Collection: World War II
A unique quality of both WWI and WWII armies was that a majority of their combatants were not professional soldiers but rather citizen conscripts1. Thus, habits the common soldiers picked up on the battlefield, such as smoking, were brought home after the war’s end3. WWII soldiers used cigarettes similarly to their WWI forbearers, smoking to escape the stress of battle and steady their nerves1. Soldiers had been rationed 4 cigarettes a day during WWI. In WWII authorities also saw tobacco as a necessity to the maintenance of fighting men, and actually added cigarettes into their daily K-ration before toilet paper2. K-rations provided a four pack per meal, meaning soldiers were issues a total of 12 cigarettes per day. Soldiers could also buy discounted twenty-packs at the army post exchange (PX) stations2. Hence, cigarettes were made readily available to men in the armed forces.
The army didn’t necessarily use one brand for rations, instead cigarettes came in sample packs of different brands, with the most common being Chesterfields2. Tobacco companies specifically targeted the troops stating that they used “personalities associated with the war” such as test pilot “Red” Hulse4. They also sent “cigarettes by millions to GI’s overseas” claiming that the Camel brand was “First in the Service.”4 WWII cigarette adverts focused on themes of smoking as patriotic, promoting solidarity between armed forces, relieving stress, increasing battle performance, encouraging romantic fidelity, and a connection to home. Even after the war was over, WWII continued to be used as an advertising strategy due to its role as a common relatable event among the cigarette consumers of the time.