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Old Time Radio War Bond Program

The heroism of the American fighting men during the Second World War was beyond measure. Bravery alone was not enough to prosecute the war, however. The conflict had an enormous impact on the economy of every nation involved.

Buy War BondsTaken as a whole, WWII was beneficial to the US economy; more than a third of the nation's economic output would be in war related industries. The resources to operate the War machine had to come from somewhere, and the demand was greater than the National Treasury could support at the beginning  of the war.

President Roosevelt turned to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau for solutions. The three options Morgenthau explored were raising taxes, printing more money, or seeking a loan from the American people. Raising taxes would have been the simplest, but increased taxation is never popular, and may have strained the isolationist attitudes that prevailed in the pre-war years. For the government to simply print more money also seemed a natural solution, but was likely to result in an overall devaluation, as well as rampant inflation.

Taking a loan from the citizenry in the form of bonds held a number of significant advantages. Money invested in bonds was effectively taken out of circulation, thereby helping to reduce inflation, but it would reenter the economy, presumably after the war, when it would act as a stimulus as the economy transitioned to peacetime. More significantly, buying bonds was a way for the general population to participate in the War Effort without having to be on the front lines.

The Series E Bonds sold for 75% of their face value, and every effort was made to make buying Bonds simple and even fun. Businesses were encouraged to set up payroll deductions for Bonds. Bond sales kiosks were set up in theater lobbies and shopping area. Promotional materials were everywhere, including a cardboard folder with cutouts to hold 75 quarters-after collecting $18.75, the whole thing could be traded for a $25 Bond.

The Treasury Department saw the benefit of celebrity endorsement, and Hollywood welcomed the chance to be a significant part of the War Effort. Actors went on War Bond Drives, holding rallies across the country. One of the most notable was when singer Kate Smith tapped into the power of radio. Best known for her rendition of "God Bless America", Smith held a 16 hour marathon Bond Drive on the air, which netted more than $40 million in Bonds sold.

The Treasury Department itself got into show business with a series of well produced radio programs which were advertisements for War Bonds:

War Bonds
Any Bonds Today
The 15 minute syndicated program
Any Bonds Today? featured patriotic music and a short patriotic play, such as Henry Fonda's portrayal of a ghostly visitor to Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Gettysburg Address.

Fourth for the Fifth
Four For the Fifth
was a short series of Radio plays written by Arch Oboler and Suspense producer William Robson for the Fifth War Loan Drive in 1944.

Music for Millions
Music for Millions
Music For Millions, popular singers and musicians would perform one or two of their popular songs, along with a number or two featuring lyrics with a more direct Bond related message.

Guest Star Radio
Guest Star Radio
After the War, the Treasury Department commissioned the
Guest Star Show to pitch for the renamed Savings Bonds. Guest Star Radio featured top name entertainers doing their bits for Uncle Sam.

New World
New World A' Comin' 
This series was not a Treasury Department production. It was a presented by New York's Citywide Committee on Harlem and mostly addressed the issues of Black Americans, but the show emphasized the black community's stake in the War.

Keep Em Rollin
Keep 'Em Rollin
The War Production Board produced Keep 'Em Rolling, and showcased the many ways that Americans could contribute to the War Effort, such as volunteering for Civil Defense, military service, working in War related industries, and of course buying Bonds.

Over Here
Over Here 
This radio series was a sustained presentation of the Blue Network, and the music and laughs were designed as much as a morale boost for Servicemen as they were Bond plugs.

These Are Our Men
These Are Our Men
The Parker Watch Company sponsored the extraordinarily well produced biography program
These Are Our Men. The show profiled a number of Allied military leaders, and emphasized that the program was not intended to sell watches, but to promote Bond sales. Perhaps more effort should have gone into watch sales; Parker Watches closed their door in 1951.

Treasury Salute
Treasury Salute
This series was part of the Fourth War Loan Drive. The show offered salutes to Americans from all walks of life, from river and harbor workers to restaurant workers, even Radio and the Motion Picture industry! During the Fifth War Loan the show changed slightly to biographies of individual servicemen as well as figures from American literature.

Treasury Star
Treasury Star Parade
Featuring a patriotic play, usually with Hollywood stars among the players.

In 2010, the New York Times published an editorial asking why a War Bond Drive would not be appropriate to help finance the War on Terrorism. The author arrives at a few interesting conclusions. Among them, the American economy has become dependent on consumerism, and taking money out of circulation with bonds would be harmful. Plus, the thought of Tyra Banks and Britney Spears holding Bond Rallies in the Midwest is ridiculous. 

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