WWII: The Art of Persuasion


Photographs and images of propaganda posters, projector (optional), propaganda analysis reproducible and Internet access

Related Episode

Spotlight on an original World War II propaganda leaflet which the Americans dropped on Japan.



How is propaganda used during war?



Estimated time required

1-2 class periods






Students view the History Detective episode World War II Leaflets, which is about propaganda leaflets distributed in Japan by the United States during World War II, and then analyze period propaganda.


Related Reproducibles

Students use this reproducible to view and analyze propaganda posters and leaflets.


Before Viewing

Start by defining the term propaganda. Then show students images of several iconic World War II propaganda posters, like Rosie the Riveter and Uncle Sam (which was created in 1916 but used in WWII).


  • What messages are being conveyed by these posters? 
  • Where do you think they appeared? 
  • What effect do you think posters like these had on Americans during the war? 
  • How else do you think propaganda was used during World War II? 



After students have viewed the History Detectives episode World War II Leaflets, tell them that they will analyze propaganda posters and leaflets. They can use the Propaganda Analysis Guide to do this.

Divide the class into pairs, and give each pair one a poster or leaflet from the war to analyze, making sure that propaganda items created and distributed by the United States and Japan. Pairs should focus on interpreting the iconography and written messages. (Please preview these items to determine appropriateness for your class.)

Alternatively, you might have students undertake the task of researching examples of contemporary war propaganda instead of the above-mentioned WWII examples.


  • How is public opinion about the war on terror or any other contemporary war, being shaped by propaganda today? 
  • What forms does propaganda take today that were not available during WWII (eg: social media, Twitter, FB, the Internet, etc.).

When analysis is complete, have each pair share their images and interpretations. Then discuss as a class what "story" of the war that the propaganda items tell. How are and can they be used as psychological warfare? What do they say about each nation and its values and perspective? What were/are they aiming to accomplish, and how were they trying to do that?


Going Further

Invite an advertising professional to the class to talk about how ads and commercials employ persuasive techniques. Share the class's analysis of propaganda with your guest and invite his or her impressions as well. What are the differences between propaganda and advertising? What similarities do they share? What should people be aware of when they confront persuasive materials?



Propaganda Posters

Library of Congress




McRel Standards

Arts and Communication  

2. Knows and applies appropriate criteria to arts and communication products


United States History 

25. Understands the causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs


World History

39. Understands the causes and global consequences of World War I


Historical Understanding

1. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

2. Understands the historical perspective


Language Arts

4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes

7. Uses skills and strategies to read a variety of informational texts