The Second World War was not only a test of American Might, Engineering, Fortitude, and Patriotism. It was expensive.
The Federal budget swelled from nine billion dollars in 1939 to 98 billion in 1945. The 300 billion dollars that Uncle Sam spent winning the war had to come from somewhere; taxation greatly increased, but it would never cover the full amount. Despite fears of an increased deficit, more than half of the money would have to be borrowed. The government chose to borrow from the American people in the form of national defense bonds. A Series E Defense Bond purchased for $18.75 would mature in ten years and yield $25. For those who would have difficulty buying an entire bond, ten cent stamps were sold that could be collected in a Treasury Department approved album until enough stamps were accumulated to purchase a bond.
The advertising campaign for War Bonds was phenomenal in its scope. Rallies were held featuring both local and national celebrities. Norman Rockwell’s series of paintings, The Four Freedoms, was displayed on tour, and raised $132 million. The Music Publishers Protective Association encouraged its members to print “Buy U.S. War Bonds and Stamps” and other patriotic messages on the front of their sheet music. In Portland, OR, Bond Booths were set up in hotel and movie theater lobbies, and staffed by 561 volunteers, mostly women.
Radio had an incredible power to reach people during the War years, and the War Finance Committee and the War Advertising Council would make the most of it. From small mentions of Bonds in popular series (Bob Hope‘s closing “Bye bye and buy Bonds” is almost his signature,) to whole shows dedicated to the patriotic need to purchase Bonds, no effort was missed. Popular variety programs produced by, or with the cooperation of the Treasury Department included Guest Star Radio, Keep Em Rollin, Music for Millions, Over Here, Treasury Salute, and Treasury Star Parade.