Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Americans were extremely reluctant to enter the war overseas. Having just recovered from the economic crises caused by the First World War, the American public felt they needed to concentrate on their own homes. Propagandists therefore needed to create documents that would convince Americans it was worth their while to enter the war. After the bombing at Pearl Harbor, propaganda became more successful and the focus shifted, as propagandists tried to convince Americans they had no choice but to enter the war, since it was now on American soil. Through their emotional appeals to the American public, propagandists created effective images to further the American cause.
In 1942, the year following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a propaganda leaflet created by Lawrence B. Smith for the U.S. Treasury Department began to circulate it featured children being shadowed by a swastika. In the drawing three children two boys and one girl are playing in the grass. They appear to be quite patriotic, one of the boys is waving an American flag and wearing a newspaper hat. The oldest boy is holding a toy plane, just like of those flown by the military during the war. Instead of appearing playful and happy these children look distressed and fearful because the shadow of a large swastika looms over them. The bottom of the picture reads, “Don’t let that shadow touch them. Buy war bonds” (Smith). Smith’s leaflet is an excellent example of the intentions of these propagandists.
First, the use of children in the leaflet automatically gains the sympathy of the American public. Children are pure and wholesome, making them the least deserving of the violence of war. Using children as victim’s cuts straight to the heart of the viewer, causing him to pay more attention than if the characters were adults. Additionally, the style of the artwork creates a sympathetic tone for the viewer. It is reminiscent of the simple pictures which many people had hanging in their homes during this time period. Because both the colors and the children’s faces are gentle, a striking contrast is created between the softness of the innocent children’s faces and the harshness of the large, black swastika. Also, the positioning of the swastika adds to the tension of the leaflet. Namely, the children are located so that, while the swastika does not touch them, it does touch the little girl’s doll this suggests that her corruption is imminent, and the swastika’s influence will proceed from her to the next child, until it has possessed them all.
Through his production of this overly dramatic message, the propagandist was desperately trying to instill fear into the hearts of American citizens by raping their senses and causing striking emotional reactions. While it seems unnecessary to the modern observer for the message to be so vivid when the action desired is simply the purchase of war bonds, it was through these purchases that the...