"They Did Their Part" Vintage WWII Poster, 1943

Presented is an iconic and original WWII poster produced by the Office of War Information in 1943. The poster commemorates the loss of the five Sullivan brothers on the SS Juneau after its sinking on November 13, 1942. The poster features the five Sullivan brothers in the foreground standing behind a U.S. Navy ship’s crewman quarters hatch. They are all dressed in U.S. Navy cold weather uniforms. Behind them flys a five blue star service flag. The text at bottom of the poster reads, “the five Sullivan brothers ‘missing in action’ off the Solomons. THEY DID THEIR PART.”

To guard against war complacency among the American public, the U.S. Government promoted messages that reminded civilian America of the suffering and sacrifices that were being made by its Armed Forces overseas. By emphasizing the hardships of war and the death toll in posters, pamphlets, and films, the government put lesser civilian sacrifices, like rationing wheat and dairy or buying savings stamps and war loans, into stark perspective. 

The five Sullivan brothers enlisted in the US Navy on January 3, 1942, with the stipulation that they serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but this was not strictly enforced. George and Frank had served in the Navy before, but their other brothers Al, Matt, and Joe had not. All five were assigned to the light cruiser USS Juneau. While serving together during the Battle of Guadalcanal, their ship was hit by torpedoes and sank on November 13, 1942.

Extensive newspaper and radio coverage of the incident made the loss of the brothers a national story. News of the deaths of all five Sullivan brothers became a rallying point for the war effort, with posters, bond drives, and speeches honoring their sacrifice. Their parents, Tom and Alleta Sullivan, made speaking appearances at war plants and shipyards on behalf of the war effort. Twentieth Century Fox produced a patriotic film about the brothers, "The Sullivans,” in 1944.  The tragedy was also responsible for a new military regulation, the Sole Survivor Policy, that limited the number of family members who can serve in combat at the same time.


Good condition, overall. Color is vibrant. Paper has light toning, with stains in the bottom left corner. Center fold line has light separation and there is creasing in the poster margins, from past use and storage. Poster is prints "OWI Poster #42. Additional copies may be obtained upon request from the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information, Washington D.C." at bottom left and  "U.S. Government Printing Office: 1943-O-510254" at bottom right. Poster is sold unframed, as-is. Unframed Dimensions: 28 1/4" H x 21 3/4" W.

Accompanied by our company's letter of authenticity.

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