Sunday, November 16, 2014

Loose Lips Sink Ships: The Joy of World War 2 Propaganda


I make no secret about the fact that I love the 1940s. I love the music. I love the fashion, especially women's fashion and hairstyles! (Luckily my wife can pull of a 40s look with the best of them.) I love the movies. I love the redheads. (Paulette Goddard, Deborah Kerr, and the most beautiful woman to ever live, other than my wife of course, Maureen O'Hara.) But I also love the propaganda posters. Why? I guess it is because everything seemed so simple. We had good guys and bad guys. Plus, there was nothing subtle about it. Does our government still use propaganda on us? Certainly. But it isn't overt. Now I doubt they have secret coded messages over the radio saying "Report suspicious activity to Homeland Security", but maybe they do. The posters from the war years can tell us a lot about the way society viewed the war and why they were fighting. 

This one is my favorite. The idea of having a ghostly Hitler riding shotgun should scare the shit out of any solo travelers. Gasoline was heavily rationed during the War, of course, and by carpooling, one could help cut down on the civilian use of it. Nothing subtle about this one!

Or this one. Note the accusing finger pointed at the viewer. Any conversation taking place in public, even in a church, ran the risk of being overheard by a German spy. A seemingly innocent statement about a convoy leaving New York City could lead to the image in the poster happening for real. So keep your mouth shut. And don't drink too much either, as intoxicated individuals tend to blabber on and on about everything.

Here is a two for one special. If you think having Hitler in the copilot seat is bad, imagine having the "evil Hun" watching your every move. As to the poster on the right, well, it relates to the subject of my last blog post. Here you have an apparently German honey trap. She might be playing dumb as she plies you with drink, but she is really waiting for you to run your mouth about things that you shouldn't. All of that will be reported to Herr Hitler right away. So keep your pie hole shut!

As a firefighter and then a police officer, I worked under pressure. If I had a bad day, someone, either a member of the public, me, or a fellow public safety professional, might die. But I didn't get constant reminders of that. I just intrinsically knew it. Here we have a poster that you'd see at a munitions plant that warned the employees to pay attention to what they were doing lest their carelessness cost a soldier his life.

Of course, war bonds were an important way to finance the war effort since wars, as we know today, are expensive. How about a little added pressure to get you to fork over some of your hard earned pay to help it? After all, you don't want this to be YOUR child, do you?

And here's to Texaco for using racial caricatures to shame their employees into not taking the day off. Now, we all get sick and have to miss work from time to time. The older I get, the more this seems to happen. But then again, if I miss a day of history class it doesn't slow down wartime production. The use of racial stereotypes for the Japanese was widespread during the war. We'd never do anything like this today......right?

If you want to see some really cool "modern" versions of World War Two posters, updated for our current technology, check this out. You won't be sorry.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who understands that Loose Tweets Sink Fleets! 

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