World War I, 1914-1920 • America Goes to War
Objective: Evaluate the use of propaganda to organize public support for the U.S. entry into World War I.
- What events or factors led to the U.S. decision to abandon its policy of neutrality and enter the war on the side of the Allies?
- What challenges did the U.S. government face when preparing to enter World War I?
- What types of sacrifices did Americans at home make to support the military effort abroad?
Notes on Implementation:
- To provide additional support, give students a graphic organizer to record explanations and responses.
- To extend the activity, allow students to debate the concluding question in small groups.
Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the World War I Topic Center within the American History database
During World War I, the Committee on Public Information, a government propaganda body whose purpose was to mobilize public support for U.S. participation in the war, created posters to encourage public support. Additionally, during World War I, Americans at home were urged to help the war effort overseas by doing such things as conserving food and buying bonds.
In this activity, you will examine examples of this propaganda and evaluate its effectiveness in organizing public support for the U.S. entry into World War I.
- World War I poster: "Defeat the Kaiser and his U-Boats"
- World War I poster: "Food is Ammunition"
- World War I poster: "Join the Navy"
- World War I poster: "Make Every Minute Count for Pershing"
- World War I poster: "The Hun"
- Review each poster
- Read the caption to identify the main idea
- Explain how the slogans and symbols support the main idea of each poster
- Design your own World War I propaganda poster that addresses one way Americans at home can support the war effort
- Respond to the following: "Do you think that a democratic society should use propaganda tools during a time of war? Why or why not?"
- There are multiple factors that a nation must consider when deciding to go to war
Possible Answers for Activity:
"Defeat the Kaiser and his U-Boats"
Caption - This World War I poster calls on citizens to conserve food to lessen the cost of losses due to the Kaiser's U-boat campaign against supply convoys
Slogan - "Defeat the Kaiser and his U-Boats, Victory Depends on Which fails first, food or frightfulness, Eat less Wheat"
Symbols - A man looks on as a ship is sinking
The poster's slogan is a plea to get Americans to restrict their consumption of wheat. This plea is reinforced with the symbolism of a sinking ship to represent potential loss of American lives.
"Food is Ammunition"
Caption - In an example of total war, citizens are called upon to conserve food for the war effort
Slogan - "Food is Ammunition-Don't waste it"
Symbols - A wicker basket full of fruits and vegetables with a backdrop of soldiers on horses waving an American flag
The slogan, food basket, and troops provoke a patriotic appeal to support the war through food conservation. Conserving food is directly linked to the well being of the soldiers in the background.
"Join the Navy"
Caption - This poster goes beyond the usual appeals to patriotism, challenging men to fulfill their duty by joining the navy
Slogan - "Gee!! I Wish I Were A Man I'd Join The Navy, Be A Man And Do It, United States Navy Recruiting Station"
Symbols - Woman in a Navy uniform
The slogan is a direct appeal to masculinity. The woman in the poster appears to be questioning the patriotism and strength of men that do not enlist in the navy.
"Make Every Minute Count for Pershing"
Caption -This poster is an example of total war, as it tells workers at home that their actions directly affect the soldiers in Europe
Slogan - "Make Every Minute Count for Pershing"
Symbols - A man is seen working possibly on a ship or other war time materials
The man and slogan are symbolic of the increase in manufacturing of wartime goods and the labor needed to create these goods. The poster is appealing to workers by linking their jobs to winning the war
Caption - Citizens were called upon to participate in the war effort by purchasing war bonds to help finance the war. This poster refers to German soldiers as "Huns," with death and destruction their only goal.
Slogan - "The Hun - his Mark Blot it Out with Liberty Bonds"
Symbols - Handprint
The poster is encouraging Americans to buy Liberty Bonds to finance the war and defeat the Germans. The term Hun is used pejoratively to align the Germans to Attila the Hun and was used to convey barbarism. The hand is a symbol for stopping the Germans, which Americans can do by purchasing Liberty Bonds.
"America Goes to War." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com. Accessed 20 June 2019.