Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Mobilizing For War:
Poster Art of World War II


"We are calling for new plants and additions to old plants and for plant conversion to war needs. We are seeking more men and more women to run them. We are working longer hours. We are coming to realize that one extra plane or extra tank or extra gun or extra ship completed tomorrow may, in a few months, turn the tide on some distant battlefield; it may make the difference between life and death for some of our fighting men."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, radio address, February 23, 1942

In 1939 the United States' emergency defense budget was $3.3 billion. In the spring of 1942, following Pearl Harbor and America's entry into the war, that budget ballooned to $131 billion, only to expand in even greater measure in the months and years to come. As American industry threw itself into the production of war materiel, the civilian economy expanded from 48 million workers in 1940 to 54 million in 1944, in addition to the 12 million men who had joined the armed forces. Industrial production grew in almost every sector. The aircraft industry, for example, which had a work force of 48,000 in 1939, had over 2 million workers - including 500,000 women - by 1943.

From the beginning, civilian workers were treated as soldiers on the home front. It was a matter of patriotism to forsake a day off for another day on the production line. Posters fed that sense of patriotism, while urging workers to produce ever more armaments for the troops in the field.