Funding the War Effort

Bas relief depicting a parade
This bas relief panel at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. depicts a parade during a War Bond drive. In the car, a soldier salutes while another man waves a fistful of war bonds. A Boy Scout carries a sign that says "BUY WAR BONDS."

NPS

During the Second World War, the word “sacrifice” meant many things. Funding the war effort is a clear example of Americans’ sacrifice made to achieve victory.

United States citizens’ purchase of government securities during the war made possible the herculean efforts on the battle fronts and the factories and farms of the home front. “Total war” meant the galvanization of all American industry toward one purpose: winning the war. The funds which made total war possible came from the pockets of Americans who had little to give after years of economic depression.   

To drum up support, the U.S. government used shrewd advertising methods, such as posters with bright colored art, brimming with patriotic images to stir Americans to buy bonds. The artist Norman Rockwell’s four famous paintings, “The Four Freedoms,” recalled President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 Message to Congress warning of what was at risk in a world at war. Rockwell’s paintings were used as central images in war bond posters. The government also used star power from Hollywood and the world of popular music, as Marlene Dietrich and Red Skelton, among others, lent their celebrity to the drive for war bonds. The Washington Monument grounds were used as a gathering point for war bond rallies in the nation’s capital, including the “Cavalcade of Freedom” stage performances and fireworks on July 4, 1944, just as city halls, parks, and squares served such purposes in small towns across the nation.

A bas relief panel on the World War II Memorial designed by Ray Kaskey Studios depicts a war bond drive. The scene depicts a patriotic parade with men and women of all ages, including a Boy Scout holding a “Buy War Bonds” poster and a uniformed soldier snapping a salute. In the car near the soldier, a man holds a fistful of war bonds for the patriotic revelers to purchase.