One of the most dangerous side effects of any war is a loss of morale, in both fighting men and civilians. Vietnam War clearly demonstrated what happens to a nation in a war when folks back home start actively opposing it. During the WW2, propaganda was widely used on all sides to prevent that from happening.
Every nation in WW2 used propaganda to some extent. Joseph Goebbels became famous for his work in Nazi Germany’s Ministry of Propaganda. Soviets went as far as to allow Orthodox Church to be revived in the country during the war, for the sole purpose of using it as another propaganda tool against Germans. But perhaps the greatest use of propaganda in WW2 has been seen in the United States.
To be fair, Americans had the best tool in the world for this – Hollywood. Reluctant at first, American government tried to stay away from propaganda, remembering how such efforts backfired during the Great War. Instead, they adopted the strategy of truth, which consisted of releasing information and letting the public form opinions on their own. Washington was soon convinced that there was too much in risk for such approach to be considered prudent and started engaging in propaganda in earnest. To that effect, two new agencies were formed. The Writers War Board was in charge of creating actual WW2 propaganda content. It employed some of the best marketing copywriters in the country, together with excellent writers, painters, and other artists. Some of their creations are considered works of art and rightly so.
Once created, propaganda had to be distributed, and that was a task of the United States Office of War Information. It placed those pieces everywhere it could, from bombarding occupied areas with leaflet bombs to producing Hollywood movies.
Just about any medium that existed was used for WW2 propaganda. Posters, comic books, leaflet, movies, radio, and magazines were routinely employed to deliver the messages government deemed crucial at the moment.
Posters were some of the most used propaganda tools. There were estimated 200,000 designs that were printed during the WW2. Comic books were also used to praise the United States troops and ridicule the enemy. Leaflets were produced in such large quantities that there was an entire B-17 squadron dedicated to their distribution behind the enemy lines, demonstrating the American superiority in the air to encourage enemy soldiers to surrender. A series of movies was commissioned, titled Why We Fight, in order to explain to Average Joe why it was necessary to send American soldiers to Europe or some obscure island in the Pacific. Finally, radio, as main mass media of the era, was flooded with WW2 propaganda.
The message all these tools delivered was usually two-fold. The main message was to always support for the war effort. The secondary message was topical, and it ranged from a call to buy war bonds to a notification that excess fat can be used in explosives production and that it should be left with a local butcher.
It is hard to measure just how much exactly did WW2 propaganda helped America and its allies win the war, but it is safe to say that without it, the victory would come later and at a greater cost.