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1942 Fifty Years Ago

June 2024
1min read

Faces of the Enemy

In December New York’s Museum of Modern Art was showing, in addition to Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon and some nice stands of French woods by Cézanne, a lot of cutting-edge American war propaganda—200 screaming scenes from among 2,224 posters submitted to the Office of Civil Defense. Many of the artists had cribbed from President Roosevelt’s rousing State of the Union message, laying quotations from it over images of Jap and Hun doing their hideous work or of sailors drowned by “loose lips.” Along the museum’s hallways Nazi daggers plunged through church windows or ripped the Stars and Stripes; Hitler sneered over a smoldering battlefield at the picture of a crying orphan. The most effective of the visceral works would be reproduced and mass-distributed by the Office of War Information to win civilian hearts and minds.

So many women had sent off their husbands to the fighting in the first year of American involvement that a new book appeared to help them adjust, Ethel Gorham’s So Your Husband’s Gone to War , from Doubleday. In it the Bonwit Teller ad writer covered everything from preparing for furloughs and coping with a smaller apartment to giving parties for women and restraining the office “wolf” who proves too helpful.

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