World War II Posters

Other WWII Propaganda Poster posts

Propaganda posters were constantly being issued by the OWI (Office of War Information). These posters in this series are a sample which focused on the actions being made by the US Navy and the US Merchant Marine. Poster three points to an effort most Americans are not familiar with and that is the astounding expansion of the US Merchant Marine. We built thousands of ships such as the famous “Liberty ships” of which we built 2,751. These were manufactured in pre-fabricated sections, shipped by rail to shipyards, and welded together by men and women hired from all over the country. We needed these ships and needed them immediately and so they were mass produced and turned out like cars. The record for building a Liberty ship from laying the keel to launch was 4 days 15 ½ hours (fitting out and other post-launch work remained to be done to the ships after launch). Other types of merchant ships were built this way as well.

The 5th poster repeats a common theme of posters throughout the war both in the US and Great Britain and that is don’t talk about anything associated with war work. The poster of a ship sinking with the legend “someone talked” is repeated in endless variations. Since there were no German spies in America, this was done to create a certain paranoia, which it did with neighbors reporting on each other particularly those who live along the coast. But this message was still important because it gave people the sense that we were in a war.

I can’t think of a single instance in which a German U-Boat was able to sink a ship because someone in the US told someone where a ship was going and when. Much more dangerous was the German B-Diesnt or radio intelligence service who broke the British code used to communicate information about convoys, where they were forming up, when they were leaving, and what routing they were taking.

Title: Farm scrap builds destroyers : 900 tons of scrap metal goes into a destroyer.
Date: 1942.
Agency: United States. Dept. of Agriculture.
Title: Navy Day, October 27th.
Date: 1941.
Agency: United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel.
Title: Apprentice seaman training : prepares young men 18 to 23 for a career in the American Merchant Marine /
Date: 1941.
Agency: United States. Maritime Service.
Title: Freshmen! sophomores! : stay in college and become a naval officer.
Date: 1942.
Agency: United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel.
Title: Someone talked! /
Date: 1942.
Agency: United States. Office of War Information.

[Images courtesy of Northwestern Digital Library.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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