The Office of War Information (OWI), established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 1942, was created in order to sway public opinion and put the war in context for many Americans.+ Posters showed actual battle scenes and soldiers storming the battlefield.

"A Careless Word...A NEEDLESS SINKING"

Our poster, “A careless word...A NEEDLESS SINKING,” was painted by Anton Otto Fischer in 1942. The representation is of the reality of the battlefield. The emphasis is to warn Americans to keep quiet about merchant ship movements and their knowledge of Allied ship positions. Viewers are reminded, [in sharp, harsh terms], that a little slip of the tongue, or discussing ship movements, can put the lives of American sailors in jeopardy.

Evocative Meanings/Interpretation
A ship is in flames, burning in the distance. Black clouds of smoke are rising from the fire. The lifeboat in the foreground is carrying sailors who are wounded. The clothing of some sailors is tattered and ripped. One sailor is looking up, looking beyond the sinking vessel, trying to glimpse a possible enemy in the skies. One sailor is lying on his back in the boat, unconscious, or dead.

The poster’s middle section contains the major impact of the entire image: The ship is ravaged by flames; dark, black smoke funnels upward; red and orange flames spiral into the sky. There is a feeling of complete chaos and destruction.

The poster illustrates the artist’s vast artistic talent for depicting the sea. His use of oil paints is evident in the layered coloring . . . . The image conveys a sense of brutality. Fischer expresses the devastation that one simple word can cause. The purpose is to warn American citizens of the harsh realities of war. Sailors with their shirts ripped off and their faces [registering shock] and distress, capture the horror and death faced by the men fighting for America.


Places I've Been

The following links are virtual breadcrumbs marking the 27 most recent pages you have visited in If you want to remember a specific page forever click the pin in the top right corner and we will be sure not to replace it. Close this message.