How American Propaganda Shaped World War Two

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Propaganda shaped the Second World War like no other war. Propaganda is the 'spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person'. The United States of America declared war on Germany and Italy on the 11th of December, 1941. What ensued was a constant effort to spread propaganda to get the public behind the war effort and to unite the country. Using all types of mediums, the American Government instigated hatred towards the enemies of the nation, urged public effort for war production, and sold war bonds. As the War carried on, the government constantly pushed for people to rally support for Allied victory.

The Government was not enthusiastic about spreading propaganda at the beginning. However, the pressure from the media sectors eventually got the Government to participate in propaganda campaigning. Nonetheless, the government claimed that it did not spread propaganda, but simply provided information. In 1942, the Office of War Information was established by the President of the United States- Franklin D. Roosevelt. The aim of this agency was to disseminate war information and propaganda. This was carried out through Hollywood Movies, radio stations, and publications.

Furthermore, the Writers' War Board was established to carry out propaganda through the use of books and articles. A lot of writers acted according to Government orders, or undertook their own initiative. Furthermore, posters became a common medium of Propaganda. The United States produced 200, 000 propaganda posters, more than any other nation during the Second World War. The Office of War Information (OWI) Bureau of Graphics was also established to produce and distribute propaganda posters. Posters based on numerous themes like patriotism, women action and efficient resource usage acted as weapons for the American Government. These were most commonly put up in 'post offices, railroad stations, schools, restaurants and retail stores'. Smaller posters were put up outside homes and apartments. The posters of the United States also differed from other countries. The United States posters focused on duty and patriotism while those of other countries focused on fueling the people's hatred for the enemy.

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Moreover, the impact of film on the American Population was a huge factor in increasing the participants in the War. Hollywood movies contributed to the Allied cause by 'portraying Nazis in place of the usual gangster villains while the Japanese were depicted as being bestial, incapable of reason or human qualities. ' The earlier Hollywood productions that ridiculed any of the Axis governments was 'You Nazty Spy!' and a 'Three Stooges' short film released on January 19, 1940. In 1942, the first film of the 'Why We Fight' series was released. The series was commissioned by the United States Government and was intended to justify America's participation in the war. Movies that provided entertainment also incorporated propaganda. The movie 'Mrs. Miniver' released in 1942 depicted the Battle of Britain and simultaneously encouraged public support in the War.

It was immediately rushed in theatres on Roosevelt's orders. Movies like 'The Purple Heart', a movie that depicted the Japanese as evil and glorified the American soldiers, motivated people to contribute in the Second World War for an Allied Victory. Furthermore, animated movies like 'Der Fuehrer's Face' provided political commentary against the Axis powers. The movie 'Education for Death' highlights how young boys are brainwashed in Nazi Germany and are ready to do anything for Hitler. Overall, movies were a great source of encouragement for the American public and helped the Allies in gaining support for the war cause.

Magazines and newspapers were also utilised as propaganda dissemination tools, as they were extremely popular in homes. A 'Magazine War Guide' which gave advice for supporting the war effort, was released by the American Government. Women's magazines such as the'Ladies' Home Journal' aimed at housewives. Magazine Editors showed women as beings that are heroically fighting for the Allied Cause. This motivated women to help in the war. Guides were distributed to writers by the Office of War Information for genres with storylines that would help in the war effort. In the newspaper industry, all negative information that would discourage people was censored by the Office of Censorship. Any information that could help the enemy was censored and only optimistic propaganda was allowed.

Radio proved to be a hugely powerful weapon for the American Government. President Roosevelt's 'fireside chats', a series of addresses to the public, demonstrate the extensive use of radio in spreading war information. Radio was constantly used to provide information about Allied triumphs. Another important instance of radio usage was seen when the Italian Army was persuaded to surrender through the use of radio messages. CBS Radio's counter propaganda series 'Our Secret Weapon', monitored Axis shortwave radio propaganda broadcasts and refuted the most entertaining lies of the week. Radio also helped in the capture of Saipan by the Americans. This left the Japanese in great shock as the place was considered invincible, and the Americans had used medium-wave radio to reach the Japanese islands.

The theme of the propaganda propelled the Allies to demolish the Axis Powers. The American Government constantly stated their war as a war against evil, and motivated the population to fight a 'just war'. Dictators like Hitler and Mussolini and their supporters found their way into movies as villains. Nazi Germany was the most evil of all the Axis Powers. Even though Hitler and the Nazis were the main target of hatred, Germans were also stereotyped as wicked in films and posters. Anti-Japanese propaganda was also very important. Propaganda based on the attack on Pearl Harbor was used in significant amounts as it had left a sour taste in the mouths of the American public. The American population had become disgusted by Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour and this was utilised by the American Government to the utmost. Overall, the American Government was very effective in its spreading of propaganda. Women participated in the war, not only in the role of nurses, but also as soldiers. Men, mainly as soldiers, participated extensively in the Second World War to help for an Allied victory. Propaganda of the American Government focused more on the optimistic side rather than showing hate and violence. This encouraged the population to join in and help the Allies take on the Axis Powers and emerge with victory.

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