The Best & Weirdest U.S. Propaganda Posters from WWI and WWII

Every country with a major involvement in World War I and II produced war propaganda posters. The U.S. alone produced hundreds of different posters with wide-ranging messages. And these posters certainly weren’t geared to just enticing new recruits to the Army and Navy. The themes and content of these posters called just about every American to action in some way or another.

The themes and content of these posters called just about every American to action in some way or another.

i want you

There seemed to be something everyone could do and a sentiment targeted towards every heart. Some of these posters seem to be rather bizarre to modern eyes.  They are, at least, from an extremely different time than today.

Looking through history in these pieces of propaganda shows a very different age in the US. When the nation went to war, everyone was asked to contribute.

Recruit

Of course, many posters were published just to recruit more troops…

liberty, civilization, and humanity
Some carried a very idealized message of what U.S. troops fought for.
rampart-AAF
Others focused on the romanticizing of military service.

remember last december

sacrifice
Some were even pretty candid about what service meant.

Women

Men weren’t the only people asked to serve their country….

army nurse corps
Nurses Corps and factory/industrial jobs were especially geared towards U.S. women in World War II
girlscouts
More patriotism than cookies, this girl scout poster was targetted to young girls.

Many posters highlighted ideals and romanticised the U.S. and their war effort.

crusade
This World War I poster, for example, merges the U.S. (a much more isolationist country until this point) with the ideal of a holy religious crusade.
no nation of slaves
Many U.S. propaganda posters in World War II focused on capitalist and industrialist ideas. Note, also, that the poster talks of slaves and shows a crowd of only white men in a nation struggling with racism.

Demonizing

Demonizing the enemy, race and “otherness” were also big themes in U.S. propaganda posters…

this is the enemy
Here, a very clear example of making sure of a particular idea of who the U.S. was fighting.

bob hope
Despite the clear lines drawn in other U.S. propaganda posters, the American “melting pot” focus on ideas (rather than race or religion) and duty were still touted, like in this quote from Bob Hope.

Industry

In the U.S., a lot of posters focused on how important industry was to the war…

equiptment we make
Workers in very industrialized cities like Detroit, Michigan, were encouraged by posters praising how their work helped the military in World War II.

timecard
Idealizing industry was very important to the U.S. in World War II.

Rationing

In both Word War I and II, frugality and allocation of resources was key…

save the food
Even Lady Liberty was calling to save food for the troops.
save a loaf
Can you imagine the U.S. asking citizens to save bread to help with a war in modern times?

scrap
Citizens were also encouraged to turn in scrap metal for the war effort.

War bonds

War bonds to fund the campaigns were also needed…

war bonds
National idealism and a nation that needed to pay its war bills.
bonds or bondage
Not just national idealism, but a statement of the barbarity of the enemy. Also, 10% and the idea of tithe to draw in a religious sentiment is present.

Snitches

There were also posters reminding people not to be snitches…

listening japanese
Industrialism, nationalism, and racism are all apparent in this U.S. World War II propaganda poster,
rumors
Shhhhh! Careful who you talk to, America!

For a great collection of U.S. propaganda posters, visit this database from the University of North Texas.

By Colin Fraser for War History Online