- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Pritzker Library is celebrating its 10th anniversary by sending along its 10 favorite recruiting posters. Here they are:
Chicago’s Pritzker Military Library is a unique non-profit organization that is committed to maintaining and improving the public’s appreciation of the military — past, present, and future. In honor of the Library’s 10th anniversary, its special collections staff has selected 10 of their favorite military recruitment posters from its collection to share.
In addition to more than 45,000 books on military history and several thousand artifacts, the library’s collection houses more than 1,500 prints and posters from the late 17th century to the present. It includes posters from all over the world, in nine languages. The bulk of the collection consists of propaganda posters from World War I and World War II, including works from Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, and Norman Rockwell. The subject matter of these posters ranges from military recruiting, fundraising, and conservation to charity, education, and protest.
1. I Want YOU for U.S. Army, James Montgomery Flagg, 1917
Originally published as a magazine cover in July 1916, this portrait of “Uncle Sam” is considered to be one of the most popular and iconic posters in history. As the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and supplies overseas, more than four million copies were printed and distributed across the nation.
2. We don’t promise you a rose garden, 1971
Featuring a menacing photograph of former Marine drill instructor Sgt. Charles Taliano, this legendary poster reminded prospective Marines of the harsh reality of service, and was a staple of Marine recruiting offices from the early 1970s until the mid-1980s.
3. I Want You for the Navy, Howard Chandler Christy, 1917
Christy is remembered best for his “Christy Girls” — drawings and paintings of women who possessed certain characteristics that he believed represented the American Ideal — and they were present even in his work for the military. Here, Christy portrays a woman wearing a navy coat and hat in a promotion for the U.S. Navy.
4. Learn While You Serve, John Joseph Floherty, circa 1939-1945
The U.S. Coast Guard took a shot at recruiting high school students with this WWII-era poster, which features a smiling petty officer in front of two shelves of books on various engineering and naval topics. The subheading, “17?…Join the U.S. Coast Guard,” was intended to capture the attention of young men contemplating higher education.
5. The Sky’s No Limit, Harry Anderson, 1950
While many recruitment posters focus on duty or service, the U.S. Air Force had another angle to pitch: the miracle of flight. In 1950, Harry Anderson’s “The Sky’s No Limit” poster promised excitement and adventure to those who might become Air Force aviators.
6. Treat ‘Em Rough – Join the Tanks, August William Hutaf, 1917
The United States Tank Corps — the mechanized unit that conducted tank warfare during WWI — produced one of the most vivid and imaginative recruitment posters in history with this memorable image of a fearsome black cat above a tank-strewn battlefield.
7. Coast Artillery Corps – U.S.A., Philip Lyford, 1926
In the tradition of most recruitment posters of the early 20th century, the Army’s Coast Artillery Corps stuck to the basics in promoting their cause: “Join us!”
8. Train and Gain — New Nuclear Navy, Joseph Binder, 1958
The U.S. “Nuclear Navy” began to take shape in the 1940s under Admiral (then Captain) Hyman Rickover, and was officially established in 1954 with the launch of the U.S.S. Nautilus. This poster features a modernistic design and an emphasis on advancement — one of the more appealing aspects of the transition to a futuristic power supply for the U.S. Navy.
9. Join the WAC now!, 1944
The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was created as an auxiliary unit in the early 1940s, and about 150,000 women served within its ranks by the end of WWII. These female enlistees were given opportunities to contribute to the war effort by supporting the Army’s air forces, ground forces, and service forces by learning one of more than 200 jobs.
10. Be a Marine: Free a Marine to Fight, circa 1939-1945
The U.S. Marine Corps joined the WAC in recruiting and training women to perform certain duties that would enable more male soldiers to deploy to the front lines. Although these types of posters may be viewed as degrading by today’s standards, they represent an important step in the continuing quest for gender equality.