JF Ptak Science Books
I was making my way through LIFE magazine for 1943 and was struck by the ratio of the number of advertisements using the war as a backdrop (and American soldiers as convenient props) for sales against the actual space dedicated to war reporting. Concentrating on just two randomly selected weekly issues (November 1 and November 15 1943) I was surprised to find 28 ads (most of which were full-page); there was no war reporting in November 1 and just half a story (on the history of the Prussian General staff) in November 15. Most of the ads were directly war-related, the companies mostly relegated to vast production of war goods, like General Motors, Cadillac and Boeing. The others were less clear, like the ad pictured here for Green Giant peas and corn. This company was informing the home front that if there were shortages of their product it was because they were selling it to the Army or Navy--others were more adventurous for their spirited attempt at patriotism. I'm not sure that Wembly Ties really needed to include a GI in their ad, nor did I like the use of American soldiers to sell Interwoven socks.
There was a growing sense of sordidness to me, this use of images of wartime American soldiers, who were dying by the tens of thousands, being used to sell socks, ties and corn. This was particularly ironic since the magazine wasn't finding anything to "report" in its full pages for the war for those two weeks--which is bizarre, because by that time in late 1943 there was a global FUBAR shitstorm happening to the east of NYC and to the west of San Francisco.
Just for the record, the advertisers employing an American soldier to help sell their product for these two weekly issues included Goodyear, Cadillac, Alcoa, Scotch Tape (for sealing boxes of tank parts), Sperry, Old Gold cigarettes, Lockheed, Schaeffer pens, Victory Airpower, Excide batteries, Camel cigarettes, Electric Power and Light companies, Oldsmobile, Cashmere Bouquet, ANSCO color film, Pontiac, Willys JEEP, Vinco (foodstuffs), Cavalier Whisky, Interwoven socks,Texaco, Eversharp pen, Wembly ties, Boeing, Black and White whisky, Ray-o-Vac, and Coke. Seems like a lot for two weeks, no? I'm not doing content analysis on this, just a passing interest, really, but when you look at similar issues for The Illustrated London News there's very little of this sort of thing going on; even less so for the Illustrirte Zeitung (Lepizig).
I'm curious now to check out popular magazines for WWI. It seems to me that there was a bit of this going on then, too. Outside of cigarette and whisky ads, a lot of this sort of advertisement drops off during Korea; and by the time of Vietnam, these sorts of images have all but disappeared.