In 1940, with World War II already underway, it seemed inevitable that America would soon be joining the fight against the Axis powers. The U.S. Army Air Corps published this recruitment poster shown above. The imagery utilized by an unknown graphic designer romanticized participation in the academy’s cadet program. The montage of photographs showcase cutting-edge planes and the West Point of the Air campus at Randolph Air Base in Texas. But it is the center illustrations that focus the viewer’s eye. The colorful renderings overpower the photographic imagery. This central image elicits childhood nostalgia, perhaps reigniting the dreams of a young boy to one day fly a plane. And what boy wouldn’t want to make his childhood dreams a reality? By signing up, the U.S. Army Air Corps emphasized, a young man could do just that.
Of course, a certain level of nostalgia is not the only thing required to become a cadet. Be sure to read the fine print! At the bottom of the poster the qualities of an ideal candidate are detailed, which include being between the ages of 20 and 27, of both excellent character and health, and having completed at least half of a four-year degree or equivalent exam administered by them.
If you meet all the above requirements, the poster cautions, well then West Point of the Air is looking for you!
Julia Pelkofsky is a Master’s Fellow in the Department of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is currently working on her MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design at Parsons, the New School for Design.