The 60-minute documentary was the fifth of the Army Special Service's "Why We Fight" series. Assembled under the supervision of Lt. Colonel Frank Capra, the film is a sublimely assembled collection of authentic newsreel footage from both the U.S. Signal Corps and various Soviet sources. Narrated by Anthony Veiller, Battle for Russia is designed to clarify the history of America's Russian allies to military and civilian audiences alike, and to emphasize the importance of Russo-American cooperation in defeating the Nazi juggernaut. The film's highlight is the siege of Stalingrad, alternately terrifying and awe-inspiring. The musical score was by Russian expatriate Dmitri Tiomkin, who'd previously collaborated with Capra on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
The Battle of Russia is the fifth film of Frank Capra's Why We Fight propaganda film series, and the longest film of the series.
The film begins with an overview of previous failed attempts to conquer Russia: by the Teutonic Knights in 1242 (footage from Sergei Eisenstein's film Alexander Nevsky is used here), by Charles XII of Sweden in 1704 (footage from Vladimir Petrov's film Peter the First), byNapoleon I in 1812, and by Germany in World War I.
The vast natural resources of the Soviet Union are then described, showing why the land is such a hot prize for conquerors. To give a positive impression of the Soviet Union to the American audience, the country's ethnic diversity is covered in detail. Later on, elements of Russian culture familiar to Americans, including the musical compositions of Tchaikovsky and Leo Tolstoy's book War and Peace are also mentioned. Communism is never mentioned at any point in the film. The start of the film also includes a quote from U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who commended the Russian people's defense of their nation as one of the most courageous feats in military history.
The film then covers the Nazi conquests in the Balkans, described as a preliminary to close off possible Allied counter-invasion routes, before the war against Russia was launched on June 22, 1941. The narration describes the German "keil und kessel" tactics for offensive warfare, and the Soviet "defense in depth" used to counter this. The scorched earth Soviet tactics, the room-to-room urban warfare in Soviet cities, and the guerilla warfare behind enemy lines are also used to underline the Soviet resolve for victory against the Nazis.