The draft had revealed just how deep the deprivations of the Great Depression went. 45% of American men were deemed unfit for military service in 1942. Standards had increased, but bad teeth, poor eyesight, and other defects were blamed at least in part on malnutrition.
Faced with abundant, well-prepared food, many young people went whole hog in the mess hall. But military brass were keenly aware of the sacrifices being made at home, and did their best to prevent food waste. The Navy produced a series of propaganda posters discouraging food waste.
The above poster is among my favorite. In it, a red-faced, mustachioed Naval Captain sits in a dented trash can, arms crossed, glowering. The Chief Petty Officer says, "You were right, Sir! The men do seem a little reluctant to throw food away!" While worried-looking sailors with full mess trays (including chicken legs with just a bite or two out of them) hover by the trash, unsure how to proceed.
The message was clear - troops were not to waste what ordinary Americans had sacrificed to provide for them.
For more from the National Museum of Health BUMED collection, all by the same artist in the same engaging style, see the gallery below.
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