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To Rufus C. Holman
February 9, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Senator:
I have just read this morning in the Congressional Record of February 8th, page 712, your comments regarding the Army Motion Pictures and in particular the first of a series of five “A Prelude to War”, which General Osborn explained to an audience of the American Legion the other day.1
I want to say this, that I personally found the lectures of officers to the men, as to what we were fighting for and what the enemy had done, so unsatisfactory because of the mediocrity of presentation that I directed the preparation of this series of films. Further, that the President, Mr. Roosevelt, had never heard of their preparation, because this was a matter of Army training responsibility, until after “A Prelude to War” had been shown to probably a million troops.
The few civilians who did see the picture were so insistent that the public should be given the benefit of seeing it, that I had the reel sent to the White House and suggested that the President see it with a view to its release for public distribution, less the quotation from a talk by me to the graduating Class at West Point. Up to the present time this release has not been authorized.
From reading your remarks I felt that you had been misled as to the responsibility for these films. It is purely mine. The actual preparation of the films, of course, was worked out by General Osborn and Frank Capra, one of the most skillful movie directors. We are in this war to defeat the Germans and the Japs and I consider that this series of films will be definitely helpful towards that end.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. A Republican member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Holman had seen the film at the January 11 American Legion annual meeting. Prior to the showing, Brigadier General Frederick H. Osborn, head of Special Services, explained why the films had been made. “At the conclusion of the picture,” Holman told the Senate, “I was convinced that Mr. Roosevelt intended to seek a fourth term in the Presidency. I was of the opinion that references to war, oppression, combat, and so forth, as they appeared in the picture are only window dressing and stage scenery for cleverly organized campaign material.” On February 8 Holman introduced Senate Resolution 95, which called for an investigation of the preparation and distribution by government agencies of motion pictures, magazines, and periodicals in order to determine what authorization justified these activities, what appropriations financed them, their “underlying purpose,” and “the persons to whom such propaganda is disseminated.” (Congressional Record, 78th Cong., 1st sess., vol. 89, pt. 1: 674.) The resolution was sent to the Committee on Appropriations, which took no action. For a previous comment by Marshall on the “Why We Fight” film series, see Marshall Memorandum for the President, November 23,1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-421 [3: 449-50].
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), pp. 538-539.