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Classroom Material

WWII Recruitment Posters

Wisconsin World War II Stories: The Struggle

Wisconsin World War II Stories: The Struggle | Wisconsin Historical Society

Grade level: Secondary

Duration: One class period

EnlargeAir Force Recruitment Poster for World War II.

World War II Recruitment Poster

In the early 1940s, posters were a popular way of communicating ideas visually. Television was not yet a household commodity, and going to the movies was infrequent by current standards. Posters had been used for recruitment purposes in the First World War, and they appeared again in World War II. Using WWII Recruitment Posters included below the the following discussion questions, students will think about and write responses to the questions.


Students will:

  • Analyze primary source posters
  • Understand the importance of recruitment posters to World War II


The first part, The Struggle, in the Wisconsin World War II Stories series helps us recognize the importance of oral history in interpreting our past. In listening to these World War II veterans, we learn that the personal experience of history's many and varied actors can enrich our understanding of a given historic moment. In the following lessons you will have an opportunity to explore World War II, as witnessed by Wisconsin veterans. These lessons are intended to make history come alive for you in much the same way as the telling of their stories did for the veterans.

The videos and the coordinated lesson plans can be used in various ways. The lessons can be combined with part or whole use of the videotapes or online video clips, or the lessons can "stand alone." The five video series and lesson plans can constitute a complete World War II unit. Alternatively, any one component may be added as enrichment to an existing unit or program.

Resource Materials

Discussion Questions

  1. Compare and contrast U.S. Recruitment Posters for women and men. How did the artist appeal to each group? Are there specific categories of appeal under which you can group the posters? To whom is the appeal made (age, sex, race, skill level, educational level, socio-economic group)? You may wish to create a grid to make a thorough comparison and contrast.

  2. Do you think these posters were effective? If so, which ones and why? If not, why not?
    Keep in mind the time period and audience.

  3. Compare and contrast the 1940s Recruitment Posters with recruiting posters today (there may be some in your school or in magazines you receive). What, if anything has changed over time? Why? Do you think the changes are positive? Explain your answer. To help you with this question, you may want to look at recruiment websites for various branches of the United States Armed Forces.

  4. Design and create your own World War II poster. Your poster does not have to be a recruitment poster, but it should provoke the viewer's interest in some aspect of the War. The final product should present both text and images consistent with the time period. It should be in color and at least 8 1/2 x 11 inches in size.


As an alternative to Question 1, you may wish to use the "Poster Analysis Worksheet" from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.


National Standards for United States History: Exploring the American Experience

(National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA)

Era 8, Standard 3

The causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs.

Standard 3B

The student understands World War II and how the Allies prevailed.

5-12 Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters.
Standard 3C

The student understands the effects of World War II at home.

5-12 Explain how the United States mobilized its economic and military resources during World War II.
7-12 Evaluate how minorities organized to gain access to wartime jobs and how they confronted discrimination.
Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies
Standard A - Geography: People, Places, and Environments
A12.1 Use various types of atlases and appropriate vocabulary to describe the physical attributes of a place or region.
A12.13 Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters.
Standard B - History: Time, Continuity, and Change
B12.1 Explain different points of view on the same historical event, using data gathered from various sources, such as letters, journals, diaries, newspapers, government documents, and speeches.
B12.2 Analyze primary and secondary sources related to a historical question to evaluate their relevance, make comparisons, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and come to a reasoned conclusion.
B12.6 Select and analyze various documents that have influenced the legal, political, and constitutional heritage of the United States.
B12.15 Identify a historical or contemporary event in which a person was forced to take an ethical position, such as a decision to go to war…and explain the issues involved.
B12.17 Identify historical and current instances when national interests and global interests have seemed to be opposed and analyze the issues involved.
B12.18 Explain the history of…racial and ethnic discrimination, and efforts to eliminate discrimination in the United States and elsewhere in the world.


These lesson plans are designed to be used with Wisconsin World War II Stories: Part I: The Struggle, a video series created by Wisconsin Public Television and the Wisconsin Historical Society, in association with the Wisconsin Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The lessons in this part of Wisconsin World War II Stories span interest areas and levels. They include geography, technology, and human interest studies, and draw upon a wide array of social studies skills. Information on the series can be found at

Author: Victoria Zuleger Straughn.