World War II Posters
We have an amazing collection of original World War II posters at the Museum of the American G.I. We are very proud to be able to preserve these pieces of our nation’s past! Each poster tells a different story and holds a significant message. Check out some of our posters below and be sure to visit us to view our entire displays in person!
This World War II poster was produced in 1942 by Norman Rockwell and depicts an American soldier firing a heavy machine gun. Notice that his uniform is torn and that he is no longer firing actual ammo. This image was designed to help raise funds for the war effort, encourage people to join production lines, and to increase public awareness of the war effort. Due largely to the Great Depression, American industry was lulling before the United States entered World War II. However, industries already engaged in defense work expanded their operations while others, such as the automobile industry, transformed themselves completely. For example, in 1941, more than three million cars were manufactured in the United States. Only 139 more were made during the entire war. Instead, Chrysler made fuselages. General Motors made airplane engines, guns, trucks and tanks. Packard made Rolls-Royce engines for the British air force. The war effort totally transformed American industry and civilians were at the forefront of producing the equipment necessary to win the war.
In 1942, automobile manufacturers stopped making cars and began producing tanks and aircraft. Rubber for tires became scarce as a result of Japan’s successful invasion of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. Gasoline, for civilians, was rationed. Every car displayed an “A”, “B”, or “C” gas ration sticker on the windshield. “A” meant that trips taken by the driver were not essential. “B” indicated that the driver used his car for his work, for instance a traveling salesman. “C” was issued to doctors, law enforcement officers, or other persons whose work was deemed essential.
This 1944 poster used artwork by Harold Von Schmidt to remind the public that carpooling was still just as important to the war effort. Given the stern look on the soldier’s face, it is implied that those not carpooling were not fully supporting Americans on the front lines. Gasoline rationing was in effect throughout the Second World War. However, it wasn’t actually the gasoline that was needed so desperately for the war effort; it was tires. The Japanese had cut off the rubber supply the US depended on in East Asia, making the need to conserve rubber back home vital. By forcing the public to cut down on gasoline consumption, they also wound up needing fewer tires for their cars throughout the duration of the war.
During World War II, as with every other conflict, concerns were high regarding national security. These WWII posters remind citizens that sharing any military information such as troop movements, or other details could help the enemy sabotage the war effort. Also, most information that was spread was not deliberate. How often do you see posts of parents sending their child off to college, wishing them luck on their next adventure? During WWII, just like today, parents and loved ones would offer well wishes and prayers to their sons, husbands, and brothers being deployed- sometimes with unintended consequences.
This 1942 poster makes use of a line from President Abraham Lincoln’s, then Senator Lincoln’s, famous House Divided Speech to draw a comparison between the enslaved American South and the parts of Europe under Nazi occupation. The artwork was created by John Phillip Falter and depicts a family cowering in the shadows as a man in uniform whips another person. The comparison was clear in this poster, making it a good tool to inspire Americans to work harder for freedom.
This 1942 poster features a telegram sent following the Lidice Massacre over a depiction of a man in chains. The Lidice Massacre occurred in June of 1942 on the order of Adolf Hitler and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler following the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, the official tasked with determining the final solution to the “Jewish question in Europe”. The Czechoslovaks orchestrated his assassination under the codename Operation Anthropoid and carried it out on May 27, 1942 in Prague. Because Lidice was suspected to have harbored some of the assassins, the SS were ordered to destroy the town, murder the men, send the women to concentration camps, and handle the children as they saw fit. In the end, all 173 males in the village over the age of 15 were executed right away, 11 males who weren’t in the village at the time were later arrested and executed, and 184 women were sent to concentration camps. Of the 88 children in the village, a handful who were considered racially suitable for Germanization were given to SS families while the rest were sent to the Chelmno extermination camp. The entire village was set on fire and left to burn. After the war, 153 women and 17 children returned to the village, eventually rebuilding it to the Lidice, Czech Republic known today.
This 1942 Navy recruiting poster encouraged women to join the US Navy’s Women’s Reserve, the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES. The WAVES were incredibly successful throughout the war. One of the most famous former WAVES, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, was a mathematician during WWII and was assigned to Harvard University where she worked on the Mark I computer, becoming a pioneer in the field of computer science. WAVES served as cryptographers, attorneys, engineers, aviation machinists, and in so many more capacities.
This 1944 Women’s Army Corps (WAC) recruiting poster helped demonstrate the close relationship the WACs had with the US Army as a whole. Members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army (the WAAC was considered a separate counterpart to the US Army). Both the Army and the American public initially had difficulty accepting the concept of women in uniform. However, political and military leaders, faced with fighting a two-front war and supplying men and materiel for that war while continuing to send lend-lease material to the Allies, realized that women could supply the additional resources so desperately needed in the military and industrial sectors. Given the opportunity to make a major contribution to the national war effort, women seized it. By the end of the war their contributions would be widely heralded.
These are just a few of the many amazing posters we have at the museum. Be sure to stop by and see this rare historical art in person!