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Analyzing the Powerful Effects of Propaganda Posters
When thinking of deciding factors in a war, many may point towards strategies and allies. While these may be deciding factors, one might not realize the important role propaganda also played in these wars. Around the time of World War I and II, propaganda was becoming an increasingly popular tool used primarily to influence audiences and further a nation’s agenda. This propaganda came in the form of posters and spread quickly all across America, urging citizens to support the war effort. These posters ended up being widely successful, in part due to their emphasis on sacrifice, patriotism, and the importance of national security in the war.
During the period of war, it was easy to get caught up in only a specific nation’s struggles. However, others were often suffering too and the propaganda poster “We Talk About Sacrifice Buy War Bonds” puts this statement into perspective. This poster depicts a Russian woman in tears standing amidst the destruction taking place in her country (Sacrifice). Objects such as a destroyed home and grave can be seen in the background behind the woman (Sacrifice). The colors that make up the poster consist of gloomy yellows and oranges. At the top, the phrase “And we talk about sacrifice” is displayed, with its intended message alluding to the fact that everyone makes sacrifices during wartime, and in this case, some more than others.
This poster, in particular, was created at a time during World War II where the United States was allied with Russia, so it relies heavily on American’s emotions. The reason for the depiction of the Russian woman crying is so that Americans realize that while they may be going through a hard time, their allies from Russia were going through the same struggle as well. Colors such as yellow and orange in this poster are also very gloomy to evoke a feeling of dread. The emotional appeal in this poster was there to provide Americans with some perspective on the sacrifice happening outside the country, in an attempt to get them to invest in war bonds to support the war effort.
Fighting battles and going off to war can be costly, so knowing this, the United States began issuing war bonds that not only rallied up support for the country but helped fund the war effort. The poster, “You Can’t Afford to Miss Either! Buy Bonds Every Payday” did a good job of conveying this message. In this poster, there is a depiction of a United States fighter pilot firing a machine gun (Afford). In the background, a plane appears to have been shot down. However, based on the phrasing on the poster, it seems to be an enemy plane (Afford). The message behind this poster was to show how important it was that these fighter pilots not miss their shots, comparing it to how important it was that Americans not miss out on buying war bonds. This poster was created around World War II, where every little bit counts. Purchasing bonds was considered not only patriotic because it was supporting those fighting for the nation, but also an investment in victory so that those fighting could finally come home (Digital). Colors in the poster were fairly accurate to what they should be, although the words “You” and “Either” in the text were highlighted red to emphasize the importance of the issue (Afford). So while the initial goal of selling war bonds was to finance the war, posters such as the ones listed above also played a role in rallying up support back at home.
While the United States may have been fighting hard during the war, other nations were also giving it their all as well. The poster “They’re Fighting Harder Than Ever: Are You Buying More War Bonds Than Ever?” for instance, makes this comparison clear. This poster depicts an image of a soldier and a tank charging forward, with a soldier in the foremost part shouting, appearing to lead them into battle (Fighting). Behind these soldiers appears to be an explosion in yellow, most likely from the opposing army based on the phrase “They’re fighting harder than ever” (Fighting). The main message behind this is that the enemy did not plan on giving up any time soon so neither should we. These soldiers fighting at the time were truly fighting harder than ever and the red background seems to signify the intensity to which they were fighting. The soldiers yelling shows their perseverance to push on through the toughest of battles even though they all know their lives could end at any moment. The phrase “Are you buying war bonds more than ever?” is a play on the first line and serves as a bridge between the American citizen and soldier. They want the citizens to buy based on how hard the enemy soldiers were fighting, stating money may be the deciding factor in this war and that it is the citizen’s responsibility to help out. By turning this war into a competition between money and the enemies fighting, this poster was able to make American citizens feel as if they had an actual role in the war and that their contribution would keep the nation safe.
It was because of these posters’ emphasis on ideas such as sacrifice, patriotism, and the importance of national security in the war that they were so widely successful. However, that is not to say America would not have won the war if propaganda did not play a key role in it, but it does put into perspective the impact it had on it. Furthermore, the ability to pull on people’s emotions and sway them into supporting the nation may have well given America the edge it needed. All in all, propaganda was an unlikely hero during World War I and II, proving under the right circumstances, it can not only be a powerful tool but maybe even turn the tide of battle.
- Poster, “You Can’t Afford to Miss Either! Buy Bonds Every Payday” 1944, H6,2 Labudde Special Collections, UMKC Libraries, Kansas City, Missouri. (Afford)
- Poster, “We Talk About Sacrifice Buy War Bonds” 1943, H6,2 Labudde Special Collections,UMKC Libraries, Kansas City, Missouri. (Sacrifice)
- Poster, “They’re Fighting Harder Than Ever: Are You Buying More War Bonds Than Ever?” 1943, H6,2 Labudde Special Collections, UMKC Libraries, Kansas City, Missouri. (Fighting)
- “You Can’t Afford to Miss Either! Buy Bonds Every Payday.” Digital Collections at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, https://digital.library.illinois.edu/items/b9709d20-0d92-0135-23f6-0050569601ca-d#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&r=0&xywh=-3785,716,10872,3248. (Digital)
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