OUR WWII STORY: Posters with purpose

OUR WWII STORY: Posters with purpose

Among The American Legion’s nearly 3,000 vintage war posters are hundreds that were designed to inspire the nation, support the military and remind the public of sacrifices everyone needed to make to fight and win World War II.

The Emil A. Blackmore Museum of American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis recently completed and made available an online gallery of the organization’s poster collection, including a section devoted specifically to the World War II period.

The exhibit includes posters designed and produced by well-known artists, government bureaus, corporations, military branches and advertising agencies. (The American Legion does not hold copyright to the posters, so they may not be printed or redistributed without first obtaining rights and permissions from those who own the rights and personally paying any required fees.)

The Emil A. Blackmore Museum online gallery imparts a message of necessary wartime discipline and control on the home front during the war. Fuel, food, metal and more were in great need as millions of Americans entered the fighting overseas. “USE IT UP – WEAR IT OUT – MAKE IT DO!” urges one 1943 poster from the U.S. Office of War Information showing a woman sewing a patch on a man’s jeans as he simultaneously fixes a push mower. “OUR LABOR AND OUR GOODS ARE FIGHTING.”

The posters remind the public to carry their groceries on foot because trucks, tires and fuel were needed for the war. They implore drivers to make sure they fill every seat before going anywhere because “Hitler Rides in the Empty Seat.”

“Is Your Trip Necessary?” asks one 1943 Office of Defense Transportation poster. “NEEDLESS TRAVEL interferes with the War Effort.”

Victory gardens, home canning and rationing are urged, as well as personal investment in war bonds.

One poster features a frying pan dripping bacon grease into a group of flying bombs and informs Americans to “save waste fats for explosives … TAKE THEM TO YOUR MEAT DEALER.”

Scrap rubber, metal and rags could bring down enemy planes, the images suggest. Many in the collection call on the country to work hard and keep their tools and equipment in good repair for maximum productivity

One portfolio in the collection reminds Americans not to say a word about where loved ones are serving, training or entering the war. “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships” are stylized words over a capsizing U.S. Navy ship in one poster made and distributed by Seagram Distillers Corp.

The World War II collection is divided into five main categories:

Fighting Abroad

Fighting on the Homefront

Fighting in the Factories

Buy Bonds!

Careless Talk

The American Legion’s war poster collection was largely assembled by the organization’s first librarian, Verna B. Grimm, who believed it held “important records of historical interest and of particular value to the student in future years.” The collection has been exhibited often throughout the decades, and Grimm’s successor at national headquarters, Thomas V. Hull, continued growing it after Grimm retired in 1956.

A virtual tour of selected American Legion war posters can be taken here.