The United States began issuing small denomination savings bonds in 1936 with the introduction of the Series A Savings Bond. On May 1, 1941, Series E Savings Bonds were first issued as Defense Savings Bonds. After the US entered World War II in December 1941, the title of the bonds was changed from Defense Savings Bonds to War Savings Bonds.
Savings bonds served two important economic purposes during the war. The primary purpose was to provide money for the government to prosecute the war. The secondary purpose was to slow inflation by removing excess money from the economy. Full employment coupled with rationing and price controls for necessities would result in excess cash overhanging the economy.
As the war progressed, war bond sales also served as propaganda tools that rallied American sentiment at home for the war. The issuing agent’s stamp on a savings bond contains the full date the bond was purchased. This allowed for the creation of commemorative bonds for significant days throughout the war.
The United States Navy used the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor to promote war bond sales by placing commemorative overprints on bonds sold at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1942. Sales of the commemorative bonds were advertised throughout the country. Individuals on the mainland who wanted to purchase one of the special bonds sent payment to the Navy War Bond Office at Pearl Harbor.
In subsequent years, the Navy held Pearl Harbor Day commemorations around the country at which special bonds were sold.
The Treasury Department allowed other events such as the Normandy Invasion and the end of the war to be commemorated on savings bonds. Examples of those will be shown in a future installment.