“Why We Fight” is wonderfully animated, highlighting the grit and determination of World War Two, while also platforming the discussion of racial divides that existed in the American army.
This recap of Netflix series The Liberator episode 1, “Why We Fight” contains significant spoilers.
We recapped every episode — check out the archive.
It begins with a narration; on July 10th, 1943, a unit from Oklahoma consisting of Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, and Dust Bowl cowboys landed in Sicily and went on a 500-day trek through Nazi territory — they were known as the Thunderbirds. The Liberator defines how togetherness was crucial for American troops, regardless of race in World War Two.
“Why We Fight” then opens with the Thunderbirds slowly walking through the fog. The series brings crippling tension in the first three minutes. Suddenly, there’s a gunfight, and the squad has to get down for cover. They have tanks and platoons in their sight. It’s a precarious position, so the squad falls back to the ridge.
Salerno September 1943
After a few are dead or wounded, two soldiers check out a barn nearby and scope it for booby traps. They find an Italian boy and offer him food.
Spigs is captured
Soldier Spigs is tied up and is getting interrogated by an enemy soldier. The soldier unties him, and they talk about their experiences in America. The soldier tells Spigs that America must be desperate to allow Mexicans and Indians in their army when back at home, Americans wouldn’t share a beer with other races. Suddenly, the soldier gets angry and asks Spigs what his squad did with the recent bridges; the soldier sends a stark warning, threatening to kill all of Spig’s squad. What was insightful about this scene is how the German soldier understood the strong racial divide and segregation that existed in America back then — he’s taunting Spigs on their hypocrisy.
The Thunderbirds gather and speak to the Italian boy; Captain Sparks tells the boy that he will not be under threat from the Germans again. Sparks is a character that tries to inspire hope within his men — he changes the perspective of the young boy who were scared of them because of German propaganda. The next day, the Thunderbirds move on a German tank and manage to destroy it. Captain Sparks is hit badly, and the team has to call a medic.
Fort Sill, Oklahoma — 2 years earlier
Sparks is asked why he has re-enlisted. He explains how he has been low on cash, and he’s fully aware that a war is on the horizon — he seems comfortable with it. He’s given a task to repair J Company. He asks for a list of all prisoners and charges. Sparks asks why they are all segregated — the corporal explains that the Indians and Mexicans do not like each other. Sparks asks the corporal to open the doors and asks them all questions. He tells them that he only cares about performance and that this is their chance to prove everyone wrong. He asks them to lace up and join him outside. “Why We Fight” is demonstrating that Sparks is an outlier in the army — a man that does not see colour or race, but character.
Three rejections and gaining respect
Apart from one soldier named Coldfoot, they all join Sparks outside, and their chance to get them back into the programme begins. Sparks learns that Coldfoot was demoted and ended up in a fight when denied promotion after a third rejection — he’s Indian. Sparks has these men’s backs, and he’s gaining their trust slowly — even defending them against a racist sergeant. Sparks allows one of his soldiers to fight this sergeant. Later on, Sparks gets a warning that Coldfoot is going into town. He’s heading to a bar that says, “No Indians, no Mexicans”. Sparks finds him and tells Coldfoot that he’s putting him up for sergeant.
Back to the core story — Rearguard hospital unit – Algiers, Algeria
Captain Sparks is in his hospital bed, looking at a photo of his wife. The doctor tells him that he should be dead, and he needs to thank his men. He has a million-dollar wound, and he will be returning home.
Sparks meets another wounded soldier who has lost a leg. Sparks writes a letter to Mary — he’s going back to Italy despite the doctor’s concerns. He expresses how he owes his life to the group of men who saved him. He asks his wife to forgive him. Sparks returns to his squad, and they are overjoyed to hear his voice while they are in the middle of gunfire.
The Liberator episode 1 is wonderfully animated, highlighting the grit and determination of World War Two, while also platforming the discussion of racial divides that existed in the American army.