World War II Poster Identities


War posters have been used throughout American history to promote nationalism and the desired societal role of American citizens. View the following sampling of WWII posters and compare them to the army recruitment advertisements below. How have these images changed? How are gender identities constructed through both types of imagery?

How does this poster portray women during the mid-twentieth century? This poster explores the threat of sexually transmitted diseases during this time and uses national guilt to squash such occurrences, as men would apparently not be able to fight in the war if they have spent time with a "good time" girl. It is interesting to note that the blame is placed on the female and not males.

 

In this image, a dead soldier's hand lies lifeless near his sunken ship, while the text appears to threaten the American viewer that their actions could cost valuable lives. Fear was used to instruct American citizens how to act during the war. How does this image evoke a construction of American identity/culture?
 

In this poster, fear and guilt are used yet again to impart a particular behavior desirable for American citizens during the war. How has this image impacted our culture today? Are there currently images similar to this one?

 Numerous posters were made during WWII promoting women's roles in the workforce and on the home front during the war. Iconic imagery such as Rosie the Riveter, urging women to work while their husbands are away, were predominant at this time. Here, the domestic front is evident, a woman carrying groceries and packages for her home, with which she will ration and conserve for her country.  How does this image portray  women's role in society? How has this image constructed women's role in society today?

This image also evokes the duty of women to help America through typing for the government and armed forces. The woman is excited to help her country and is influenced by guilt, that victory is on her shoulders. Posters such as these promote women in the workforce, yet it is a temporary role. Does this image construct a positive or negative role for American women?

 

This image again uses fear to control American citizens, wherein the dire consequences of a citizen's actions are displayed. How can this image, or others like it, construct a perception of non-Western cultures?


An iconic image of America, Uncle Sam exudes patriotic duty by demanding that everyone enlist. The image invokes the call for young men to join the army rather than women, as they were not allowed to join the armed forces. How does this poster affect women or even minority men? The text itself implies that those who enlist are significant American citizens helping the country. How does this image portray those who would not join the army?

 

The contemporary images below are taken from the primary army recruitment  website. How do these image compare to those of WWII? How are gender roles portrayed in these images as compared to the WWII posters? How do these images embody our culture? How has war imagery influenced these images? How do these images affect our individual construction of identities?

 

 A man using a computer in combat is used to represent how one might work in the military. how does this image differ from the WWII posters? Is fighting implied in either image?

 

How does the use of non-combat activity construct our culture's military identity?

 

 How do these images construct an American identity or culture? Does the depiction of women and minorities participating in the armed forces portray a cultural change in equality from the earlier WWII posters? The text of the above advertisement implies that it is again up to the American citizens to fight for our country much like the WWII posters. Now, individual faces are used to represent the military. How does this change in imagery alter our cultural construct? Further, why is it only a white male used with this particular text?

For further information/exploration:

For additional WWII posters 

Visit the National Archive to read more on the use of persuasion in WWII posters

For more information on gender identity in WWII posters