The following description can be found at a web site about vintage WWII posters.
In this image, a sinister looking soldier wearing a German Stahlhelm M16 steel helmet surreptitiously peers over a wall at the viewer. Under the Nazi regime, the unique German Stahlhelm M16 steel helmet became an icon of military prowess and national pride, while for the Allies it became a symbol of menacing evil.
“He’s Watching You.”
This striking poster was designed in 1942 by artist Glenn Ernest Grohe (1912 – 1956) for the Office of Emergency Management. It shows the menacing, shadowy figure of a German soldier peering directly at the viewer over a dark wall with contrasting large text: He’s Watching You. This cool caution poster was intended to motivate adherence to the laws and prudence to the wartime rules about secrecy in the industrial sector and the close proximity of enemy eyes and ears.
There were two schools of thought about wartime poster design, “realistic images” and “stylized art”. One school of art and artists believed the posters should be realistic and direct like the print advertisements of the time; this was understandable as many of the war poster artists were of course selected from the advertisement illustration field. This poster is obviously from the “stylized war art” school of thought. The stylized sinister Nazi character closely resembles the creepy Star Wars character Darth Vader. Neither the Nazis nor Darth Vader had yet taken their place in infamy so this early war poster was as it turned out ineffective.
A 1942 government survey conducted by the Office of Facts and Figures of the American public revealed that the poster was often misunderstood. Many people perceived the stylized German Stahlhelm M16 steel helmet as the Liberty Bell, while some factory workers mistakenly believed “he” to be the “boss.” Because of this type of issue, the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) was created in June 1942 to review and approve the design, content and distribution of government war posters, coordinate the release of war news and information for domestic use and other wartime responsibilities.
Ultimately, two contending groups within OWI clashed over poster design. Those who saw posters as “war art” favored stylized images and symbolism, while recruits from the world of advertising wanted posters to be more like ads. When admen eventually gained the upper hand at OWI, the look of government posters changed decidedly.
Espionage has been with us since early time but the immigrant/melting pot based nature of the United States and our relatively late involvement in World War 2 made 1940s America a lucrative environment for spies and potential saboteurs. Naturally the dangers and concerns of national security intensified when the United States entered the war and America’s overseas military and homeland patriots urgently needed additional protection. The U.S. Government had a great need to alert its’ military and private citizens to the presence of enemy spies and saboteurs lurking in American society.
A major advertising blitz involving all media eventually produced thousands of remarkable “careless talk” type posters to warn people that small snippets of information regarding troop movements or other logistical details would be useful to the enemy and could easily compromise national security and U.S. military personnel’ safety. These vintage 1940s public domain poster images like this one of the Stylized “He’s Watching You” displayed on this page from the Safety and National Security World War 2 Gallery of this website allow you to own a copyright free piece of WWII history, a historic patriotic artwork poster.
Twilight Eyes, a video exploring the idea that this same face exists in the layout of CIA’s New Headquarters Building (and surrounding elements), can be seen here:
For other posters, visit these links: