The U.S. Treasury Department adopted 'The Minuteman' as its most identifiable 'icon,' used throughout the War Loans Drives of World War II
5th War Loan newspaper ad for First Federal Savings and Loan
2nd War Loan poster promoting 'An Investment for every Purse'
'This Year's Bonds Are to Win!' poster
3rd War Loan 'Back the Attack' poster
Superman poster promoting 3rd War Loan
4th War Loan poster promoting Liberty Ship production
5th War Loan 'Back the Attack with War Bonds' poster
New York Times clipping from July 26 1940, reversing earlier ruling against WNEW regarding their right to play 'home' recordings on air.
Commencing on the 12th of June, 1944, the 5th War Loan Drive came at one of the most crucial junctures of World War II. The Drive had gotten its greatest natural boost with the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944, the most dramatic offense yet mounted during World War II. With all the extraordinary secrecy associated with D-Day preparations, the entire Allied Command had held its collective breath as D-Day was scheduled and rescheduled throughout May and June of 1944.
The D-Day landings having been successfully mounted, the entire nation viewed the Allied invasion of Nazi-held Europe as the beginning of the end for European Theatre operations at the very least. But as history disclosed, victory in the European Theatre wouldn't come until almost eleven months to the day later. Arguably the most expensive offensive during World War II, the need to raise additional funds to support the D-Day offensive and the ultimate defeat of the Axis powers was never more vital.
The United States Treasury Department had mounted four previous War Loan [War Bond] Drives, as follows:
- 1st War Loan Drive - Nov. 30, 1942 to Dec. 23, 1942
- $13 Billion raised on an initial goal of $9 Billion
- 2nd War Loan Drive - Apr. 12, 1943 to May 1, 1943
- $18.5 Billion raised on an initial goal of $13 Billion
- 3rd War Loan Drive - Sep. 9, 1943 to Oct. 16, 1943
- $19 Billion raised on an ititial goal of $15 Billion
- 4th War Loan Drive - Jan. 18, 1944 to Feb. 15, 1944
- $16.7B raised on an initial goal of $14 Billion
Prior to D-Day, an estimated 55,000,000 Americans had already purchased "Series E" War Bonds. The goal set for the 5th War Loan Drive was $16 Billion, of which $6 Billion was to be set aside for individual bond purchasers (significantly more than previous drives) and $10 Billion targeted toward institutional investors and corporations. The 5th War Loan Drive ended on July 8, 1944.
War Bonds weren't a particularly high-return investment--certainly not a quick return investment. But the entire point of War Bonds remained a patriotic undertaking, encouraging every American that could, to invest in the War Effort at some level, be it through War Bonds or Stamps. And, indeed, both individual citizens and institutions invested equally--each to their own level of ability--the overwhelming majority of Bonds purchased by corporations and institutions, with individual purchases representing about 10% to 15% of each drive. The percentage of individual purchases grew through each major drive as rationing, inflation, and shortages continued to decline between 1943 and 1946. Fast-forward 60 years and the trend reversed completely, with individuals comprising the overwhelming majority of 'Savings Bonds' purchases, as compared to institutional and corporate investors.
Inertia, apathy, impatience and complacency were the forces acting against all War Bond Drive efforts. The run-up to America's involvement in World War II was marked by almost seven years of heated debate about the notions of isolationism and 'free market' or laissez faire geopolitics. The large corporate business communities, especially, feared any disruption to international markets--many going as far as to do millions of dollars of business with the Nazi party before America's entry into the War. Many of those same proponents continued their objections to World War II--and the duration of World War II--right through both VE-Day and VJ-Day.
The United States Treasury was an active sponsor of Radio both throughout World War II and well after the Cold War years that followed. Well perhaps 'sponsor' is a bit generous, given the fact that most networks airing U.S. Treasury programming did so voluntarily, contributing staff, facilities, and often performers, to the endeavor. During the post-World War II years, U.S. Treasury-sponsored programming, as often as not, aired as a paying client to the network(s), albeit at a customary discount:
- 1941 America Preferred [Mutual]
- 1941 For America We Sing [NBC-Blue Network]
- 1941 Millions for Defense
- 1941 Treasury Hour
- 1942 Over There [Blue Network]
- 1942 Saturday Night Bondwagon [Mutual]
- 1942 Treasury Star Parade
- 1945 Treasury Bandstand [CBS and ABC]
- 1945 Treasury Salute
- 1947 U.S. Treasury Show
- 1947-1966 Guest Star
- 1951 Lawrence Welk Treasury Hour
- 1973 The Grammy Treasure Chest
While the above list is by no means comprehensive, it's fairly representative of the various variety, comedy and dramatic programming mounted by the U.S. Treasury throughout the period. As with the many Office of War Information and Office of Civil Defense productions of the era, little expense was spared bringing compelling, Government-sponsored programming to Radio. The productions generally attracted the finest performers, writers and directors of the era. And most productions, while clearly patriotric propaganda, were well mounted and either entertaining or highly informative, depending on the format.
