Propaganda during World War II was escalated to perhaps the greatest heights in history. Propaganda is used to manipulate information to influence public opinion, rather than merely communicate the facts about something. The American government used propaganda posters to persuade people to conserve material needed by soldiers, to discourage gossip about information heard about the war effort, and to invest in war bonds. Other posters enforced the need for mass production of war materials and some were directed at women to become part of the workforce because of the depleting number of men left for combat.
Firstly, war bonds were debt securities issued by a government for the purpose of financing military operations during war, including World War II. The cost to the American treasury for the nation’s involvement in World War II was over $340 billion (World War 2 Bonds, 2009). This reasoning caused the government to employ posters about war bonds. The bonds were also seen as a way to remove money from circulation and reduce inflation. The first of three poster examples (refer to Figure 1) shows a war-widowed mother grasping her children with despair.
The poster reads, “I Gave My Man, Will you give at least 10% of your pay to War Bonds. ” This poster is intended to let the audience know that there are mothers who are losing their men to war, and if they can give up something so valuable, then the audience should be able to give up something as small as 10% of their pay. It symbolizes a sense of guilt and shame. The second poster (refer to Figure 2) is one of the most popular of World War II bond posters. It is an eerie image of the Nazi Swastika casting a shadow over troubled American children holding their toys and patriotic symbols.
It reads, “Don’t Let The Shadow Touch Them, Buy War Bonds. ” This poster attempts to convince the viewer that the Nazi threat is closer than civilians realize. The viewer is instructed that he can save these children from the fate that would befall them from the Nazis by purchasing war bonds and contributing to the war effort. The persuasion tactic in this poster would be guilt. Someone with a conscience would assume this to be a necessary responsibility to the children of America. The third poster (refer to Figure 3) shows a woman smiling and holding up a bomb.
It reads, “I’m making Bombs and buying Bonds, Buy Victory Bonds. ” It portrays that civilians should be doing everything possible to help in the aid for war and to help our troops in combat. The observer would assume that the women of America are working in the workforce, building bombs and using the money to purchase war bonds. It represents a form of propaganda called the bandwagon technique. An example of this technique would be “Everyone else is doing it, and so should you. ” This is known to be a very effective technique.
Another poster example is the need for mass production of war materials. The government used these types of posters to recruit women to take over the jobs the men had left behind. The propaganda campaigns used during the war never had any intention of bringing about permanent changes in women’s place in society. Rather, the government only used them to fill temporary labor shortages. They had several schemes: patriotism, high pay, pride and praise are just a few to mention (Gregory, 1974). The fourth poster (refer to Figure 4) takes a different approach.
It stated “Longing won’t bring him back sooner…. GET A WAR JOB! …. See your U. S. Employment Service. ” It pictures a well-dressed middle-class woman clinching letters from her man at war. It was meant to stir the emotions of wives of men in combat. It led private civilians to believe that instead of women sitting at home waiting for their men to return from war, they would step up and help their men by getting a war job in defense industries, civilian services, and even the Armed Forces. The poster was a way the government persuaded desolate women to do exactly what they wanted.
Although the poster portrayed a sense of mourning and anguish, it convinced the women to emerge from depression and strive for a sense of accomplishment. The fifth poster (refer to Figure 5) is a well-known poster of World War II. It is a picture of “Rosie the Riveter” (a fictional character the government created to help campaign to women wanted in the workforce) flexing her muscle with a serious look on her face. The posters read: “We Can Do It. ” She was the ideal woman worker: loyal, patriotic, efficient, and pretty. Women responded well to the persuasion and found themselves being praised for their effort.
Women were also warned that if they did not work a soldier would die, people would call them slackers, and was equivalent to men who avoided the draft. The poster portrayed a sense of pride and confidence. The sixth poster (refer to Figure 6) is not nearly as common as many of the others but was important nonetheless. It pictures four women in uniform and reads, “For your country’s sake today…. For our own sake tomorrow. ” The poster informs women that fighting for their country will help the war effort and also help gain more rights for women. This was meant to get more women involved in the armed forces.
They were encouraged by the idea that by aiding their country, they would also be aiding themselves, although no substantial guarantee is made. The implication is that women who have joined the armed forces are looking to the future, and see that by helping the government they can also help themselves in the future. It left women believing that by taking place in industrial processes and the wartime efforts they would become more vital to society and therefore more empowered. Lastly, there were posters created to warn Americans about “Careless Talk”.
Careless talk was an expression used to warn Americans to be careful with whom they spoke (Rosenburg, 2007). The seventh poster (refer to Figure 7) shows a Navy ship sinking in the water. It reads “LOOSE LIPS MIGHT SINK SHIPS. ” Naturally, concerns about national securities intensify during wartime. During World War II, the government alerted citizens of the presence of enemy spies and antagonists lurking around the U. S. The poster was intended to warn people that the smallest bit of information regarding ship movements could very well sink Navy ships.
The eighth poster portrays a soldier dying. He is reaching out and pointing his finger. It states “Someone Talked. ” This one informs people that a man is dying because “someone talked. ” It also implies again that enemy spies were everywhere and that any bit of leaked information would help the Germans. This poster and others like it also served to bring home the reality of war to many of the citizens of America. The last poster (refer to Figure 9) is one of the more disturbing ones. The poster shows a soldier hanging from his parachute, his feet barely touching the ground.
Behind the soldier are more fallen soldiers and smoke coming from the background. The smoke represents an aircraft that had been shot down. It reads “Careless Talk…. got there first. ” Again, this implies that someone talked about U. S. plans of the war front and as a result many soldiers were dying. The posters were intended to scare people in America, if you talked carelessly, it could lead to disaster overseas. Posters 7, 8 and 9 were all intended to instill fear into their audience. In conclusion, it was necessary to begin stepping up production and conservation of materials for the war effort.
America increased the flood of propaganda, utilizing the radio and visual media, and most specifically posters. American propagandists had to convince the public that war was close at hand. The propagandist tries to “put something across,” good or bad. The “good guys” and the “bad guys” can often both be guilty of misleading their people with exaggerations, subjectivity, inaccuracy, and even fabrication in order to achieve a sense of support and legitimacy. Propaganda was and still is an art today. It has been used to skew, distort, and even change our thinking in a way that is in accordance to propagandists.