20 World War Two Posters Discouraging ‘Careless Talk’

During the Second World War, the US government had countless posters printed in order to assist with the war effort. Many were simple propaganda, designed to engender popular support for the war. Some was blatantly racist in nature, especially by the standards of today.

Other posters were less political — though they sometimes contained political overtones — and were primarily concerned with the possibility that sensitive military information could end up in enemy hands. These were often aimed at military personel who were privy to such information and might carelessly speak about it to friends and family, or possibly to a beautiful female spy. Others targeted civilians who may somehow have access to military data.

Here are 20 posters discouraging ‘careless talk’, mostly from the United States government, with a few examples from other Allied countries thrown in for comparison.

1. Careless Talk Costs Lives

careless talk lips ww2

Here the message is simply stated without any emotional imagery.

2. Wanted! For Murder

ww2 poster keep quiet

A photograph of a woman is used in the form of a ‘wanted’ poster to induce fear of repercussions for careless talk.

3. Americans Suffer When Careless Talk Kills!

careless talk ww2 old couple

Artwork of ‘typical American’ parents from the heartland grieving for their son, who has presumably died due to careless talk.

4. Keep It Under Your Hat!

keep it under your hat ww2

In other words: keep quiet!

5. Less Dangerous Than Careless Talk

careless talk snake

A poisonous rattle snake is less of a danger to the country than the enemies discovering sensitive information through careless talk.

6. Look Who’s Listening

careless talk hitler monkey

Hitler is depicted as listening in to a telephone call. Even on the telephone, there should be no careless talk.

7. Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Careless Talk!

careless talk parrot

A somewhat thoughtful poster asking Americans to differentiate between the right to free speech and passing secrets to the enemy.

8. Keep Your Trap Shut

careless talk japanese trap

This bit of mixed metaphor shows a characterised Japanese soldier caught in a trap, while telling American’s to keep theirs shut.

9. Bits of Careless Talk Are Pieced Together By the Enemy

careless talk nazi map

Even the slightest piece of careless talk could provide vital clues to the Germans.

10. Don’t Kill Her Daddy With Careless Talk

careless talk little girl

Tugging on the heartstrings with a doe-eyed little girl who is grieving for her father, killed by careless talk.

11. Loose Lips Might Sink Ships

loose lips

A famous and enduring variant on the careless talk message.

12. Loose Talk Can Cost Lives

hitler bench ww2

‘Loose talk’ is another variant. Don’t use sensitive information to brag to your girlfriend, soldier.

 13. Sailor Beware!

loose talk sailor

Same goes for you, sailor.

14. Closed for the Duration

careless words tape on lips

Like a business in the off season, Americans are told to keep their mouths shut for the entire war.

15. Careless Talk Got There First

careless talk battlefield

The point is driven home with a vivid image of an American soldier being killed on an Asian beach.

16. Don’t Kill Americans by Careless Talk!

careless talk banner

A clear instruction to American military personel who using public transport.

17. ‘Ware Spies! — Keep It Under Your Hat! (British)

careless talk british under hat

A British version of the ‘keep it under your hat’ metaphor.

18. Keep Mum She’s Not So Dumb! (British)

keep mum uk ww2

That charming socialite at the local club could be a German spy.

19. Silence de Ta Part (Canada)

careless talk ww2

The French-Canadian answer to ‘careless talk’.

20. ‘No Chatter’ (Soviet Union)

russian don't chatter ww2

A Soviet version of the ‘careless talk’ campaign.

Graham is an editor and contributor at Made From History. A London-based writer originally from Washington, DC, he holds a master's degree in Cultural History from Malmö University in Sweden. Graham also contributes environmental news articles to asiancorrespondent.com and latincorrespondent.com.