Nostalgic Military Ads from Long Ago

Samantha Gustafson Samantha Gustafson / Published Jan 1, 2016, 12:00 PM / Modified Aug 16, 2021, 12:03 PM

It’s rather interesting to compare the difference between modern vs. past opinions on supporting war efforts – what use to be patriotic is now taboo. Below is a gallery of 15 vintage war posters from WWI and WWII, some funny and some serious, but all equipped with a heavy dose of patriotic nostalgia.

1.  I Want You

Although there have been many variations of an assertive Uncle Sam saying, I want you, this campaign has been a steady go-to across the years for military recruitment. After all, what young perspective army recruit could ever say no to such an intimidating stare?

I Want You

2.  We Can Do It

Before there was Nike’s Just Do It there was Rosie the Riveter’s We Can Do It. Arguably the most popular of all wartime schwag, this WWII campaign was created as a result of the women being asked to replace the men in the factory lines and therefore, stood as a symbol of feminine support for the troops.

We Can Do It

3.  Can All You Can

Created around 1943 in the heart of WWII, this Can All You Can campaign was a food conservation and preparedness movement, as well as, an effort to encourage housewives to be productive yet frugal.

Can All You Can

4.  She Wants You … for the Navy

No matter the generation, even in times of war, there’s no doubt in the world of advertising that sex sells. In this case,  a pretty young woman is used to lure men into signing up for the Navy, in the hopes that a beauty of this caliber is waiting for them at their next shore leave.

She Wants You … for the Navy

5.  Gee … I Wish I Were a Man

While the poster above relies on sexual appeal, this war poster seems to lean on sexual confusion to recruit for the U.S. Navy. While this is a bizarre attempt from top to bottom, we suppose the purpose was to subliminally appeal to the insecure boys that wanted to prove that they are, in fact, manly men.

Gee … I Wish I Were a Man

6.  Ready … Join U.S. Marines

This poster, however, leaves no room for error; if you join the U.S. Marines, you’re clearly a manly man. The only question we have is, how did they know what Aaron Eckhart would look like if he wasn’t even born yet?

Ready … Join U.S. Marines

7.  If We Produce Enough of These…

A call to action; if the government can create more fighter planes to combat the enemy, there would be fewer casualties amongst the infantry. It may be a bit of a scare tactic, but the reasoning is sound.

If We Produce Enough of These…

8.  Doing Our Bit … or We’re Slackers!

If you weren’t physically fighting in the war, the government put extreme pressure on the stay-at-homes to invest in war bonds, as their contribution. Sure enough, if an angry Uncle Sam was charging at us full steam and calling us Slackers, we’d do our bit.

Doing Our Bit … or We’re Slackers!

9.  Hit the Nazis

In its 5th round of funding, we see the United States government pin the U.S. citizens up against the Nazi regime with a not-so-subtle subliminal message – buy bonds or you’re no better than a Nazi.

Hit the Nazis

10.  Now … All Together

One of our favorite wartime photos turned wartime advertisement, this poster uses the pinnacle proud moment of the marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II as a way to fuel the 7th round of war bond support.

Now … All Together

11.  Let’s All Fight

Building off the notion of teamwork in wartime, this poster aims to sell war bonds by illustrating that it’s a team effort – yes, a soldier is on the front lines but the factory workers are the ones fueling the fight.

Let’s All Fight

12.  Use V-Mail

Long before e-mail, there was v-mail. While modern technology allows us to send lightning quick electronic mail, it’s funny to see that this vintage ad is boasting a 12-day delivery time – wartime or not, that simply would not fly these days.

Use V-Mail

13.  Do Your War Job Well!

Killing all birds with one stone, this wartime poster shows all divisions of military and makes you believe that their lives are literally in your hands – if you don’t do your war job well (i.e. buy bonds), they die!

Do Your War Job Well!

14.  Victory

Giving credit to the Coast Guard as the first step toward wartime victory, this recruiting poster makes the Coast Guard division look like an absolute barrel of laughs, chalk full of good times. Or not.


15.  I’m Counting on You!

Coming full circle, here is a final poster featuring Uncle Sam, however, rather than recruiting by means of intimidation, he’s leaning on a different emotion this time – guilt. We can just picture him saying, “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed.”

I’m Counting on You!