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“Obey Your Air Raid Warden”: Big Band as Public Service Announcement

In the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people during World War II, the U.S. government viewed its popular performers—singers, dancers, and actors—as a crucial weapon. Although a number of stars directly joined the military, those who made movies probably contributed the most to the war effort. Even before Pearl Harbor, Treasury Department officials began making plans to raise money to finance the war by selling bonds to the public, which would be repaid with interest after the war was over. During the war, private citizens and organizations bought $190 billion worth of war bonds at the low interest rate of 1.8 percent. In addition to their work as bond sellers, movie stars also encouraged the populace to follow wartime policies, particularly exhorting them (or joking with them) to observe rationing and save scrap metals. One of the more unusual public service announcements was this 1942 song from Tony Pastor and His Orchestra: “Obey Your Air Raid Warden.”

One, be calm.

Two, get under shelter.

Three, don’t run.

Obey your air-raid warden.

Four, stay home.

Five, keep off the highway.

Six, don’t phone.

Obey your air-raid warden.

There are rules that you should know,

What to do and where to go,

When you hear the sirens blow,

Stop, look, and listen.

Seven, don’t smoke.

Eight, help all the kiddies.

Most of all, obey your air-raid warden.

Stop, look, and listen.

Dim the lights,

Wait for information,

Most of all, obey your air-raid warden.

Stop the panic,

Don’t get in a huff,

Our aim today is to call their bluff.

Follow these rules and that is enough.

Obey your air-raid warden.

Source: Les Burness and John Morris., “Obey Your Air Raid Warden,” 1942.

See Also:"This Is No Time for You to Take a Rest": Hollywood Goes to War