Bombers, Symbols, Stamps

Today we look at two aspects of the early wartime home front propaganda of total war from the USA. The poster features the trope of a threat from the air represented by a shadow over children. This one is unusual in that the shadow isn’t an aircraft, as explored by Dr Brett Holman with his ‘shadow of the bomber’ blog posts, but the German Nazi party’s Swastika.


Further it’s unusual in featuring children’s play to include a range of then familiar objects; the newspaper hat and doll, and the American flag – accompanied by a model aircraft in the colours of the US Army Air Corps; while an indeterminate model, it is easy to see it as a bomber itself, ready to provide a shadow to THEIR children.  Buy War Bonds indeed. These children, interrupted in the midst of play by a strange sign from the sky seem to be understandably unhappy, but they look more sallow and ill than scared to me.

A contrasting image, here a magazine cover, is depicted with a child, a toy aeroplane and a war context on the cover of the Standard Oil bulletin by Bruce Bomberger (Patterson & Hall) from March 1942.


Here a more commercial message is made non-credibly bright, exciting and positive; few conversations about fuel rationing stamps at the gas pump get people having ‘fun’ as these seem to be doing. The pump attendant’s probably not saying ‘you don’t have enough’! What’s interesting here, though is the boy’s pseudo-air corps uniform, including wings and Sam Browne belt, contrasting to the then standard boy’s shorts. He’s also clutching a large model of the Boeing B-17B or C. The art, here, by Bomberger, is a lot more competent, however, selling us an equally unbelievable message a lot more convincingly.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

The War Bonds poster version from here, the Standard Oil bulletin here.

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