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The Functions of U.S. Propaganda During World War II

Published onApr 27, 2022
The Functions of U.S. Propaganda During World War II
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Introduction

Throughout the United States involvement in World War II, they were known to continuously produce propaganda posters. In fact, from 1941 – 1945 the U.S. produced more than 200,000 variants of propaganda posters, making them the number one propaganda producer throughout the war.1 For the most part, there were three key functions that the U.S. established with their propaganda. These major areas of concern included recruitment, war effort participation, and altering American opinions. Simply put, American propaganda provided clear visions for what a “good” American was supposed to look like during the catastrophic events of World War II. 

Recruitment

Shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, the United States was soon drawn into World War II. Due to the surprise attack, the U.S. was lacking in military strength—as they never anticipated on being involved in the war itself. Therefore, once drawn into the war, the U.S. immediately began to produce propaganda posters that were aimed towards the recruitment of men. These posters varied in style, but all had one common goal, to get as many recruits as possible! Overall, recruitment posters encouraged American men to join all U.S. armed forces, but mainly focused on increasing the strength of the Army and Navy forces.

Arguably, however, there was possibly more propaganda posters that were targeted towards the recruitment of American women. This was the case because as the men were constantly being recruited overseas, it was leaving countless jobs open with no workers to fill them. Therefore, the U.S. began to make posters that were targeted towards women, in hopes of recruiting them into the jobs that were previously filled by men. The main jobs that women took over throughout World War II were all factory related. For instance, women were known to work in factories where they constructed ammunition, tanks, ships, planes, and even deadly explosives. 

War Effort Participation

Additionally, the United States also made it a top priority to make their propaganda posters revolve around participating in the war effort. Fortunately for the Americans, there were countless ways they were able to do so. For instance, a majority of war effort posters were about purchasing war bonds. Essentially, war bonds were small loans of money that Americans would give to the government, in order to fund the military expenses throughout the war. All in all, it was a mutual tradeoff because both parties greatly benefitted from it. This was simply because the government was receiving continuous military funds, whereas the citizens who gave them the money would eventually receive interest off of the loans they provided them. 

Furthermore, a lot of war effort related posters encouraged Americans to plant what was known as a “victory garden.” In doing so, these victory gardens made sure that there would never be any food shortages throughout the war. The food that was grown from these gardens provided a stable food source not only for the Americans living within the United States, but also for the soldiers who were deployed overseas. In simple terms, this was another easy way Americans could help out with the war effort because all it involved them doing was planting and maintaining various crops. 

Another way posters encouraged Americans to participate in the war effort was by donating unused materials that could be recycled for war purposes. For instance, the most common material donations included: rubber/tires, metal scraps, clothes/rags, and paper. Overall, instead of wasting these vital materials by throwing them out, Americans recycled them and gave them a much better use throughout the war. With that in mind, these were the main ways propaganda posters targeted Americans to participate in the war effort. 

Altering American Opinions

Similarly, the U.S. also produced a lot of posters that successfully persuaded citizens into changing their opinions about the enemies—which of course were Nazi Germany, Japan, and Italy. The main way they did this was through the use of emotional appeal and fear. Not to mention, the posters that greatly altered the American opinions did so because of how simple and symbolic they were. Additionally, the posters rightfully labeled Germany, Italy, and Japan as the enemies of all Americans, which is also why they were able to alter their opinions. In the end, it is evident that all American propaganda provided clear visions for what a “good” American citizen was supposed to look like during the catastrophic events of World War II.

Examples of Propaganda Posters

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