"In Memory of the U.S.S. Dorado"

World War II War Bonds

Original content by: Dr. Paul Goodwin

zoomable artifact image here

About This Artifact

Fighting a war is incredibly expensive and, in addition to the usual appropriations, often requires further sources of revenue.  This was certainly the case during World War II.  During the war, one way to raise the much needed funding was through the issuance of War Bonds.  However, if no one purchased the bonds, it would prove to be a fruitless exercise.  Therefore, there appeared to be a need to convince people to continue to sacrifice to support the war effort.  Buying war bonds demonstrated a moral, as well as financial, stake in the war.  Nationalism merged with consumerism, and buying bonds showed the shared sacrifice of those on the home front and those in the theaters of war.

This World War II poster, the result of a collaboration between artists George Schreiber and Thomas Hart Benton, has a number of elements that are designed to convince citizens to purchase not only bonds, but extra bonds, to help fund the Fifth War Loan.  Patriotic and propagandistic elements include the American flag, Navy submariners in action, the Morse Code symbol for "V" for Victory, the symbol of the minutemen from the American Revolution, and, subtly in the upper left corner, the words "IN MEMORY/ U.S.S. DORADO"  A bold message "FIRE AWAY!" not only indicates that the submarine is about to engage in hostilities, but also a connection to the exhortation at the bottom of the poster: "BUY EXTRA BONDS."

This poster also epitomizes the use of maritime imagery as symbols of America and American patriotism, a popular imagery choice since the War of 1812.  The depiction of the sailors, along with the American flag, really stresses the link between the US Navy and patriotism.  By referencing the U.S.S. DORADO, the poster also stresses the sacrifices that sailors often experience while performing their patriotic duty.

Questions for Further Thought

  1. Why do you think images of navy sailors and ships were so widely used in posters and other popular art forms at this time?
  2. What is the relationship between "propaganda" and "fact"?
  3. After looking at this poster, would you feel obliged to buy war bonds? Why or why not?