"We Have Just Begun to Fight!" Vintage WWII Poster, 1943

Presented is a vintage WWII poster, issued by the Office of War Information in 1943. The poster reads in bold red text at top “We have just begun to fight!” Central to the composition is an American soldier with his hand stretched out, urging his fellow soldiers and his countrymen on in battle. In his other hand, he holds a rifle with a knife attached. Along the right side of the poster composition is a list of battles, printed in stark gray.  The list reads, in order from top to bottom, “Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Bismarck Sea, Casablanca, Algiers, Tunisia." 

The red poster title is a reference to the Revolutionary War Naval Commander John Paul Jones' infamous reply for surrender from the British, "I have not yet begun to fight."  The list of battles track the fighting in both the Pacific Theater and North Africa and show the perseverance and determination of the Allied troops, including early losses but ending with hard-fought victories.

Starting with the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and subsequent Japanese invasion of the Phillipeans at Bataan, the list continues with the Battle of Coral Sea in May of 1942, the first battle since the start of the war in which a major Japanese advance had been turned back by Allied forces. Next on the list is the June 1942 Battle of Midway, an epic naval battle and key turning point in the war. The campaigns for control of the South Pacific continued into late 1942 and early 1943. The listed campaigns and battles of Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and Bismarck Sea, were hard-fought Allied victories in the Pacific theater, in which they isolated key Japanese strongholds, regained territory, and pushed Japanese forces back north towards Japan, utilizing codebreaking, island-hopping, and amphibious attacks. 

Occurring simultaneously, the North African campaign of 1940-1943 was fought between the Allies and Axis powers, many of whom had colonial interests in Africa dating from the late 19th century. Battles occured in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts, in Morocco and Algeria, as well as Tunisia. On November 8, 1942, American and British troops landed in Morocco and Algeria, controlled by Hitler' supported French government at Vichy. The French Vichy soon agreed to a ceasefire with the Allies, but German troops poured into French Tunisia. Although the Germans succeeded at first, by the spring of 1943 the united Allied forces from Algeria in the west and Libya in the east pushed the Germans and remaining Italians into the north-east coast of Tunisia and forced their surrender.

When America entered the war in 1941, new government organizations, including the Office of War Information (OWI), were tasked with putting out a singular patriotic message, achieved primarily through printed pamphlets and posters, just like this one. The war ushered in the biggest advertising campaign to date, critical to the wartime communication needs of every combatant: from raising money, recruiting soldiers and boosting volunteer efforts, to spurring production and provoking outrage at enemy atrocities.

By 1943, Allied forces were starting to see a huge turn in the tide of the war, as they pushed back hard against Japanese, Italian, and German forces. Published in 1943, this poster emphasized America’s steadfast perseverance to see the job through, with victory over the Axis powers as the only acceptable conclusion of the war. 

CONDITION:

Good condition overall. Color lithograph. Red text  is vibrant. Creases in poster paper along horizontal and vertical fold lines. Light smudges to margins. Printed "OWI Poster #62. Additional copies may be obtained upon request from the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information, Washington D.C." at the bottom left.  "U.S. Government Printing Office: 1943-O-527284" printed at the bottom right. Sold unframed, as-is.

Unframed Dimensions: 40"H x 28 1/2" W.




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