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A careless word ... A needless loss

Date: 1943
Overall: 699 x 558 mm, 0.05 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Posters and postcards
Object Name: Poster
Object No: 00017802
Place Manufactured:United States

User Terms

    This World War II poster shows the body of a lone sailor washed ashore and warns people not to leak information to potential enemies. It was one of many issued by the Office of War Information to promote secrecy and silence. Unlike earlier posters which presented more cheerful messages, this example uses a tragic scene of death to appeal to the public.
    SignificanceThis poster indicates the heightened level of suspician during the war and the American governments emphasis on national security.
    HistoryConcerns about national security intensify during times of war. With German and Japanese submarines patrolling off US coasts, great emphasis was placed on educating military personnel and civilians about the need for secrecy concerning military matters, especially troop movements. Central to maintaining national security was the drive to limit talk about the war in both the public and private arenas of American life. Silence meant security.

    A World War II specialty was the poster to stop careless talk. Some posters exhibit notable graphic images of death, tragedy and loss. Others show vibrant, happy and healthy men heading off to war and warn it is up to those on the home front to keep them safe.

    Because of rapid electronic communication, the American government was especially sensitive to espionage activities that could endanger troop and material transport, and the secret development of new weapons.

    Whether the practical results of the careless words campaign were equal to the magnitude of the poster effort is an unanswered question. However, secrecy was a priority of the government at this time and the number of posters related to it indicate this.

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