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Home > Curator's Corner > August 2010 > World War II Posters
World War II Posters
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Posted: 8/25/2010 10:54:23 AM

This month, the Curator’s Corner would like to introduce a post written by Daniel Ng, our Curatorial Intern this summer.  Daniel has been researching the museum’s collection of World War I and World War II posters.  Here, he shares some of his favorites.

Hello! My name is Daniel Ng and this summer I have been working for Jessica Williams, the Curator of History on board the Intrepid, as her curatorial intern. I was assigned a summer-long project of researching the recently found collection of World War I & II posters. My goal was to categorize and provide background on each poster, including the way of life the poster was reflecting upon and the message the poster was trying to send. Of these I have found three to be particularly interesting. They describe the United States’ mindset and attitude towards being on the home front during a war.

Victory Through Air Power

Walt Disney’s movie “Victory Through Air Power” was released in 1943, placing it squarely in the height of America’s war effort and involvement in the massive use of propaganda at home.  The movie is adapted from a book by Major Alexander P. de Seversky which argues how air superiority and research in the field can help to win a military conflict, namely World War II.  Walt Disney used this film to try to bring the attention of the people to how the development and research of better long-range bombers could bring an end to the war in a quicker fashion.  This film is rather strange as it is part animated and part live action when it cuts to Seversky, who is explaining the importance of air power.

Click on image to enlarge

Notice how the Luftwaffe pilot is created as an animated cartoon character, portraying the Luftwaffe to be inept and seem harmless.  With its lighter tone this film on the surface may not seem to have any motive except to entertain, but the topics the film touches upon try to inform and persuade the public about how air power could lead to victory.

Use It Up – Wear It Out – Make It Do!

A classic image or theme in World War II posters was that the American people should conserve and re-use goods in order to allow for as many supplies as possible to head to the armed forces in the Pacific and European theaters of war.  Often these posters depicted themes of patriotic housewives “doing their part” by rationing goods, re-using materials if possible, and fully cooperating with the set prices laid out by the government.

This particular poster focuses on an American household that is doing everything in their power to try to support the troops overseas.  A woman is seen sewing a patch on a man’s jeans while he is cleaning his lawn mower.  In the image we see a basket full of yarn and other materials used for sewing to emphasize the re-use of goods such as jeans.  In particular, the woman is working on the patch, while the man is cleaning or fixing the lawn mower, which serves as an image of always being efficient with time, a valuable necessity for the war effort.

China Carries On

When I first came across a poster urging the American people to contribute the United Relief Fund for China, it struck me as fascinating right away.  For most Americans, the focus of the war was solely on the American forces and how the country could provide the best and most effective assistance to the American military.  Their distrust of people of Asian descent, namely the Japanese, makes the call for aid for China an interesting message to send to the American people.

Click on image to enlarge

In the poster we can see how the soldier is stern, strong, and brave as he is marching on to fight, as seen by the way he is gripping his rifle and the large step he is taking over the “on” in the poster.  A young boy stands in the background along with a pagoda representing what the soldier is fighting to protect. The call for the support of the United China Relief makes it known to the viewer that the Chinese are fighting for similar reasons as the U.S. and allows for common ground to exist between the two.

My time on board the Intrepid has been an invaluable experience and one I will not forget, and I would like to thank everyone on board that made the experience so great for me.  The ability to interact with material that pertained so closely to areas of history I enjoy the most made the experience even more gratifying. I assisted with not only research of the posters but for other exhibits as well, such as the space capsule in the Exploreum that is on the floor now, and research on various objects in the collection, specifically souvenirs that former crewmembers had donated to the museum. To those who have not visited the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum yet, I urge you to come aboard!

Daniel Ng
Curatorial Intern