US Defense Advertisement

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the 7th of December, 1941, the United States entered World War II, and the already established Defense Bonds were renamed War Bonds. More than 80 million Americans purchased War Bonds, channeling over $180 billion in revenue into the governments war efforts.

Issued in the United States and promoted by the War Advertising Council, War Bonds were debt securities issued by the government to finance it’s military operations during times of war or conflict. Because War Bonds offered a rate of return below the market rate, investment was achieved by making emotional appeals to patriotic citizens to lend the government money.

To reach the widest demographic possible in the United States, advertisements for War Bonds were carried out through multiple media such as radio stations, newspapers, magazines, comic books and newsreels in theaters. People could save up for War Bonds by contributing 25 cents each time. The Girl Scouts also sold stamps valued at 10 cents each.

By the Summer of 1942, American life revolved around World War II, which was being financed in part by War Bonds and War Stamps purchased by the American public. The need for funding was great enough that the Treasury Department directly commissioned publisher Family Comics (later renamed to Harvey Comics) to created ‘War Victory Comics’, the first government-sponsored propaganda comic book. The 36-page anthology featured work by a host of creators with each story showing kids a new creative way to either get the dime needed for a War Stamp, or how their stamp made a difference in the war.

Comic book strips found in the comic include characters such as Superman, Green Hornet and Dick Tracy who weren’t typically seen in comic books published by Family Comics. All profits from the 5 cent comic book were donated to the United States military.

Sales of ‘War Victory Comics’ were so strong that the Treasury Department funded a second printing, but they seemed to realize further direct intervention wasn’t needed because publishers were running enough anti-Nazi material on their own. Harvey Comics published two follow-up issues in 1943 following the popularity of ‘War Victory Comics’, now retitled to ‘War Victory Adventures’. These 2 editions can be seen below.

King Features Syndicate aided in the promotion of War Bonds and War Stamps. Published in 1942, we find advertisements in various newspapers across the United States featuring both comic book characters created by Lee Falk, the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. These advertisements directly sent a message to the reader to assist in the war efforts by purchasing War Bonds.

‘The Minute Man’ is a Bronze sculpture created in 1874 by David Chester French and is located at the Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, Massachusetts, USA. The sculpture became the symbol of the United States Defense War Bonds and War Stamps campaign, as seen on the cover of comic book edition number 1 by Family Comics (‘War Victory Comics’). We see the same image in the 2 advertisements above published by King Features Syndicate. Below we see a 1940’s ‘For Freedom’s Sake… Buy War Bonds’ poster featuring ‘The Minute Man’.