President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “Powerful enemies must be out-fought and out-produced”[1] and American people did just that during World War II. FDR’s sentiment became fact through the creation of the War Production Board (WPB). The WPB turned over private factories to assist in the war effort, ramping up production goals to higher levels than ever before. Through this driving force America manufactured more planes in 1944 than Japan did between 1939 and 1945; by 1943 each American ship destroyed since 1939 had been replaced.[2]

John Falter’s poster, distributed by the War Production Board, embodies the words of FDR by calling for more production. The pilot sits in his plane having made twelve tick marks which suggest he’s downed as many enemy planes. The tick marks allowed civilians to understand and witness the results of their role in the war effort through labor contributions. Without the help of each factory worker “knock[ing] ‘em out,” this pilot would not have been able to successfully “knock ‘em down.” By directly appealing to civilian factory workers, this poster highlights a dynamic between soldier and civilian, making the two partners in a joint effort to defeat the enemy and win the war. In this way, the poster promoted the continued support of men and women workers by making them an integral part of America’s success in World War II.

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.

[1] Sarah Botstein, et al. The war. [United States]: PBS Home Video, 2007.

[2] Ibid.

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