You probably know the old saying: Loose lips sink ships!
Some were made to remind folks back home to conserve everything from water to sugar to gas, to encourage people to buy war bonds, to help motivate people to visit libraries… and then there was a set that was created specifically to remind everyone to keep quiet.
Operational security during the war was vital for its success, and keeping people from oversharing was a huge deal.
This lesson was drilled into troops, and was spelled out in a pamphlet distributed to everyone in military service. It included the following:
SILENCE MEANS SECURITY. — If violation of protective measures is serious within written communications it is disastrous in conversations.
Protect your conversation as you do your letters, and be even more careful. A harmful letter can be nullified by censorship; loose talk is direct delivery to the enemy.
If you come home during war your lips must remain sealed and your written hand must be guided by self-imposed censorship.
This takes guts. Have you got them or do you want your buddies and your country to pay the price for your showing off? You’ve faced the battlefront; it’s little enough to ask you to face this “home front.”
The posters shown below also helped remind families and sweethearts back home not to talk about what their sons, brothers, husbands, sweethearts and friends were doing, or even where they were.
Loose lips sink ships or… “Keep mum, chum” is Army’s advice
Lowell Sun (Lowell, Massachusetts) January 31, 1942
Hold your tongue. While the toiling hands and fighting hearts of America are laboring to end the war with a victorious peace, the “voice of the people” may delay the day — may even frustrate many well-planned blows at the enemy… may cost lives.
Even as this message is being written, trains and ships are being loaded. Troops are moving. Civilians are turning over rumors in public places, and enemy ears are attuned to pick up the slightest “tip.”
These are times to hold information or news from soldier sons or brothers close to your heart. It means their welfare and safety. Keep mum!
Parrot WWII poster: Free speech doesn’t mean careless talk
Loose lips sink ships, so serve in silence
Let ME do the talking! Serve in silence. (Poster encouraging citizens to be mindful of careless talk and to let the military speak for the nation, showing a large cannon.)
Careless talk costs lives
(Poster suggesting careless communication may be harmful to the war effort, showing lips with tape over them.)
Don’t tell him what you know
About… troop concentrations, departures… arrivals…
Let’s censor our conversation about the war (1941)
(Poster suggesting careless communication may be harmful to the war effort, showing a letter from a soldier stamped “examined by 42.”)
Loose lips sink ships poster
This World War II poster was created by Seymour R Goff
Make New Orleans a safe port of departure (WWII)
I pledge allegiance and silence about the war – Vintage WWII poster
Keep mum: Loose talk costs lives
(Poster suggesting careless communication may be harmful to the war effort, showing a train blowing up.)
Loose lips sink ships, so… Keep it to yourself, buddy
Poster suggesting careless communication may be harmful to the war effort, showing a soldier with a finger to his lips.