From the beginning the “obvious question was how to finance such a war,”1 a war that became the largest and most destructive conflict in history. Roosevelt and other leaders [used propaganda posters] to mold public opinion, and rally an, at times, unenthusiastic American citizenry to arms.

"YOU can't afford to miss EITHER! BUY BONDS EVERY PAYDAY"

Martha Sawyers, a prominent realist painter, was one of many artists commissioned by the Office of War Information to create propaganda posters for the war effort. Her most famous poster, “YOU can’t afford to miss EITHER! . . . BUY BONDS EVERY PAYDAY,” was produced in 1944. The poster is an effective propaganda tool, immediately grabbing the viewer’s attention through two vivid, realistic depictions. [The artist portrays] the … artillery soldier manning a 50. caliber machine gun. He has radio equipment, and is wearing [the full range of] pilot attire, including goggles, ear protection, a Mae West life jacket, and leather gloves. His facial expression is calm, collected, and determined. He does not appear frightened; he appears ready for the next engagement with the enemy. In the background, a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane is crashing.

Evocative Meaning / Symbolism
Subtle variations of similar colors allow the viewer to see detail. The striations of light and dark brown [shining down on the soldier] show creases in his clothing . . . this similar coloring on his gloves indicates clenched hands, symbolizing the resolve to fight the enemy. Sawyers draws the viewer to the text of the poster by starkly contrasting the red, white, and black colors of the words with the subdued browns and yellows of the image. [The message] Sawyers [conveys] in her poster is a call to all American citizens to support the war effort. Sawyers [demonstrates] that the responsibilities of the soldiers and the citizens are intertwined; the success and livelihood of each depends on the fulfillment of responsibility by the other.

Ultimately, World War II was a war of [firm resolve and high-level production] . . . nations with the determination to stay the course, and the economy to produce the necessary goods, prevailed. The United States possessed the determination and capacity, but not the [will] - not without the advent of the modern poster. The artists and administrators who created and distributed the propaganda posters . . . helped to mold the will of the … public, as well as persuade everyone in the nation to contribute vast amounts of money to the war effort. Who is to say what the outcome of World War II would have been for America if the posters had not [been] distributed?

1John W. Jeffries. Wartime America: The World War II Homefront (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996), 31-32.


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