This film is part of Free

Soldiers with Wings

Released in the USA on the day that Germany invaded Poland - 1st September 1939 - this timely and dramatic issue warns America to prepare for a new kind of warfare.

Documentary 1939 19 mins


A warning to Americans not to be complacent about the perils of war in the air, this film showcases the results of the $200 million programme for aircraft construction and pilot recruitment. Multiple shots of gleaming B17 bombers, bristling with machine guns, and equipped with state of the art automatic bomb sights, contrast starkly with footage of ageing Amiot 143 bombers on the airfields of France, so that although the intended message is that Europe is prepared but America is not, it almost seems that the opposite is true.

An odd mixture of bellicose defiance, nostalgia for peace and a warning (to the US) about the dangers of complacency in the face of Hitler and the Nazis, the wavering tone of this film clearly reflects the tension and uncertainty of the times, when world-changing events were a daily occurrence. Within forty-eight hours of the US release, Britain and France were at war with Germany, and less than a year later Hitler was touring in triumph through the defeated French capital. The shadow of imminent war lends a poignant edge to the closing shots of Paris and London, in which silhouetted children play in a park and blossom blows on the trees in quiet peaceful streets.