By 1941 the Japanese had intended to destroy American fleets in order for them to gain access to natural resources and expand into Asia and the Pacific. As a result, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 leaving the U.S. with no choice but to join the Allied powers (Britain, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Soviet Union, and China) whom they were helping since the beginning of the war with supplying military aid through the establishment of the Lend Lease Act.
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During this time, America used a variety of methods to provide a black and white view of foreign countries with half-truths and misleading information. Propaganda displayed messages to help shape the American people’s attitude towards the enemy populace and towards friendly nations, as well as to establish moral forces on the homefront. Some of the most effective methods that portrayed these perspectives were by bringing the message through posters, short films, comic books, and cartoons. Through this the public was being brainwashed to help sway support for the moral actions of the government during this breaking point in history.
Propaganda was widely used in various ways as a driving force to create tension and shape mental attitudes of American citizens about enemy populace. Artists had stereotyped and deceived information about their opponent which was then took by the government to make certain aspects blow out of proportion to instill hatred. In the 1942 This is the Enemy (Fig. 1) poster, the illustrator circulates around the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This dark portrayal was published to help reinforce the ideology held by everyday people and to change the American viewpoint through the idea of fear. Artist used this concept by the use of thick lines and dark colors to create an ominous tone. The white highlight on the teeth and eyes to further depict the feeling of menace on the Japanese soldier, monkey like face, and the fear in the women as the knife moves towards her. The biased perceptions in this image had been successful in conveying the eyes of Americans that the entire Japanese nation as a ruthless and animalistic enemy that had to be removed. Artists had also used the concept of racism in propaganda as another way to create revulsion about the enemy. In Be Sure You Have Correct Time (Fig. 2) racist imagery is used to remind soldiers about the operational value of keeping their watches wound while in the field (Toptenz). The artist uses cartoon versions of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo who is made to look like a grinning monster to establish the hatred against all soldiers and dehumanize these men.
In 1943, an American animated anti-Nazi short film, Der Fuehrer’s Face, was produced by Walt Disney Productions to illustrate the life under the Nazi regime. This animation featured Donald Duck who had a nightmare in which he was working like a puppet under great pressure in a Nazi artillery factory. Under the extremely repetitive society, Donald Duck says the repetitive phrase of Hail Hitler as he works a 48-hour day and is surrounded by the swastika symbol (Kinney). Towards the end of the short film, Donald Duck has a breakdown because he feels like a nonstop machine and wakes up from the nightmare to be back in America. As he wakes up he sees Hitler’s reflection and is about to say Hail Hitler, but realizes that what he sees is the Statue of Liberty (Kinney). Its is revealed in the video that Donald Duck and others in America should be grateful to be an American citizen because if they were to be in the Nazi society all they are to do is please Hitler. Disney depicts a harsh portrayal of the totalitarian society through the use of fear. This satirical cartoon was made in effort to also sell war bonds, encourage the American war effort, and effectively create hatred against Germany.
During the years in which America joined the war, comics were used as propaganda to gain support from its people and their allies. Writers began to join the War Writers Board (WWB- a private domestic propaganda organization ran by American writers and government and quasi-government agencies) who had worked with the United States Office of War Information (OWI). They had focused on all aspects of media and created superheroes that were brought into the war effort to display messages about the United States’s friends and foes. In the comic, The Nightmares of Lieutenant IchiJuan Posong gives Ichi the Midnight Jitters, produced by the OWI the writer illustrates the support for the Philippines. The comic book focuses on the hero Juan Posong who puts a facade of being slow, but in actuality is very clever. In the book, a Japanese Army officer Lieutenant Ichi arrives and expects to be welcomed with a warm open heart from the Filipinos, but he was instead harassed by Posong. As a result, the officer had nightmares and became very homesick (Comic Book PSYOP). The comic portrays the fear of Ichi as the return of the American General MacArthur who is known for his role in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It is the fear of being occupied that drives the officers nightmares. The comic was written to circulate around the attack launched by Japan on the Philippines just ten hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. War Writers Board creates this comic to ensure the morale of the Filipinos and America’s want of destroying the Japanese force who are located in the Filipinos land and minds. America had also issued a poster that was created during 1941 to 1945 called Philippine resistance against Japan. The poster is another example of support provided by the United States for Filipinos against Japanese occupation. Both the comic and poster is a reminder to the Filipinos that America will aid them in the war, provide support against Japan whom they loathe to have a successful victory, and the liberate the Philippines.
