All nations that partook in the First and Second World War had the difficult task of finding the best strategies to defeat their enemies. Yet that was not all they had to do, as one of the major concerns of the governments and army generals at the time consisted of justifying their involvement to the population. Since providing a logical explanation to why they want to drag the country into all-out war was mostly inefficient, they had to figure out a way to make the population WANT to get involved.
And, what better way to determine common people to want to fight, work for free and offer money to sustain military campaigns than propaganda? Following, we will analyze some of the most ludicrous propagandistic posters – all unintentionally so, in their defense – that were all over the place during the world war period.
1. The British on the not-so-dumb women
The legend of the alleged WW1 spy Mata Hari remained vivid in the British culture and has continued to fascinate the officials throughout the Second World War as well. Otherwise, how else could you explain the “Keep Mum, She’s Not So Dumb” poster in an era when gender inequality did not constitute a critical problem for the society? The message is quite simple really: unless you’re nice to her, she will become a spy and show you who’s who.
2. From the wisdom of Private Caution
The Private Caution Says series of posters really made a difference in WW2 and possibly turned the odds in the advantage of the United States and the Allies. If it weren’t for this hygiene obsessed character, the US soldiers would all engage in unprotected sexual activities and would require hospitalization due to contracting gonorrhea and/or syphilis. Yet, the unsettling thing about these posters is that the private appears to be scared when seeing an officer passing by. Perhaps there’s more “wisdom” in this than you thought.
3. Boy, the Soviets really had a problem with work related injuries
If there was a time and a place where you wouldn’t want to have a job, then that would have be Soviet Russia during WW2. Well, at least this is what you can deduce from the amount of disturbing, yet silly posters proprietary to that period like the “Look Out For Buffers” or “Don’t Clutter Your Workplace”. Thank goodness for those warning posters or else the Russians would have surely lost the war because of too many men dying due to work related accidents.
4. Don’t worry, the lonely Canadian soldier will save us all
Men, and particularly brave men who are willing to fight for their countries are the most valuable resource during war. While the Canadian government understood this perfectly, they conveyed it into a completely laughable propaganda image. The most preposterous poster of the time was the “Why Don’t They Come?” picture that depicts a brave soldier watching hockey and asking himself why his fellow Canadians don’t want to participate in the great “hockey” game that is the war overseas.
5. If you continue to hurt yourself at work, the Nazis win the war
What was initially intended to be a blood donation campaign created by the US government in WW2 turned out terribly mostly because of the obscure language used and the fact that all posters presented people driving screwdrivers through their hands. Not only did few people actually hear of the 7th column, but implying that work accidents can be prevented or else the Nazi’s win the war is a bit farfetched. Later on, the creepy “Don’t Give Your Blood To The 7th Column” posters were modified and became clearer for everyone.
6. Buy me cigarettes or I’ll come back and kill you
It’s no secret that during WW1, the US army held fundraising campaigns so they could afford to buy cigarettes for their troops. Sure, because those boys are risking their lives out there you could at least buy them a pack of smokes. However, the way the “I need smokes” posters are created would make Freddy Kruger one of the most loveable characters ever. In short, unless you donate the man will jump out of the poster and beat the cigarettes out of you.
7. Turn back or else your sweetheart will cheat on you
While Nazi Germany was renowned for the incredibly effective propaganda apparatus turned loose against its own people, it seems they didn’t know much about the nations they were fighting against. In an attempt to demoralize the Allies, they set out to spread ridiculous posters insinuating that soldiers who surrender would just go home and be with the woman of their dreams. Considering the way Nazis used to treat prisoners, you can realize why the “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes… But Blondes Don’t Like Cripples” was unconvincing.
8. Every woman’s dream is to wake up as a man just to join the navy
From ancient times, women only had one dream, that of waking up as men in the morning so they could fight and die for their beloved countries. While some psychologists view the message conveyed in this US WW2 posters as passive-aggressive, in reality joining the navy and wanting to be a man are two separate and very distant concepts.
9. Impressing girls is not that hard, you just have to divulge military secrets
In other words, if you were thinking of impressing a gorgeous girl back during WW2 by asking her out for coffee or bringing her chocolates and flowers, then you would’ve stayed single for the rest of your life (or the war, whichever ends first). According to the “Loose Talk Can Cost Lives” US poster, girls were different back then, as they were highly interested in learning how you are preparing your next secret mission or, even better, how you manage to keep the weapon manufacturing installation working perfectly. Oh, unless she sees Hitler and his gigantic ear eavesdropping to your conversation, then you’re barking at the wrong tree pal.
10. Apologize to my rooster or else…
During WW1, there was a relatively strong concept of patriotism and national symbols were everywhere to inspire brave men and women to help win the war. However, sometimes things went a bit overboard and the perfect example is a French propagandistic poster depicting the prime minister holding a bottle in his hand looking like he is about to get a German officer drunk. As that wasn’t funny enough, the poster also includes a furious rooster flapping its wings, all elements leading to the conclusion that unless he says he’s sorry, he’s in for an evil torture involving heavy (fine French wine) drinking.
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