Author: Michael R. Hall, professor of history at Atlantic Armstrong State University
Description: This article covers the role of war bonds during World War II
Context and Things to Consider
- Pay attention to the purpose of the sale of war bonds.
- How did the U.S. government interest the American public in war bonds?
- What sort of message did war bonds posters convey?
War Bond Drives during World War II
War bonds were an important means of financing the U.S. military effort
in World War II. During the war, the U.S. government sold $185.7 billion
worth of war bonds to over 85 million U.S. citizens. Many important Hollywood
celebrities participated in eight bond drives, which began in 1942 and
ended in 1945. Whereas these drives occurred periodically, Liberty Bonds
were continuously promoted and sold during World War II, through measures
such as the Payroll Savings Plan.
On May 1, 1941, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau sold the
first Series E U.S. Savings Bond to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At
first, the bonds were known as Defense Bonds, but the name was changed
to War Bonds following the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The war bonds were sold in denominations of $10, $25, $50, $75, $100, $200,
$500, $1,000, $10,000, and $100,000.
The War Finance Committee, which was charged with supervising the sale
of the bonds, obtained free advertising from newspapers, magazines, and
radio. To make the advertising appealing to the general public, the government
enlisted the help of top New York advertising agencies and Hollywood entertainers.
War bond rallies were held throughout the country, often led by popular
entertainment personalities such as Carole Lombard, Greer Garson, Bette
Davis, and Rita Hayworth. Advertising for the bonds relied on colorful
posters enhanced by nationalistic slogans. A war bond purchased for $18.75
would yield $25.00 in ten years. The campaign assiduously worked to combine
nationalism with consumerism.
Michael R. Hall