Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > By the People, For the People

[Detail] See America. Alexander Dux

5. World War II

The nation mobilized for war in the wake of Japan's December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The newly-established War Production Board converted industries from a commercial to a war effort and conserved scarce materials such as steel. Searches on the terms salvage and water produce posters portraying conservation as an integral part of the national defense.

In addition to limiting consumption, citizens were asked to contribute money and goods. War loans and the sale of Liberty Bonds covered half of the cost of the war. A search on bonds yields posters encouraging the purchase of stamps and bonds with slogans such as "He gives 100%, you can lend 10%."

Other posters called for specific donations of time and equipment. Searches on terms such as volunteer and enlist yield advertisements calling for people to join the civilian defense and for skilled laborers to build boats for the Navy. A search on binocular also produces U.S. Navy requests for equipment with declarations such as, "No enemy sub will dare lift its eye if you lend your Zeiss or Bausch & Lomb binoculars to the Navy."

Meanwhile, a search on defense features posters that provide information about blackouts and air raids (including posters reading, "Keep cool, don't scream, don't run, prevent disorder, obey all instructions") and emphasize that careless conversation about military information can be deadly with calls to "Serve in Silence."

  • What types of images and phrases did these posters employ to emphasize community involvement?
  • Do you think that these efforts were effective ways to call for public conservation and donations? Why or why not?
  • How do you think that the public responded to these requests?
  • Do you think that the public was required to make personal sacrifices? If yes, how so?
  • Why do you think that some posters emphasized the limited discussion of military topics? Do you think that this is censorship? Why or why not?
  • What types of public service information did posters provide regarding the war?