Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

World War II Poster Collection, 1941-1945

Historical Note:

World War II, the largest-scale conflict in human history, was fought between the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan, and Italy) and the Allied Forces (the British Commonwealth, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and others) between 1939 and 1945. World War II began in September 1939 with Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland and escalated as European powers joined the conflict. On December 7, 1941, Japan launched an attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In response, the United States declared war on the Axis powers and began campaigns in Europe and the Pacific. Shortly thereafter, the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and their allies signed the Atlantic Charter, uniting together against the Axis. Between 1942 and 1945, the fighting expanded to encompass much of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Italy surrendered in 1943, Germany in May 1945, and Japan in August 1945. More than 60 million people died in World War II, including upwards of 40 million civilians as a result of the Nazi campaign against ethnic Jews and other targeted groups, military attacks on civilian populations in Europe, the United States' use of nuclear weapons against Japan, and war-related famine and disease.

America's involvement in World War II required immediate growth of the United States' armed forces, the conversion of peacetime industrial manufacturing to military needs, and the expansion of domestic agriculture to supply the United States' allies with food. Through a series of radio, film, and print media campaigns, the U.S. government asked young men to enlist in unprecedented numbers, encouraged women to join the workforce, and called upon citizens to enact wartime austerity measures, participate in war-related charitable work, and ultimately contribute nearly $200 billion to the war effort via goverment-issued bonds.

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