October 10, 1942
The War at Home
For many American children, World War II was little more than a chance to play at war. Not understanding the full implications of the war
and the fact that Americans could and would die in the process. At the same time it also gave them a chance to play
at being heroes, emulating their fathers, other male relatives, and famous war heroes in the comfort of their own living rooms.
One type of hero which was new to wars of the twentieth century (and which, being a sort of lone fighter was well placed to become
a sort of hero figure) was the fighter pilot. Air combat offered new oppurtunities for children's fantasies, as it combined
a fascination with the comparatively new technology of the airplane with a cowboyesque independence that had
appealed to children in times past. The link between the war and technology displayed in this picture does not end here,
however. The use of a vacuum cleaner as a mock plane by one of the children implies a further connection between technology, the war, and mass
consumerism. Indeed, many manufacturing centers (which may have made such things as vacuums and cars before the war) switched to
building products for the war effort, even before full American involvement. Moreover, the technological advancements
made during the war helped to spark the growth of consumerism after its conclusion, laying the basis for the American
consumer golden age of the 1950's. This picture is thus both a commentary upon the way the war was felt by American children and a subtle
critique of the interplay between war and consumerism.