"Keep 'Em Flying" captures a salient moment of mobilization and fervor in American history. The bold, symbolic use of the U.S. flag flying alongside three B-17 planes in formation signifies the ascendancy of air power as a strategic imperative during the Second World War. The rise of military aviation, with the U.S. Army Air Forces at the forefront, embodied a transformative period in warfare strategies, changing the face of global conflict.
This illustration also calls to mind popular culture of the period, most notably the Abbott and Costello film of the same name released in 1941. "Keep 'Em Flying," the movie, was a comedic take on the life of aviation cadets, which despite its humorous veneer, effectively reflected and amplified the patriotic sentiment surrounding military service. The shared title serves as a marker of the pervasive nature of war mobilization across various forms of media and social discourse during the period.
Downe and Smith's illustration, with its stark call to action, encapsulates the pressing need of the time for young, vigorous recruits ready to join the air forces. The explicit mention of specific roles within the Air Forces - Bombardiers, Navigators, and Pilots - highlights the diversity of skill sets required in this emerging field of warfare, emphasizing the importance of specialized training.
In sum, "Keep 'Em Flying" is more than a recruitment poster. It serves as a compelling cultural artifact that conveys the essence of a specific moment in the American experience during World War II. Through the lens of this poster, one perceives the interconnectedness of military strategy, societal shifts, and popular culture, all intertwining to shape the narrative of the time.