THE FIFTH FREEDOM

After Congress curtailed the OWI, the “selling of America” became overwhelmingly a private affair. Under the watchful eye of the War Advertising Council, private companies joined in the campaign to promote wartime patriotism, while positioning themselves and their brand names for the postwar world. Alongside advertisements urging Americans to purchase war bonds, guard against revealing military secrets, and grow “victory gardens” to allow food to be sent to the army, the war witnessed a burst of messages marketing advertisers’ definition of freedom. Without directly criticizing Roosevelt, they repeatedly suggested that he had overlooked a fifth freedom. The National Association of Manufacturers and individual companies bombarded Americans with press releases, radio programs, and advertisements attributing the amazing feats of wartime production to “free enterprise.”

In this patriotic war poster issued by the Office of War Information, the words of Abraham Lincoln are linked to the struggle against Nazi tyranny.

In this advertisement by the Liberty Motors and Engineering Corporation, published in the February 1944 issue of Fortune, Uncle Sam offers the Fifth Freedom—“free enterprise”—to war-devastated Europe. To spread its message, the company offered free enlargements of its ad.

Americans on the home front enjoyed a prosperity many could scarcely remember. Despite the rationing of scarce consumer items like coffee, meat, and gasoline, consumers found more goods available in 1944 than when the war began. With the memory of the Depression still very much alive, businessmen predicted a postwar world filled with consumer goods, with “freedom of choice” among abundant possibilities assured if only private enterprise were liberated from government controls. One advertisement for Royal typewriters, entitled “What This War Is All About,” explained that victory would “hasten the day when you... can once more walk into any store in the land and buy anything you want.” Certainly, ads suggested, the war did not imply any alteration in American institutions. “I’m fighting for freedom,” said a soldier in an ad by the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. “So don’t anybody tell me I’ll find America changed.”

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