Date of Award
Union College Only
Bachelor of Arts
Andrew J. Morris
WWII, propaganda, rationing, information
The Office of War Information (OWI) was established to provide the public with facts and information during World War II; however the agency became a central tool in wartime campaigns that utilized propaganda techniques. The OWI perceived Americans as selfish and privileged, and therefore thought they would resist government programs that required sacrifice. In this thesis I will argue that it was this interpretation of American personality that dictated how the Office of War Information would “sell” the war. Because the OWI viewed Americans as such, they used propaganda that focused on patriotism, guilt, and dramatization. Three main campaigns demonstrate these techniques: food rationing, gasoline and fuel oil rationing, and rumors and careless talk. Food rationing faced great resistance which was evident in the rise of the black market and in the language the government used to promote food rationing and curtail the black market. Patriotism was summoned and rationing was declared the most democratic way to handle shortages while “Victory Gardens” were also encouraged. Gasoline and Fuel Oil were more aggravating than food rationing because they did not provide all Americans with the same amount. As with food rationing a black market emerged, and the government struggled to convince Americans to give up the luxury of their automobile. The OWI responded with patriotism and guilt tactics. The Office of War Information also experienced difficulty in controlling what Americans said. The campaign against talk was the most dramatic and graphic, as “loose lips sink ships” and “careless talk costs lives”.
Bruestle, Elsa, "Office of War Information and WWII Propaganda: How Perceptions Shaped Campaigns" (2014). Honors Theses and Student Projects. 489.