Mobilizing the Home Front: War Bonds and Domestic Propaganda

Mobilizing the Home Front: War Bonds and Domestic Propaganda

Mobilizing the Home Front: War Bonds and Domestic Propaganda

Mobilizing the Home Front: War Bonds and Domestic Propaganda


"In Mobilizing the Home Front, James J. Kimble marshals archival documents, public appeals, and a wealth of internal memoranda, reports, and surveys to offer a new understanding of the government's eight war bond drives and the psyche of the nation at war. Kimble's revisionist perspective of wartime America also casts light on the continuing impacts of this propaganda effort on American culture today."


If this book represents a journey of sorts, I think I can date its origins to several desperate days on the sandy training ranges of Fort Dix, New Jersey. I enlisted in the military when my student loans failed to cover my undergraduate tuition and fees; the local National Guard recruiter assured me that the army would be delighted to pay most of those school expenses on my behalf. Perhaps somewhat naively, I got off a bus at Fort Dix in August, 1987, with some fear, but also with confidence that I would overcome this series of obstacles and return to my schooling without too much trouble.

My drill sergeants had other ideas. the training, of course, was grueling, as it should have been. But what was most difficult for me were the combat skills. Firing a rifle or thrusting a bayonet were fine ideas in the abstract. Yet once on the range, firing at or attacking silhouettes made up to look like humans, I hesitated. What was the problem, my instructors wondered (well, shouted)? These silhouettes represented the enemy, they said, the one whose job it was to kill us. I wanted to kill the enemy before it killed me … right? As I fired … and missed … and fired again … I wondered how to go about answering such a question.

At some point I realized that I was resisting the military’s indoctrination, described so well in Col. Dave Grossman’s book On Killing. I began to recognize the dehumanization in which I was being told to participate. I started to realize that the army’s approach in basic training amounted to a personalized propaganda, its aim to shape the worldview of trainees and their actions on a battlefield. Surely this would be no surprise to most people, but to that young would-be soldier, it was a revelation.

Somehow I was able to finish basic training—and my advanced training—and I served my six years in the National Guard faithfully, and even with occasional enthusiasm. the questions I had learned to ask in basic training, however, stuck with me. I became intensely interested in the process of indoctrination, about the use and abuse of propaganda, and about the ethics of dehumanization. Eventually, I came to believe that propaganda, like rhetoric, was effectively neutral. It could be used for noble ends as well as nefarious ends. of . . .

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