America had created propaganda intended to show support for the Chinese. The 1943 American weekly newspaper, the Times displayed many images of Chinese people on the cover such as in China! First to Fight!. In this image created by Martha Sawyers, illustrates a family in which the father wears a green soldiers uniform carrying a rifle, and a mother wearing a traditional dress with her left arm wounded and her other hand holding her daughter. This poster was created in effort to raise the awareness of the 1941 United China Relief program initiated by the United States. The United China Relief (UCR) had been a major step in establishing an alliance with China during the war. In 1943 it joined forces with the National War Fund, which had committees based in major cities in the United States [to increase the production of more funds] (Scott). Towards end of the World War II, the focus was changed to launch more long-term rebuilding projects in China (Scott). China had needed the support due to the Sino-Japanese War that took place in 1937 leaving them devastated. Over the course of a couple years, this program had raised more than $52 million for the aid in relief and rehabilitation of the people in China. The poster by Martha Sawyer helped create attention and reassure the Chinese people of America’s concern and friendship.
Propaganda brought a great sense of nationalism to the homefront providing a feeling of morality and hope. Rarely posters used images showing war casualties and battlefield scenes, instead illustrators used encouraging slogans and images of idealize people committing to the war effort. In the 1942 Navy recruiting poster Man the guns – join the Navy by McClelland Barclay, a shirtless and muscular sailor is shown as he loads a large shell into a gun. This poster is also directed towards younger men, by creating a role model that is teaching them values about supporting their country and the decision in right versus wrong.In addition, this poster suggested that the Navy needed assistance, and if anyone joins they may have the chance to become an American hero. Through this America illustrates their confidence and motive to engage young men in the war effort.
James Montgomery Flagg designed the famous propaganda poster of Uncle Sam with the caption I Want You during the Second World War. This poster was created to provide a positive outlook like many other posters and establish patriotism through prevalent colors: red, white, and blue. In this specific poster, Flagg is insisting and expressing the importance of serving in the United States army. The imagery of Uncle Sam pointing grabs the viewers attention that he is speaking directly to them, and evoke a patriotic sentiment and guilt if one has not joined the army. Flagg encourages all American citizens to help in the war effort (e.g. serving in the armed forces). The government published millions of copies of this poster to effectively increase recruitment of men, productivity, and motivation (The Price of Freedom).
In the 1943 American animated short film, The Spirit of ?43, reminding the viewers about paying income taxes to help the war effort on the homefront. The narrator uses fear tactics to emphasize the importance of saving money the American people earn so they can pay their income tax. By paying their taxes the American government can supply factories a manufacture artillery. The short film states Are you going to spend for the Axis, or save for Taxes?, and if they do pay their taxes it will keep democracy on the march(King). Walt Disney Studios implements the fear tactic through the use of a citizen betraying their country ans supporting the Nazi’s (Quinn). Through this American people were encouraged to pay income taxes so they would not be accused. As America produced these perspectives it had promoted manufacturing of weapons and careful use of money.
We Can Do It is another of the most famous wartime propaganda poster inspiring the morale of women. Produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Corporation, this poster encouraged women to take on wartime jobs in defense industries. The women in the image, Rosie the Riveter had become a significant role model and established a more concrete base for female patriotism alongside their role in war effort for the homefront. After the release of this poster, more women joined the war effort since men were away fighting leaving many gaps open in jobs that were necessary to be filled up. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home (History.com Staff). The aviation industry became the most popular in female workers, with more than 310,000 women . . .making up 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce. The munitions industry also heavily recruited women workers, as illustrated by the U.S. government’s Rosie the Riveter propaganda campaign (History.com Staff). Rosie the Riveter became a significant factor in recruiting women in the homefront helping the United States win the war against the Axis powers
The American government issued multiple amounts of propaganda through various methods. Certain topics had been avoided such as displaying images of failures during war. The focus had been directed to encourage the American audience and friendly nations, and show the ruthless depiction of the Axis powers. Posters about the homefront had also been distributed to increase the enrollment of men in the navy and women in defense industries. The government had instituted the belief of war is not a time for citizens to have an informed debate and make up their own minds even as they fight in the name of freedom to do just that (Brewer). Through propaganda American citizens were persuaded their victory against the Axis and encouraged to participate in the war effort. The Allied powers were also encouraged by the support provided by the American government. Therefore, propaganda during the Second World War had been effectively used to send messages about enemies, friends, and the American citizens at the homefront.
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