Documentary films can be dry, boring things to take in.  Once in awhile, though, I come across one that is reasonably entertaining while being highly educational.  This was the case when I stumbled across “Scrappers-How The Heartland Won World War II” 

The DVD was filed in the movie section of the recorded video shelves at the Norfolk Public Library, so I expected something different. The box notes credited the Nebraska Humanities Council, so I knew I’d better bring it home.

The documentary opens with a comparison of the attack on Pearl Harbor with that of September 11, 2001.  The opening gambit appears to be the desire of the filmmakers to stir up patriotism in the U.S. at a time when nationalism appears to be waning.  That message is made subtly and quickly, then, mercifully, the rest of the film unfolds.

The United States finds itself engaged in a two front war.  President Franklin Roosevelt announces the goal of victory and furthermore the task of record breaking manufacture of materiel for the arduous conflict ahead of the nation. War Production Board chief, Donald Nelson, begins to orchestrate a national drive to gather scrap metal to supply the needs of the military.  After six months, the results are lackluster.

Meantime, in Nebraska, Henry Doorly, the publisher of The “Omaha World Herald”, thinks up a plan to challenge Nebraskans to excel in the metal collection drive.  Doorly decides that a contest would be the most effective way to motivate Nebraskans. 

Henry Doorly

Doorly meets with his editors and writers to formulate the outline of the contest.  The 93 Nebraska counties are to compete. On July 11, 1942 Doorly addressed the state on radio with his plan. 

In three weeks on a county vs. county by a per capita competition Nebraskans would gather scrap metal.  $200 in war bonds were to go to winning individuals and $1,000 in war bonds to the winning county.

Union Pacific Railroad’s William “Bull” Jeffers added his power to the effort.  Burlington Northern executives followed up the U.P. challenge. 

Community rivalries were exploited.  Town vs. town and county vs. county competition fueled an all out effort to find and turn in every bit of scrap metal possible.  The results far exceeded everyone’s expectations.

After the Nebraska contest was finished, the Federal War Board invited Doorly and 100 other publishers to discuss ways to implement the “Nebraska Plan” to gather scrap metal. “The Newspapers’ Scrap Drive” became the nationwide effort to collect scrap based upon the Nebraska Plan.

About halfway through the film, excerpts from entertainer Johnny Carson’s visit to Norfolk, show Carson and his classmates remininscing about the scrap drive.

I enjoyed learning about familiar locations involved in the historical work to beat the Axis powers through community involvement and volunteerism.  I also felt a twinge of Nebraska pride by the end of the film.  If you like nostalgic film footage and cartoon snippets, you’ll like this movie.  The patriotic propaganda clips are worth the time.  The animated footage is quaint and entertaining.

At the end of the show, the parallels are again brought out between World War II and the “War on Terror”.  This portion of the film made me wince a bit and dampened the enjoyment of the documentary for me.  I was hoping that “Scrappers” wasn’t going to be oriented in such a manner.

That reservation aside, I enjoyed learning some important history about Nebraska and how World War II could easily have been lost had it not been for the “Nebraska Plan” to collect scrap metal. The production values and storyline are smooth and more professional than average.  As a documentary, I found “Scrappers” to be quite enjoyable.

“Scrappers-How The Heartland Won World War II” A Catfish Studios Production for the Nebraska Humanities Council and The Douglas County (Nebraska) Historical Society. 82 minutes, English language.  Producers/Directors:  Thomas R. Rondinella and James J. Kimball.  Writer: James J. Kimball. Released in 2010.


The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that there’s a cameo appearance by Daffy Duck in the DVD.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Entertainment, History, Hometown, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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