Talked To Death #2
Silence was a moral imperative and a supreme act of patriotism during World War II. But silence is unnatural. In print, posters, movies, and radio, the Office of War Information reminded Americans to consider the national interest and just shut up for once.
Persuasion took many forms — in this case, an accusation hurled directly at fellow Americans by a drowning sailor. Suspense of the highest order, condensed into a single powerful image: His gaze, weary and direct, stares into your eyes. He is about to die, but he won’t ask to be rescued.
His arm is outstretched, thrust through the surface of the water and nearly off the page, but he does not reach to grasp a rescuer’s hand. Instead, he uses his last ounce of energy — perhaps his last breath in this world — to point out his betrayer. It isn’t you, because he points to a place just over your shoulder - but it might be a neighbor, a friend, a member of your family. It isn’t just a call for you to shut up, but for you to accept responsibility for enforcing the code of silence.
The image is framed by the bold, razor-sharp slogan delivered with his dying breath: Someone Talked! It’s the final moment of a particularly grizzly war film — something by Samuel Fuller or Robert Aldrich. The sailor doesn’t want to be rescued, nor will he ask for salvation; he wants only to confront and reveal his betrayer. An image of obsession and vengeance — hardly an anodyne call to patriotic duty. More like the fearsome cry of a lynch mob.
Artist: Frederick Siebel, 1942