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Memorandum for General Osborn
October 25, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
I have just read your memorandum of October 24 outlining the development of special films. I have no comments to make regarding the program except to say that it seems admirably adopted to the general purpose we have in mind.1
With reference to “Prelude to War,” I wish you would express to Capra my admiration for the superb job he and his associates have done. It seems to me that in the making of that film they have evolved a practical process for the education of the citizens of a democracy, certainly for the teaching of history in our schools, which may have the most far reaching effects. I suppose in time of peace, particularly as relates to public schools, there would be oppositions of the same character as those which affected our attitude in the period depicted in “Prelude to War.” However, that is a mere detail.
While I believe it is outside of your responsibility, I am deeply interested in the development of training films, because I do not think we have achieved anything like the progress we should be making in utilizing the screen for the expeditious instruction of soldiers—and on a much higher standard of efficiency than can possibly be attained by the use of thousands of officers of varying degrees of ability as instructors. The trouble in this has been the insistence of the military mind on a precision, or rather military, method of presenting the technique of weapons, etc., without utilizing to a sufficient degree the skill of directors in holding the attention of an audience and presenting matters in the impressive manner which they have developed for the entertainment of the public.
Altogether, I believe the directing and technical talent of the moving picture industry can make a tremendously important contribution to our war effort, and certainly the leaders of the industry seem only too willing to do their part.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Marshall had viewed the film “Prelude to War” on October 22. Osborn had sent the chief of staff a memorandum listing the films his Special Services Branch had in production in the “Why We Fight,” “Strategic Battles,” and “Know Your Enemy/Know Your Ally” series. He observed that director Frank Capra “believes that some of these films will be the most moving he has ever made, and will be enormously effective as a force for unity with our Allies.” (Osborn Memorandum for General Marshall, October 24, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 004.5 (10-25-42)].) Capra’s recollections of the beginning of his army documentary film career and his relations with Marshall are in The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography (New York: Macmillan Company, 1971), pp. 317-42.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), p. 411.