Vice President of an advertising agency with a number of aviation accounts, the author recently went to England to see for himself how American equipment is standing up under combat conditions. In his tours through British factories he discovered the important role which posters are playing in building up factory morale. His story is especially timely for US manufacturers.
Life is no bed of roses for the average working man or woman in Britain's aircraft factories. He has all the routine restrictions of wartime to contend with: the food rationing, the clothing rationing, the blackout, and a hundred and one other upsets to comfortable living. In addition, he is working longer hours than he has ever worked before. He is working in a building that is a highly desirable target for enemy bombers. The chances are, under Britain's system of dispersal plants, he has been uprooted from his home town and is living in a different section of the country. And more likely than not, his new environment was already so crowded when he arrived, that he must live many miles from his factory and spend precious hours going to and fro by overcrowded bus or truck.
On top of it all, he is working under tremendous pressure the normal pressure of the wartime aircraft industry plus the added pressure of an aroused public which counts on him to help hasten the day when Britain can achieve striking offensive superiority in the air.
If ever a man deserved a little extra psychological "lift" in his day's work, this man does. The British Ministry of Aircraft Production has made it its business to see that he gets this stimulation.
Under the direction of its public relations branch, the MAP has set up an organized system of instilling in the workmen a personal feeling of participation and triumph in the RAF's successes. This system extends not only to the men and women in the airplane factories, but to those in engine, propeller, instrument, parts and accessory plants as well. It is made up broadly of three different types of activity.
First is the MAP's distribution of highly specialized posters. For each important plant it has designed a poster showing the type of airplane being manufactured by that plant; or, in the case of an accessory manufacturer, an airplane which utilizes its accessories. Then, whenever the type of airplane depicted is involved in a successful action, the MAP rushes to the plant a description of the action, told often in the pilot's own words. This description is printed on a sheet which fits evenly below the basic poster illustration, which may serve for as long as eight or ten different bulletins.
The posters, with bulletins attached, are displayed in many places throughout the plant. Whenever possible, the bulletins give the actual manufacturer's number of the successful airplane, so that a workman can positively identify it as one which he personally helped to build. New bulletins, of course, are added as fast as word comes in of combats which warrant their issuance.
Another of the MAP's efforts is especially designed to give a "lift" to the makers of instruments and accessories, By special appointment, representative groups of these men are invited to visit a squadron which has been using their product. Here they have a chance to talk to pilots and inspect the airplanes to which their product contributes. As a climax they are often taken up to witness the product in actual use in the air. In any case, they may get from this contact their first sight at close range of the completed airplane.
The third activity reverses this procedure and brings the pilots from the front line to the factory. Pilots who have participated in outstanding actions are brought in from their squadrons and given assistance in preparing individual talks for workers in a number of different plants which have contributed equipment to their efforts. The pilots then make the rounds of the different factories, inspect the production lines, and deliver their talks to the men during lunch hour. After describing combat experiences and the performance of the specific products which the men are making, they may pay tribute to the fine work which is being done in the plants, or stress the importance of stepping up production still further. The discussions are then thrown open to questions and the workers have the opportunity of asking about any details they may have in mind.
Unquestionably activities of this nature must bear fruit. If they serve only to make the worker a little less tired when he gets home at night, or if they stiffen his resolve just a little bit more during the day, they have done their work, and well.
Now that America is in the war all the way government and industry should develop a more comprehensive program to expand the good work already being done in their field.
This article was originally published in the January, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, no 1, pp 54-55, 232.
The original article includes a poster soliciting ideas, specific airplane "bulletins" and a page of montage of morale posters.