The Battle of Britain
|Why We Fight: The Battle of Britain|
|Directed by||Frank Capra
|Produced by||Office of War Information|
|Written by||Julius Epstein; Philip Epstein|
|Narrated by||Walter Huston|
|Edited by||William Hornbeck|
|Distributed by||War Activities Committee of the Motion Pictures Industry|
|Running time||54 minutes|
- For the 1969 film, see Battle of Britain (film). For the World War II battle, see Battle of Britain.
The Battle of Britain was the fourth of Frank Capra's Why We Fight series of seven propaganda films, which made the case for fighting and winning the Second World War. It was released in 1943 and concentrated on the German bombardment of the United Kingdom in anticipation of Operation Sea Lion, the planned Nazi invasion of Great Britain.
The narrator describes the fall of France, leaving Britain almost defenceless. British forces are vastly outnumbered, but the British people are calm. The narrator explains that this is because in a democracy the people as a whole are involved in the decision to fight. Hitler's masterplan to subjugate Britain is described. Hitler begins by attacking convoys and ports, but fails to destroy them. The RAF are outnumbered "6 - 8 - 10 to one", but knock out far more planes than the Germans do. Bailed out British pilots are also able to return to the air, but German pilots are lost. Unlike the Dutch and Polish airforce Britain does not "make the mistake of bunching its planes on the runways".
Losses force Hitler to "take time out". He tells Goering to change tactics, so the Luftwaffe attack factories. Britain deploys "improved listening posts" to identify coming attacks. In August and September German losses are far more severe. However the "German mind" cannot understand why "free people fight on against overwhelming odds". The Nazis now aim to "crush the British spirit" by attacking London, destroying homes, hospitals and churches. But the people adapt and survive. Enraged, Goering takes personal command, sending a massive attack on September 15, to which the British respond with "everything they had". In the battle the Germans suffer severe losses.
Despite many losses, and destruction of historic buildings, the Germans cannot break Britain. They switch to night attacks, hoping to terrorise the people and make them "cry for mercy". But the people show great resilience. The British also counter-attack, bombing German factories. Hitler takes revenge by destroying Coventry. After a brief respite at Christmas Hitler sends fire bombs to London, creating "the greatest fire in recorded history". More bombings and firestorms are created, but Britain's defences hold up, giving a year of precious time to other countries threatened by the Nazis. The film ends with Winston Churchill's statement that "never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few".
Allegations of anti-Polish bias
The episode has been criticized for anti-Polish bias. The bias is a result of propaganda justifying the Western Allies' alliance with the Soviets, as the Soviets had to be portrayed as the "good guys." The Allies who were unsympathetic towards the Soviet Union, such as the Poles, were misportrayed or simply ignored. Thus, in this episode the map of Europe displayed shows half of Poland free (to avoid mentioning Soviet annexation of Polish territories following Soviet invasion of Poland), repeats the false Nazi propaganda claims that the Polish Air Force was destroyed on the ground (contrasting it with the correct fact that the RAF was not destroyed), and ignores the significant Polish participation in the Battle of Britain. Participation from Polish pilots from No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron and other units was widely publicized in Britain at the time this propaganda piece was filmed).
- Mieczysław B. Biskupski (January 2010). Hollywood's war with Poland, 1939-1945. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-0-8131-2559-6. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- Mieczysław B. Biskupski (January 2010). Hollywood's war with Poland, 1939-1945. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 148–150. ISBN 978-0-8131-2559-6. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- The Battle of Britain is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- The Battle of Britain at the Internet Movie Database