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"America's role in the war": The OWI, Hollywood, and Military Reparation in WWII Films

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Abstract:

During WWII, the US government, recognizing the efficacy of the Nazi propaganda machine, created its own "war information" division. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Office of War Information (OWI in June 1942. The OWI in turn created the Bureau of Motion Pictures (BMP), an organization that worked directly and intensively with Hollywood to facilitate the production of popular films to disseminate the government's war policies through movies. The OWI developed detailed guidelines for war films in general and the U.S. government's policies in specific geo-political areas, and through the BMP, worked closely with the film studios throughout the production process to enhance popular feature films' propagation of U.S. war agendas. In particular, the OWI/BMP enjoined Hollywood to portray the U.S.' Allies in a sympathetic and celebratory manner and to abandon marginalizing stereotypes in the portrayals of non-white American Allies. Another of the OWI/BMP's emphases was the improvement of films' depiction of the war as a team effort in which the United States was only one (if an important) player. The OWI generated meticulous guidelines for films both about and for the "Far East" and the Philippines, and rigorously criticized films in production and in their final theatrical versions for how well the films embodied the government's political and ideological goals.
So Proudly We Hail, Paramount's major 1943 production in service to the war effort, was researched meticulously and fashioned with an explicit dedication to absolute realism. Paramount also worked in close partnership with the OWI to produce So Proudly as a film that disseminated the US government's war agenda—so much so that the government used it as a vehicle for recruiting nurses to serve the country's explosive need for nurses during a two-front war.
Yet despite – and perhaps in spite of—Paramount's bruited adherence to absolute historical realism as well as the spirit of OWI's call for war films that recognized and publicized non-white Allies' military service, the film marginalized to mere brief, bit players the Filipina nurses who served during the Bataan Campaign (December 1941-April 1942) and who, after the Fall of Bataan and the imposition of Japanese Occupational rule, joined the resistance and worked, at great personal risk, to get food, medicine, and news to American POWs in the infamous Japanese POW camps. These Filipina nurses endured danger and hardship exciting enough for a Hollywood film—indeed, a screenwriter would be hard pressed to invent a more thrilling tale of wartime danger and hero(ine)ism. By making relatively minor changes to the script, Paramount could have made So Proudly We Hail as clear a tribute to the Filipinos and Filipinas as it was to American service(wo)men, but chose not to.
Reparation usually, if implicitly, refers to making up for past faults, sins, or crimes. During WWII, through the OWI's film guidelines, Hollywood studios had the opportunity—amounting to a pseudo-military directive—to make reparation to US military Allies in the moment, as history and military developments were unfolding. Analyzing this unique moment in American cultural history offers the opportunity to examine reparation dynamics through an unusual temporal perspective both interesting on a cultural level and with literally life-and-death implications in the present moment and with long-term ramifications on US and Filipino nationalisms.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509602_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Delmendo, Sharon. ""America's role in the war": The OWI, Hollywood, and Military Reparation in WWII Films" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509602_index.html>

APA Citation:

Delmendo, S. ""America's role in the war": The OWI, Hollywood, and Military Reparation in WWII Films" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509602_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: During WWII, the US government, recognizing the efficacy of the Nazi propaganda machine, created its own "war information" division. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Office of War Information (OWI in June 1942. The OWI in turn created the Bureau of Motion Pictures (BMP), an organization that worked directly and intensively with Hollywood to facilitate the production of popular films to disseminate the government's war policies through movies. The OWI developed detailed guidelines for war films in general and the U.S. government's policies in specific geo-political areas, and through the BMP, worked closely with the film studios throughout the production process to enhance popular feature films' propagation of U.S. war agendas. In particular, the OWI/BMP enjoined Hollywood to portray the U.S.' Allies in a sympathetic and celebratory manner and to abandon marginalizing stereotypes in the portrayals of non-white American Allies. Another of the OWI/BMP's emphases was the improvement of films' depiction of the war as a team effort in which the United States was only one (if an important) player. The OWI generated meticulous guidelines for films both about and for the "Far East" and the Philippines, and rigorously criticized films in production and in their final theatrical versions for how well the films embodied the government's political and ideological goals.
So Proudly We Hail, Paramount's major 1943 production in service to the war effort, was researched meticulously and fashioned with an explicit dedication to absolute realism. Paramount also worked in close partnership with the OWI to produce So Proudly as a film that disseminated the US government's war agenda—so much so that the government used it as a vehicle for recruiting nurses to serve the country's explosive need for nurses during a two-front war.
Yet despite – and perhaps in spite of—Paramount's bruited adherence to absolute historical realism as well as the spirit of OWI's call for war films that recognized and publicized non-white Allies' military service, the film marginalized to mere brief, bit players the Filipina nurses who served during the Bataan Campaign (December 1941-April 1942) and who, after the Fall of Bataan and the imposition of Japanese Occupational rule, joined the resistance and worked, at great personal risk, to get food, medicine, and news to American POWs in the infamous Japanese POW camps. These Filipina nurses endured danger and hardship exciting enough for a Hollywood film—indeed, a screenwriter would be hard pressed to invent a more thrilling tale of wartime danger and hero(ine)ism. By making relatively minor changes to the script, Paramount could have made So Proudly We Hail as clear a tribute to the Filipinos and Filipinas as it was to American service(wo)men, but chose not to.
Reparation usually, if implicitly, refers to making up for past faults, sins, or crimes. During WWII, through the OWI's film guidelines, Hollywood studios had the opportunity—amounting to a pseudo-military directive—to make reparation to US military Allies in the moment, as history and military developments were unfolding. Analyzing this unique moment in American cultural history offers the opportunity to examine reparation dynamics through an unusual temporal perspective both interesting on a cultural level and with literally life-and-death implications in the present moment and with long-term ramifications on US and Filipino nationalisms.


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