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Collins writes book on child-targeted wartime propaganda


Communication Professor Ross Collins is helping people understand how children were integrated into World War I and World War II through propaganda by sharing his research in a book called, “Children, War and Propaganda.”

“Modern propaganda in advertising, magazine and other venues helped to draw children into those wars,” notes Collins, who evaluated hundreds of historical images and documents in researching the book. “A variety of authorities participated in the propaganda, in the school, on the playground, at work or at home. They promoted military ideals and activities in hopes these might reduce fear, build character, prepare for service and even tangibly help the war effort. In doing so, authorities brought war themes to children on a day-to-day basis, a militarization of American childhood.”

As the World Wars changed societies in many ways, Collins notes that they also changed expectations for children during wartime. During war on an immense, worldwide scale, everyone worked, including children of all ages.

 In a slide show <> accompanying the book, images of wartime in children’s magazines such as The American Boy, or ads for toys, bikes and fishing poles, carried messages of children’s roles in helping the war effort.

 No effort was too small, according to Collins. Children in World War I were asked to collect fruit pits and nutshells that were burned into charcoal for gas mask filters. Children in World War II were asked to collect milkweed pods. The milkweed silk served as filling in some life preservers.

 In this historical perspective, Collins examines how patriotism was used as a method to build what was perceived as the ideal child who was skilled, physically fit, civic minded, with an enhanced moral character. The book discusses what children were told, what they were expected to do, and how they responded.

 Collins notes that in the beginning of the current century, war is not only fought for children, but by children. He raises the provocative thought that such a progression seemed ogical after it became acceptable to recruit children for wartime needs in World War I and World War II.

 An excerpt of the book is available at




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Last Updated: Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:33:23 AM