One of the first Smokey Bear posters during WWII, circa 1946.
“Remember Pearl Harbor!” “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships.” Those are among the most famous slogans of World War II. But another poster child birthed during the war—Smokey Bear—might be even better remembered. The ad campaign that spawned the cartoonish bear, and a fire prevention legend, was only made possible by wartime paranoia about the possibility of a Japanese invasion of the continental United States.
At the time, many Americans worried that explosive devices might spark forest fires along the Pacific coast—for which the U.S. was hardly prepared.
WWII was a tricky time for forest fire fighting. In the face of wartime rationing, it became harder and harder to get a hold of modern firefighting equipment. As more and more male firefighters joined the war efforts, officials faced a dilemma. “Foresters feared that the forest fire problem might…
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