Skip to Main Content

World War II Propaganda Posters, 1941–1945

Use this primary source imagery to analyze major events in history.

Suggested Sequencing


World War II presented an existential threat to the United States in many ways. Thus, the country mobilized its resources and citizens on an unprecedented scale to meet the industrial and manpower demands of war. However, the war effort did not just involve physical entities like guns, planes, and soldiers. The U.S. government was very aware of the psychological burdens of war and recruited leading artists and filmmakers to create propaganda to influence the public and motivate Americans to support the war.

Sourcing Questions

  1. Why did the U.S. government create propaganda?
  2. Who helped the government create the propaganda materials?

A woman clutches papers to her chest. The poster reads “Longing won’t bring him back sooner…get a war job! See your US Employment Service.”

Figure 1: War Manpower Commission recruitment poster by Lawrence Wilbur, 1944. Printed by the Government Printing Office for the War Manpower Commission.

A shirtless, muscular soldier loads a gun with a bullet that is several feet long. The poster says “Man the guns. Join the Navy.”

Figure 2: U.S. Navy recruitment poster by McClelland Barclay, 1942.

Two men, one white and one African American, use drills to work on the same piece of equipment. The men are in black and white. An American flag is behind them in color. The poster reads “United We Win.”

Figure 3: War Manpower Commission poster. Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1943.

A woman holds a baby. Two crooked black hands reach out for them. One hand is labeled with the swastika; the other hand is labeled with a red circle with white rays coming out. The caption reads “Keep these hands off! Buy the new victory bonds.”

Figure 4: Victory Bonds poster by G. K. Odell.

A man drives a car. An outline of Hitler rides in the passenger seat. The caption reads “When you ride alone you ride with Hitler! Join a car-sharing club today!”

Figure 5: Car-sharing poster by Weimer Pursell, 1943. Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration

Comprehension Questions

  1. (Figure 1) Who was the intended audience of this poster?
  2. (Figure 1) What do you notice about this woman’s features? Why do you think she is portrayed this way?
  3. (Figure 2) Who was the intended audience of this poster?
  4. (Figure 2) Why would the government be recruiting this audience?
  5. (Figure 2) What do you notice about this man’s features? Why do you think he is portrayed this way?
  6. (Figure 3) The U.S. government was aware that segregation would make some African Americans less likely to want to assist in the war effort. How do you think this poster is meant to address that problem?
  7. (Figure 3) Why did the artist use the colors that are in this poster?
  8. (Figure 4) Whose hands are encroaching on the woman in this poster?
  9. (Figure 4) Why does the poster depict a woman and a child?
  10. (Figure 5) Who was the intended audience of this poster?
  11. (Figure 5) Why would the government encourage people to not drive alone?

Historical Reasoning Questions

  1. Consider the current conflict the U.S. is engaged in against terrorism around the world. Do you see propaganda like these posters to encourage assisting in the war effort? If not, why?
  2. This United States Navy Recruiting Station poster was created as part of the propaganda effort during World War I. What similarities and differences do you notice between this and the second picture?

Image 1:

Image 2:

Image 3:

Image 4:

Image 5: