Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Mobilizing For War:
Poster Art of World War II


Boosting the public morale became, in itself, the focus of many World War II posters. During the dark early days of the war, when American losses were many and battle victories scarce, posters tended to remind citizens why the fight had to be carried on.

References to avenging the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and honoring the brave troops who had given their lives under the most desperate conditions were prominent. As the tide of the war began to turn, motivational posters began to focus on the need to maintain the nation's resolve until the job was completely done.

Motivational posters used a variety of emotional techniques. Some featured stirring words and images of the American flag to draw out the patriotic spirit. Others used images of wounded soldiers or endangered women and children to tug on the emotions of the heart. Still others used sneering images of the enemy (often caricatured to the point of racial stereotypes) to induce anger and a sense of revenge. Regardless of the particular technique, motivational posters were designed to keep Americans focused on the contributions they could make to the war effort for as long as it took to defeat the enemy.