselves in the war effort. Most of the films created by the film agencies, portrayed many sides of the war effort. It wasn’t until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, however that President Franklin D. Roosevelt would declare war on Japan and the war movies would take a very a dramatic turn from. (4) Following the events of the war an iconic seven part film series dubbed, “Why We Fight” would be released to the public through movie theaters. The Bureau of Motion Picture’s purpose was to coordinate the production of entertainment features with patriotic themes and messages that were capable of describing the american way of life. The OWI and BMP used Hollywood, through its influence to get the word of the war effort out to the public. Because most people did not own a television the Government saw it fit to run any important information through films in the cinemas. The OWI partnered with many photographers and filmmakers in Hollywood in order to create content that would capture the light, uplifting moments of the war.  The reason for this could have been that if the people saw that these men and women were helping their friends and families, partners and fellow warriors fight for what was good that maybe they would want to pitch in and help the government by taking trade related jobs like metal working and factory jobs that could benefit the military. Director of the OWI, Elmer Davis mentioned, that “The easiest way to inject a propaganda idea into most people’s minds is to let it go through the medium of an entertainment picture when they do not realize that they are being propagandized.” (10) Because the media used big name actors like, John Wayne and Charles Bronson more and more people would visit the movie theaters to watch the films which contained embedded pro war information that would allow the viewer to feel a sense of patriotism, like they were part of something bigger. Hollywood’s film industry united American citizens by creating a stronger bond that could help others push through the harsh times of WWII. Both the Office of War of War Information and the Bureau of Motion Pictures, accomplished great things. The movies were not only able to give public information, they were capable of much more than that; They gave the public understanding. They could clarify confusing and complex problems.