Loose lips sink ships: See WW2 posters telling everyone to keep military actions secret

Loose lips might sink ships - World War II poster

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You probably know the old saying: Loose lips sink ships!

During World War II, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) created more than a hundred posters to help support the war effort.

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.

Keep mum The world has ears (WWII 1950s)
Poster for Thirteenth Naval District, United States Navy, showing a woman talking on the telephone and a globe with ears eavesdropping.

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.

ALSO SEE: Vintage travel posters: Captivating artwork featuring 50 fabulous places you could see by train or plane

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!

Keep mum, chum (1940s)
Poster suggesting careless communication may be harmful to the war effort, showing an army cap and a hand sinking in water.

Parrot WWII poster: Free speech doesn’t mean careless talk

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.)

War don't talk posters - quiet (5)

ALSO SEE: WWII Victory gardens from the 1940s: How people planted them, and how you can grow your own even now


Careless talk costs lives

(Poster suggesting careless communication may be harmful to the war effort, showing lips with tape over them.)

wwii-Careless talk costs lives


Don’t tell him what you know

About… troop concentrations, departures… arrivals…

Dont 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.”)

Let's censor our conversation about the war (1941)


Loose lips sink ships poster

This World War II poster was created by Seymour R Goff

Loose lips might sink ships - World War II poster by Seymour R Goff
Iconic “Loose lips sink ships” WWII propaganda poster

Make New Orleans a safe port of departure (WWII)

Make New Orleans a safe port of departure WWII

NOW SEE THIS: See 50 real-life Rosie the Riveters & other women war workers from WWII


I pledge allegiance and silence about the war – Vintage WWII poster

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.)

Vintage WWII poster - Keep mum Loose talk costs lives


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.

War don't talk posters - quiet (2)

DON’T MISS: Rationing during WW2: See war ration books, ration stamps, gas stamps, sugar coupons & more from the 40s

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