Inspiring America to Victory
During World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, government and commercial agencies adopted posters to mobilize America for war. Their messages were simple and reinforced by powerful imagery. These posters related to citizens of all ages and backgrounds, encouraging their support on the home front. War bond drives were heavily advertised, and recruitment posters enticed future service members.
As color television entered American homes during the 1960s, traditional posters became less common. While this vibrant and effective means of influencing public opinion fell away from common use, the images and messages remain highly recognizable in popular culture.
The National Museum of the USAF maintains over 500 original posters in its historical collection. These posters are varied and lively examples of US Armed Forces and American home front culture during times of war and peace.
Beginning on November 22, over sixty examples will be on exhibit in the Art Gallery. The exhibit will run through May 2020.
This exhibit covers four main topics that were important to the nation at that time: home front, war bonds, recruitment and training.
The Home Front
Posters directed at home front efforts emphasized giving every American a personal stake in the path to victory. No job or contribution was too small – maximum effort was needed to support the Soldiers and Airmen on the front lines. These powerful reminders hung in offices, schools, train stations, public buildings, and everywhere that people lived and worked.
Government war bonds were sold to the public as a way to finance the war. These posters often appealed to American patriotism, encouraging citizens of all ages and backgrounds to invest money in the war effort. Civilian organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, often spearheaded war bond drives.
Posters proved to be a particularly effective recruitment tool during both world wars. Some of the most famous artists of the day, including James Montgomery Flagg, Norman Rockwell, and Howard Chandler Christy, created artwork for these posters. While men were heavily recruited, women were also encouraged to join and serve. After World War II and through the 1950s and 1960s, the USAF was particularly interested in recruiting women to join the Women in the Air Force (WAF), paving the way for a fully integrated air service.
Posters were used for training on both the military and civilian fronts. Servicemen and home front civilians were reminded to work fast, work hard, and put safety and health first. Missed workdays, injuries, and illnesses were a victory for the enemy and avoiding them was the number one priority.
New Poster Exhibit Opens Nov. 22 at National Museum of The U.S. Air Force
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