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During World War II Americans, a “Sports-loving people”, were encouraged to join various teams. Those teams could be literal, your Division’s baseball, ship’s boxing or Service’s football team, or more metaphorical, referring to the branches of the Armed Services; the Army, the Navy, the Army Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Marines, or the United Nations (alliance). Women were allowed to join those teams, at least “for the duration”. On the home front, the “team” built ships, saved cans, and went all out for production. Occasionally interracial cooperation in the team was encouraged and even celebrated. United these individual teams composed Team USA. Drawing on contemporary sources, particularly posters and film, this paper addresses the cultural reasons for the power of the sporting metaphors team and teamwork, through consideration of the deep links between sports and essential American values and virtues. According to American propagandists, World War Two, “the most important game of all”, was ultimately a match between two teams, democracy versus fascism, and one that the United States would inevitably win. 

Wendy Toon is a Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Worcester. Her research focusses on the intellectual war effort and propaganda during World War II, and more recently the role of sport in that conflict and the ensuing occupation of Germany. Her latest article is based on that research, ““Probably the most perfect symbol of our democracy”: The Army, Sports, and the Re-education of German Youth during the Early American Occupation of Germany, 1945-46”, Journal of American Studies, (forthcoming).

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