Winning the War with the “Little Man’s Bond”
When President Roosevelt launched the voluntary sales program in 1941, his advisers feared there would be a resurgence of the unfair pressures that had been put upon those who did not participate in the voluntary World War I Liberty Bond program. Many who did not buy bonds at that time had their property damaged or painted yellow by people wishing to humiliate them. However, Morgenthau insisted that the World War II bond program operate on a voluntary basis to “make the country war-minded and give people an opportunity to do something.”
Every type of ballyhoo and hype was used to sell bonds, and the tireless and repeated hammering aimed at saturating every media of communication—radio, newspapers, magazines, and movies—continually carried the message with pleas and exhortations to “Buy War Bonds.” Even matchbox covers and milk bottle caps were drafted into service to carry the message. Because of the low prices at the bottom of its range, the Series E Bond was considered the “little man’s bond,” and without the little man America could not have paid for the war. Eight of every 13 Americans purchased bonds totaling over $185.7 billion.
The Series E bond was withdrawn on June 30, 1980. The Series EE Bond replaced it, and the war bond became history. Although it is now a part of American and world history, it is easy to imagine sitting in a darkened movie theater at the height of the war, perhaps a theater that was open 24 hours a day because the defense plants around it were operating continual shifts and people getting off work needed to unwind. The film is just ending; two lines suddenly fill the screen: THE END. Buy War Bonds and Stamps at This Theater.
Herb Kugel has done extensive research on the successful War Bond drives during World War II. He resides in Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia, Canada.
This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.