The U.S. Army Air Forces formed in 1941, originating from the U.S. Army, in order to assist in missions in Britain during World War II. By the end of the war, more than 2.3 million air missions took place. This helped the United States government realize the importance of air power, and that the future of successful military power included air forces.
At the close of the war in 1945, the Armed Forces still needed the then war-tired men to enlist to continue missions that followed the war, to help restructure the former-Axis countries. Recruitment posters were created and distributed across the country in order to entice young men to enlist as army pilots and continue operations. Many of the recruitment posters featured different types of aircraft that were used in air missions.
This vintage 1944 United States Army Air Force poster features an Army Air Force serviceman looking steadfastly towards the distance, while some of the most impressive aircraft of the time fly amidst the clouds. Advertising an impressive array of air power, including planes such as the B-29 Superfortress, B-17 Flying Fortress, and the B-26 Marauder, helped appeal to one’s sense of civic duty. The poster quotes the American National Anthem, “O’er the Ramparts We Watch,” and invokes a sense of patriotism and defense of liberty.
This 1945 color poster features an American pilot and a ground crew Staff Sergeant shaking hands across an airplane. The words “Seeing the Job Through! Enlist in the Regular Army Air Forces” is featured at the bottom. Just below the airplane, the poster reads “AAF The Greatest Team in the World.” Painted on the airplane are nine flags representing nine enemy airplanes the pilot had shot down in his career. Designed by Baskerville, his signature is printed at the top right corner of the work while the bottom right corner dates the print to “12-7-45.”
Both of these vintage U.S Army Air Force posters keep impressive aircraft at the forefront of their advertisements. To the left, we have a vintage WWII U.S. Army poster featuring a P-39 Airacobra fighter plane. The P-39 Airacobra was a fighter produced by Bell Aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. It was one of the principal American fighter jets in service when the United States entered combat. The P-39 was used by the Soviet Air Force and enabled the individual Soviet pilots to collect the highest number of kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type flown by an air force in any conflict. Engines in the P-39 aircraft were only equipped with a single-stage, single-speed supercharger, which meant that it was used at lower altitudes. This played to the P-39’s strengths of sturdy construction, reliable radio gear, and adequate firepower to make it suitable for the low-speed, low-altitude nature of most air combat on the Eastern Front.
To the right, we have a vintage WWII U.S. Army poster featuring a P-38 Lightning fighter plane. The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was developed for the United States Army Air Corps as a single-seated, piston-engine fighter aircraft used during World War II. It featured distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing both the cockpit and armament. Along with its use as a general fighter, the P-38 was also used in various aerial combat roles. It was used as a night fighter and, when equipped with drop tanks, a long-range escort fighter. With its ability to guide streams of medium and heavy bombers to their targets, the P-38 was also used as a pathfinder. Over 10,000 P-38 Lightnings were manufactured, making it the only U.S. combat aircraft that remained in continuous production throughout the duration of American participation in World War II.
Army Air Force recruitment posters showcased aircraft in order to evoke a sense of patriotism, which in turn encouraged able-bodied men to enlist. The posters advertised that any onlooker could have a hand in securing American safety and protection. Recruitment posters were a great way to get the word out about how to be involved in the war effort, and show support and pride for one’s country. The U.S. Army Air Forces was disbanded in 1947 and became what we now call the United States Air Force.