DEPICTION OF THE ENEMY
American advertisers reflected the government’s view of the war as an issue of good vs. evil and as such, often depicted Axis enemy as grotesque, uncivilized and frequently sub-human. While not the dominant theme of World War II print ads, it was not unusual to use racial and cultural stereotypes in advertisements.
The Philco Radio Corporation promoted its contributions to the war effort through a series of advertisements drawn by some of the leading editorial cartoonists of the day which used satirical depictions of Axis leaders as objects of ridicule. Advertisements in this series were often drawn by leading editorial cartoonists in support of the war effort "as an inspiration to the men and women who are helping to produce the weapons of victory."
Additional posters in this series can be found at the "John Okolowicz collection of Philco News, RCA Good News, and advertisements" at the Hagley Digital Archives.
The American Locomotive Company used a much more serious theme in its depiction of the enemy as dangerous to the very existence of American civilization. Their graphic suggestions of Nazis selecting American women for breeding programs, a Japanese firing squad executing resisters, and Americans scrounging for food in trash cans while Axis leaders feasted in the background warned that only the total dedication of all Americans to the war effort could prevent an Axis victory.
Texaco produced a series of advertisements imagining the German and Japanese reactions to the power and determination of American industry to conquer their aggression. The first two examples here depict a Japanese officer bowing before his emperor and a goose-stepping German soldier’s unquestioning belief in the Fuehrer.
In another advertisement, the striking image of German helmets atop wooden crosses mimicking the Nazi salute is used to praise the combined efforts of the American military, civilian and industrial might to win the war.
Chrysler pulled no punches in its advertisement for a new manufacturing process to improve searchlights which had the two-fold purpose of promoting the company’s war efforts and demonizing the enemy. The ad, “It wasn’t just dark…it was as black as Tojo’s heart!”, is striking in its caricature of a Japanese naval officer with buck teeth and thick glasses and its description of Japanese sailors as “rats scurrying around in a trap”
Hideki Tojo (1884-1948) was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army and Prime Minister of Japan from October 1941 until July 1944. Tojo issued the final order for the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was executed as a war criminal in 1948. During the war, he became the personification of the "evil" Japanese in WWII propaganda.