They Cheer When You Forget Your Maps
This whimsical World War II poster, promoting aviation safety practices with US Air Force pilots, is as charming as it is rare.
Neatline is excited to present this humorous aviation safety poster that was issued by the United States Air Force’s Directorate of Air Traffic and Safety (with support from the Directorate of Safety Education) during the height of the Second World War. The Directorate was established in January of 1943, and most of the posters in this series were issued that same year (although no dates figure on the sheets). The office was responsible for overseeing domestic airborne operations, including flight control, aviation safety, and safety education.
The iconic broadside seen here belongs to a series of sixteen aviation safety posters known as the ‘They cheer’ series due to the repeated caricature of the War’s three antagonists hiding in the background and laughing at the mistakes made by US Air Force pilots.
The poster was produced as a color halftone print, measuring 56 x 43 cm (22 x 17 in). It depicts an Air Force pilot who – despite the plane identifying as part of a ‘Desert Patrol’ – has landed erroneously in Antarctica because he has forgotten his aviation maps. Dressed in greenish khakis, a tropical pith helmet, and carrying an iced hand fan, the pilot appears disoriented and surprised at having landed in these frozen surroundings when clearly he was heading for the tropics.
A penguin waddles happily towards the pilot from the left. The more poignant part of the image is nevertheless an igloo in the upper left corner, behind which we see three figures – caricatures of Adolph Hitler, Hideki Tojo, and Benito Mussolini – laughing at the pilot’s calamitous mistake. The caption reads, “They cheer when you forget your maps,” making an obvious reference to the image.
Other posters in the series had similar messages, including They Cheer when you pay attention to Pattern; They Cheer When You Ignore the Red-Lined Speed; They Cheer When You Don’t Maintain Flying Speed; and They Cheer When You Try Foolhardy Stunts. In every instance, the image of Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini laughing at the errors of US pilots is repeated.
Posters from the ‘They Cheer’ series have become increasingly rare on the market in recent years, and this one is particularly interesting to us because it refers directly to an Air Force pilot’s need for carrying and using the most up-to-date maps available. Despite its increasing rarity, the OCLC registers no copies of this poster in institutional collections.
Backed on archival paper. Minor wear.