Comics and the World War II Home Front

All-Flash 15Two months ago I picked up a copy of the comic book All-Flash #15 (Summer 1944), published during the thick of World War II. In the bottom margin of each page is a slogan, in rhymed couplet form, on how children could help with the war effort:

  • Bottom Lines on Following Pages Tell What to Do While Battle Rages
  • Tin Cans in the Garbage Pile Are Just a Way of Saying “Heil!”
  • Waste Fats in Good Condition Help to Make Fine Ammunition
  • Boys and Girls, Every Day, Can Give War Aid in Many a Way—
  • Every Time You Buy a Stamp, You Feed the Flame in Freedom’s Lamp
  • If You Have an Extra Quarter, Buy a Stamp to Make War Shorter
  • However far soldiers roam, the want to have some mail from home
  • Collect Old Paper, Turn It In—Help Your Uncle Sam to Win
  • You Can Walk to School and Store! Saving Gas Helps Win the War!
  • Boys Are Smart, Girls Are Wise, Black Markets Not to Patronize
  • IF YOU STILL HAVE METAL SCRAP, TURN IT IN TO BEAT THE JAP
  • Turn Out Lights Not in Use —War Production Needs the “Juice”

Case and punctuation are preserved as closely as possible. And yes, they used a racial slur in a kids’ book.

Out of 12 slogans, 10 give specific suggestions. They break down as follows:
4 on recycling (tin, scrap metal, fats, paper)
2 on conservation (electricity and gas)
2 on funding (stamps)
1 on morale (write to the troops)
1 on crime (black markets)

The black market warning doesn’t seem to fit in, since it’s not, as far as I can tell, directly related to the war effort. Concern that criminals might be funding the enemy, or undermining supply chains? Or maybe they just knew it was a problem (in response to rationing), and decided to include it in the list as a public safety issue?

Anyway, seeing this in a comic book, which at the time really was aimed at children, is an interesting reminder that, during World War II, we didn’t just mobilize the American military—we mobilized all of America.

2 thoughts on “Comics and the World War II Home Front

  1. aeryncrichton

    I imagine there was a thriving black market in rationed goods, and of course anything that was being diverted to the black market wasn’t going to the war effort, so that makes sense to me. So, sadly, does the “racial slur.” When you have an all-out war effort, it “helps” to demonize the enemy, and it was certainly done on all fronts and all sides — Japs, Huns, you name it. It’s not something you hear these days, which is a very good thing (at least, I’m not seeing any slurs cast on Iraqis, for example, the war machine isn’t trying to whip us up to that kind of frenzy), but even in the Viet Nam era, the Viet Cong were called “gooks,” and you heard it everywhere….

    Reply
  2. Kelson Post author

    Back in college, a guy in my dorm brought up a discussion he had in class on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Someone suggested that racism was a factor, on the theory that the racist Americans spared the Germans the horrors of nuclear weapons because while they were enemies, hey, at least they were white. Apparently the class was ignoring the fact that the Germans had already surrendered by the time the US had a working bomb.

    Anyway, his response was that of course racism was a factor, because one of the first things you do in war is demonize the enemy. Make them seem less human, more evil, and it’s easier to justify killing them. And boy, did the US demonize the Japanese.

    Back to this issue, it’s actually pretty tame for a war-era comic book, compared to some of the (by modern, peacetime standards) horribly offensive caricatures and slogans that graced some covers. Superdickery has a section they call Propaganda Extravaganza, much of which is taken up by WWII-era covers. (Probably NSFW, due to political incorrectness.)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.