The Radio station WNEW connection
New York City's Radio station WNEW began operations in 1933 as two New Jersey stations sharing a common frequency--WODA and WAAM at 1250kc's. The unwieldy arrangement wasn't entirely uncommon during the earliest years of broadcasting. The FCC's thinking was that one or the other of the two frequency-sharing stations would ultimately buy the other out. And indeed, the two stations eventually joined for a brief period as licensee, Wodaam Corporation. Shortly after the merger, famous Ad exec Milton H. Biow bought a one-third share of WODA-WAAM along with Arde Bulova [Bulova Watch magnate], and one of WODA's directors. Renamed "WNEW"--for 'the newest thing on the air,' they rededicated the station on February 13, 1934, at its new studios at 501 Madison Avenue, Manhattan (while continuing to broadcast 'live' performances out of their former studio in Newark.)
The relatively new facility at 501 Madison Ave (and a few doors down from the Milton H. Biow Agency at 444 Madison Ave.). had been the former studios of comedian Ed Wynn's failed attempt to launch his Amalgamated Broadcast System (ABS) in 1933. Wynn's costly $300,000 network broadcasting experiment folded the same year in November. Wynn's loss was Biow's gain and WNEW commenced over fifty-eight years of innovative and highly popular programming to one of the regions most loyal audiences. WNEW's earliest--and most historic--innovation was airing commercial recordings, a practice specifically proscribed by the major networks. And so it was that Radio legend Martin Block began spinning store-bought records to fill time during his regularly scheduled programs over WNEW. Milton Biow had considered reviving Ed Wynn's Amalgamated Broadcasting System but ultimately decided to remain an independent station in the New York area--and arguably New York's most successful independent for the next 58 years.
WNEW trade magazine spot ad from 1939
WNEW was also one of the first major Radio stations to run a 24-hour, round-the-clock schedule. Given New York City's bustling 24-hour work force, the decision was one of the most inspired in the station's history. During its first decade of broadcasting, WNEW:
- Introduced disc-jockeys.
- Launched Martin Block's long running 'Ballroom' and the long-running 'Milkman's Matinee.'
- Inaugurated 24-hour operations in a major metropolitan market.
- Changed frequency from 1250kc to 1280kc in 1941.
- Organized the Atlantic Coast Network in 1942
- Innovated the morning 'morning wake-up team' format in 1946 with Radio and Television legends Gene Rayburn and Jack Lescoulie.
WNEW continued, both in solid popularity and independence, until its last broadcast in 1992.
The Treasury enlists Arch Oboler and William Robson for Four for the 5th debuting over WNEW, New York
Four for the 5th was, understandably, produced on relatively short notice, given the D-Day Offensive mounted on June 6, 1944. Written, produced and directed by either Arch Oboler or William N. Robson, both legendary radiomen virtually guaranteed a high-quality production. Developed as a series of four dramatic productions to kick start the hurriedly organized 5th War Loan Drive, the title "Four for the 5th" was a natural, as well as catchy. The Treasury, clearly privy to the date of the D-Day Offensive, produced the series about a week prior to the invasion itself.
A series of 30-minute dramas, the scripts were, though decidedly propagandistic, compelling productions in their own right. The short series' premiere production, "Surrender," dramatized the interactions between an American G.I. and his captured Nazi prisoner. Starring Franchot Tone as the Indiana-born G.I. and Hans Conreid as the Nazi prisoner, the story arc compares and contrasts American G.I. and Nazi values.
The succeeding three installments featured Paul Lukas, Fred MacMurray and Olivia DeHavilland, and Conrad Nagel, respectively, with Eric von Stroheim, Bea Benadaret, Mercedes McCambridge, Lou Merril, Gloria Blondell, Frank Graham, Ken Christy, Cathy Lewis, Conrad Nagel, Jackson Beck, and Frank Lovejoy in significant supporting roles. Apparently produced on both coasts, the series appears to have alternated from coast to coast for each subsequent production.
The enduring theme throughout the series was "Back the Attack!, Buy More Than Before." That theme was underscored through all four episodes of Four for The 5th. In the operational theatres, war fatigue was simply a fact of life for those in uniform. Back on the Home Front, war fatigue took the shape of naysayers, pseudo-economics and pseudo-geopolitics 'experts' touting all manner of rationales for an impending quick end to war: so why bother wasting money on more War Bonds? That was the continuing challenge of the later War Loan Drives. War weariness, apathy, simple greed, and naivete grew more persistent as the War dragged on.
These were the forces that Four for The 5th hoped to both dramatize and dispel. The War was far from over--either in Europe or the Pacific. Barber chair and water cooler 'experts' were quick to cite all manner of rationales for either cashing in their existing War Bonds or simply not purchasing any more of them. Guilt being what it is in human nature, those who rationalized away the need for continuing War Bond investment felt compelled to persuade, dissuade, or enlist others to their way of thinking. And of course that's precisely what the Axis powers--and their agents--hoped to encourage in a war-weary American Home Front. And indeed, every enemy of America's ideals--whether foreign or domestic--has always been able to count on a minority of between 15% to 25% of America to put personal or parochial interests ahead of those of their country.
There's no question that the various War Loan Drives accomplished far more than simply generating working capital for the War Effort. Viewed as either propaganda or 'human conscience,' these War Loan and War Bond drives were periodic reminders to the entire public to remain focused on the potential consequences of the War's possible outcomes. Is it simplistic to simply label such reminders and drives as propaganda? Probably. The fact remains that many on the Home Front who didn't have a particularly large stake in the War tended to trivialize War Bond efforts and drives as a means of rationalizing their own 'visions of patriotism.' Thankfully, the majority on the Home Front continued their dedicated support of the War effort and the men and women 'over there'--and in harm's way.
. . . . the more things change, the more they remain the same.