Analysis Of American Propaganda By Posters During World War II

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World War II had a huge impact on the world and not only due to the large numbers of countries involved, but also due to the aggressive propaganda addressed not only to the soldiers but also to the citizens. Why? Because the war was not only about soldiers fighting in the first line, it was also about people working day and night to so the American army would be supplied sufficiently, to have the weapons which will bring the peace. Propaganda initiated in the Second World War was largely made through advertising posters. Through white propaganda, the leaders of the states involved in the war were trying to accomplish a few goals through this form of communication, namely: to draw attention, to highlight the message they wanted to convey, and not ultimately to make this message remain highly printed in the subconscious of the people.

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The main purpose of the advertising posters which were located in different locations in the city, restaurants, streets, offices, was to strengthen, to increase the morale of the people in war. Perhaps one of the most well-known advertising posters which appeared at that time is the poster “Good news from home: more production”. This poster has been a successful advertising work recruitment campaign in America’s history which helped recruiting millions of Americans into workforce to support the war economy. My poster chosen for analyzing the American propaganda by posters in World War II is the poster which features a soldier counting on his fingers. It reads, ‘Good news from home – Tanks, Planes, Guns, Ships – More Production’. The smiling face of the soldier leads to an optimistic tone of the picture, soldier counting his fingers giving impression of a playful attitude toward the material. However the tone is optimistic and playful, “the game” is as serious as it can be because winning the game means saving millions and millions of lives of soldiers and of the civilian people left at home. The call to the production of the weapons and means of transport listed in the poster would have a double effect: the increase of the U.S. means of defense and attack in battle as well as the economic growth based on the increase of the armament and auto industry. Besides weapons, technology also played a significant role in World War II. Some of the technologies used during the war were developed as a response to needs and lessons learned during the war more than in any other war in history, and had a major role in its final outcome. To prove my point I used three primary sources which can support the idea that World War II was a war of industry development, a war of innovation in technology, a war of stability in America’s economy.

Technology was developed especially for military use, and major developments occurred across Weaponry like: ships, vehicles, submarines, aircraft, tanks, artillery, etc. According to the article “The United States in World War II: Scientists, Engineers, Designers” by Victor Margolin based on one chapter of the 3 volume “World History of Design”, World War II gave a huge take-off to America’s industry development and to high-tech products. The key to U.S. mobilization was this coordinate the planning for the production of weaponry with the military strategy. In early 1942 – the same year the poster was released, the year that would witness the greatest expansion of military production thus far – President Roosevelt called for the production of 60,000 airplanes by the end of the year; 125,000 additional aircraft in 1943; and 120,000 tanks within the same two-year period.12 At the end of the war, American industry had produced 300,000 warplanes; 124,000 ships; 100,000 tanks and armored cars; and 2.4 million military trucks. In order to cope to the necessities of the war industry, in January 1942, the President established the War Production Board (WPB) which prepared a program for allocating deficient materials to war production, and reducing the production of non-priority goods. During those difficult times all kind of industries had the military’s weapons production as priority. Companies as Chrysler Corporation, General Motors, Studebaker, Ford and many others began to produce war vehicles and weapons and regularly firms began to manufacture all kinds of weapons components. The main goal of the companies was to produce more in a shorter time, and that’s why researchers were also involved to find the solution to this problem. New models of weapons and vehicles were developed. In his article “One Thousand Planes a Day: Ford, Grumman, General Motors and the Arsenal of Democracy1”, Robert G. Ferguson described the production US Navy’s carrier aircraft by some American companies who shunned the traditional processes that allowed for quick production acceleration from back 1938 until the end of war. First, Detroit companies like Buick, Cadillac, Ford, Packard, and Lincoln were drawn into aircraft production in World War I, for the manufacture of aircraft engines, engines which were meant to be exported to Great Britain. Then, in the late 1930s, an agreement between the aircraft manufacturers and the automobile industry settled that the automobile industry would only perform aircraft subcontracting.

In July of 1940, the National Defense Advisory Commission (NDAC) issued a report on productive capacity following Roosevelt’s 50,000 aircraft year program. The article describes the ups and downs in the aircraft manufacturing in the following years, most of problems coming from the additionally costs for labor and facility floor space, or for using of machinery and fixtures that had accuracy built into them in order to increase productivity. Though Ford was able to build in a short time the Willow Run factory with some of the highest levels of labor productivity, mass production was long in coming due to problems like insufficient labor and housing supply and also inability to easily coordinate design changes or control over the implementation of tooling changes. On the other hand, the collaboration between Grumman and General Motors was very successful, both companies trying to work together highly complementary. Grumman was focused on engineering activities using trained and motivated workforce. General Motors, focused on fabrication and assembly facilities with in-house engineering and tooling capability (the Eastern Aircraft Division). Both of them tried to keep the other one’s production methods and then to apply their own. From December 1941 to December 1942 Grumman tripled its employment and doubled floor space. Production output went from over 100 deliveries in January of 1942 to approximately 300 a month by December of the same year.

Looking at these figures and also to some article titles in the press of that time (‘General Motors Converts Actual Auto Production Capacity to Airplanes,’ Wall Street Journal 23 December 1942, 3; ‘Five Auto Plants Now Build Planes,’ New York Times, 23 December 1942,), we might think that the propaganda used by the government to appeal to people for increasing war material production was a success. This Poster seemed to have made people become more motivated to work harder and to produce more for the benefit of the nation and also awaked in every American the sense of duty, of citizenship and the fact that joining forces is the key to a free and prosperous America. After Pearl Harbor’s attack, Grumman’s main focus was the automobile industry and the aircraft company that thought small ran headlong into General Motors. By mid-1942 Grumman Company had designed a very performant aircraft for the Navy, one that proved more than a match for the enemy, the Hellcat. In the last article of this case study – “World War II prime defense contractors: Were they favored?” By Fred R., we can discover an analysis of the profits earned by big and small companies who have activated in war or non-war industries. We can also find a survey of the companies and industries that received prime defense contracts during the war as follows: iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, all kind of machinery, transportation, aircraft, shipbuilding, petroleum and coal, rubber products, chemicals and allied products.

After 1941, among others, it can be seen in figures, that industries like Aircraft, Ships and Boats, Railroad equipment and Navigation equipment are top prime industries. Between 1941 and 1945, we can see an increase in performance indicators compared to the previous analyzed period, which means that the war industry has increased in volume as my Poster intended to transmit. During the war period, all kind of propaganda means were promoted, depending on internal or international situation. When soldiers were needed, all sorts of advertising calling people to join the Army were seen and heard everywhere. The Poster “Good News from Home” was released in a certain period of time. In January 1942, President Roosevelt established a new mobilization agency- the War Production Board – whose role was to administer the war economy which faced two problems: the needs of civilians and the needs of the military. In order to solve both of the problems, American economy was orientated with priority to military needs, so American army would be supplied sufficiently and also the American people would have jobs. By using posters with positive messages the government of the United States obtained a bigger impact than other means of persuasion. Unlike posters from other countries, American posters were based on patriotism, duty, labor and not on hatred against the enemy.

01 February 2021

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