1943 Patriotic, iconic, brand-building genius at its best. Coke’s WW2 ads always show a Boy-Scout version of WW2 - gallant lads in clean sharp uniforms, behaving well. Everyone’s square-jawed, and gives a square deal; everyone’s clean & reverent. Even the home-front ads show war workers. Everyone’s cheerful; everyone looks to the sky with a fierce expression of hope and determination. It would be easy to dismiss as crude propaganda - except that it was art in the service of virtue. It was a just cause. Coke was on the side of the angels.

The ads amuse people who’ve been in the service - the pictures of Yanks and Brit fliers playing chess in merry collegiality, or the fellow who finds a Coke sign on a wall pockmarked by bullets - he’s obviously part of the invasion force, since it’s a French town, but his uniform is spotless.

Nevermind that. This was the war people wanted to believe in. A war that had its good moments. Its compensations. Wry moments. Small potent examples of American virtue, projected to unlikely locales.

You could break down the war ads to two styles, two brands: A Coke moment or a Hallmark moment. The former was amusing; the latter yanked the heartstrings. On the other side of this page was an ad for Hallmark cards. The wordy melancholic text detailed a Christmas where everyone gathered around a tree and carried on as normal, because that’s what Bobby wanted. Bobby was away, but he wanted everyone to have the bestest Christmas ever with the biggest tree, because that’s what he was fighting for. I’d post the ad, but it didn’t scan well. Also, it makes you want to slit your wrists. It’s not that it’s depressing: it’s accurate. Dead-on accurate.

Inasmuch as any of these ads are accurate. Even the grimmest is a painterly fiction; there aren’t any spilled intestines or missing limbs or dead buddies or torchlight parades for the swastika side. But nearly every ad in the early 40s touched on the war.