'Retrospect' about the events that led to the present pattern of life in the United States. Host Douglas Edwards, an American television anchor speaks about the past events in America. Crowd of unemployed men gathering in bread lines after the 1929 crash and subsequent Great Depression. A man near a box of apples. The U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addresses a gathering. The kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., the son of the aviator Charles Lindbergh in 1932. Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German carpenter who abducted the child during the trial. The congressmen at the formation of the Lindbergh Law. Newspapers describe the apprehension or death of notorious gangster criminals, such as Dutch Schultz and Baby Face Nelson. Huey Pierce Long, Jr. a American politician addresses people. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia appeals to the League of Nations, after his country is attacked by Italy under Mussolini. Adolf Hitler stands. Troops of the German army parade. Scenes from the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1937 as Spanish national forces battle against fascist rebel forces. Spanish Troops fire 75mm field artillery pieces. Bombs being dropped on the buildings. Spanish soldiers marching during the civil war. The Hindenburg disaster takes place on May 6th 1937: The German airship LZ 129 Hindenburg catches fire over the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester, New Jersey. Amelia Earhart the first woman aviator to fly solo holds flowers and is surrounded by people. She went missing in 1937. Cowboy philosopher Will Rogers, alone and with U.S. Vice President John Nance Garner and with aviator Wiley Post (who had patch over one eye). King Edward VIII of Great Britain, abdicating the throne for "the woman I love." People at the German-American Bund Nazi sympathizing gathering including the subduing of objectors on stage, in Madison Square Garden, New York. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, returning from meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1938. View of Adolf Hitler. German tanks on parade in World War II. an array of artillery guns on display. Railway guns being fired in WW2.
Famous passengers aboard ocean liner SS Manhattan (later USS Wakefield during World War 2) in the United States. Flashbacks show USS Manhattan being christened by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt on 5th December, 1931. It is seen being launched from New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden New Jersey. View of maiden voyage on 10th August,1932, with passengers boarding the ship. It leaves a port for her first trip to Thailand, England, Germany and France. The passengers dance aboard the deck of SS Manhattan. Passengers including Babe Ruth, Jimmy Walker, Glenn Cunningham, and aviator Douglas Corrigan ("Wrong Way Corrigan") seen aboard the ship.
Works Progress Administration (WPA) building projects during the New Deal effort of the Great Depression: Palisades Interstate Park along the Hudson River in Fort Lee, New Jersey. A group of teenage boys hiking in the park. Groups gathered at a picnic area. Boys and girls playing outside of a new bath house building beside the park beach. View of the Perkins Memorial Tower built in honor of the former chairman of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and a wide view of the Palisades Interstate Park Administration Building still under construction. Scene changes to Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale New York, as 1930's cars drive in front of a newly built club house to discharge passengers. A uniformed door man stands by. Women golfers and men golfers play on the new 18 hole golf course in the park which requires no membership.
Busy streets of the cities in the United States. A woman officer at a desk of Army-Navy Screen Magazine's "By Request Department" addresses U.S. soldiers overseas during World War 2, and says they will show views of various American home towns by request.. Busy intersection along Capitol Street in Charleston, West Virginia. 1930s automobiles on roads and American citizens walking on city streets. Next scene shows the main street of Wytheville, Virginia with cars, pedestrians, and shops. Next scene is of main street area in Fall River, Massachusetts. Buildings seen on either sides of the streets and buses at bus station depot. Next view is of Springfield Street, looking toward Market Street in the center of Newark, New Jersey. Main streets of Winslow Arizona, with citizens dressed in Western wear, and then a main intersection in Tucson, Arizona, where a paper boy sells newspapers on a street corner.
The background of World War II. United States citizens state isolationist and anti-war views. They give their views regarding the beginning of war in Europe, and their desire for the United States to stay out of the war. Board reads 'No foreign Entanglements'. View of idle and closed factories during the Great Depression. Ground level, track level view of a railroad train approaching. Elevated view of homeless and unemployed hobo men riding on top of a train car. President Franklin Roosevelt signs Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 assuring a minimum wage and maximum work week. View of factory workers arriving at a large factory or production plant for a work shift. Newspaper headlines read 'Social Security Laws Go into Effect'. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers seen hanging telephone lines, digging ditches, and building roads. Aerial view of new highways and clover leaf overpasses.
The legislative and maritime history of the U.S. Merchant Marines in the period between World War 1 and World War 2. Newly launched German, Italian and Japanese ships underway at sea. Ships including the German liner Bremen and the Italian Ocean liner Rex are seen underway. People gather at a dock. American ship underway in heavy seas with waves crashing over. Point of view shot at heavy seas from deck of a ship. A man works in a ship radio room. A man watches through binoculars and uses a sextant. Sailors row a small boat with oars in heavy seas. A sailor decorated by officials of the Merchant Marines. Dock workers and ship construction workers at a shipbuilding yard in the United States working on building new ships. American liners are seen undereway including: SS Washington off shore of New York City skyline and skyscrapers, SS Manhattan also off shore of Manhattan, the SS Lurline, the SS Mariposa, and the SS President Hoover (named for Herbert Hoover) underway at sea. The U.S. flag fluttering from a flag pole. The text of the declaration of policy under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 is shown.