Reading Mark Harris's masterly film history Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War — a counterpart to Annegret Fauser's Sounds of War — led me to watch various of the wartime documentaries (or pseudo-documentaries) that are described in the book. One thing that struck me is that the music of the films is not as simplistic as one might expect. Gail Kubik's score for William Wyler's Memphis Belle has some surprisingly acerbic moments: listen for the angular bomber theme at 3:33. Kubik wrote in a similar style for the 1942 Office of War Information documentary The World at War.
Five Came Back left me with a deepened regard for Wyler, George Stevens, and John Huston, each of whom managed to transcend the limitations of propaganda. Yet I also felt sharp unease about the cumulative effect of these paeans to American might, which were conjoined to a relentless demonization of the Germans and the Japanese. Consider this script that Frank Capra concocted for FDR, as a welcome to new inductees: "Go to it, men! Show these self-appointed supermen that free men are not only the happiest and most prosperous, but also that we are the strongest." While Harris found no evidence that Roosevelt actually delivered the speech, it is evidence of an ominous mentality. The self-appointing of supermen did not end in 1945.