Hint mode is switched on Switch off
Glossary

War bonds

Category — Bond Types
By Konstantin Vasilev Member of the Board of Directors of Cbonds, Ph.D. in Economics
Updated September 11, 2023

What is a war bond?

A war bond refers to a government-issued financial instrument utilized to finance military operations in periods of war or strife. Although these bonds yield returns lower than prevailing market rates, they garnered investments through emotional appeals to patriotic individuals, encouraging them to lend money to the government.

Brief history of war bonds

The United States government and other nations like Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Austria-Hungary have issued such bonds to support the war effort.

In the U.S., the War Advertising Council played a key role in encouraging voluntary participation in bond purchases. These bonds appealed to citizens’ sense of patriotism and moral duty despite offering returns lower than prevailing market interest rates. The advertising established a direct link between their funds and the ammunition and explosives essential for victory in the war. Another strategy involved utilizing national symbols to evoke a sense of patriotism. Figures like Sir Lancelot, William Wallace, and Uncle Sam, alongside various other nationalistic icons, were employed to promote the war bond sales.

Originally labeled Defense Bonds, war bonds were initially introduced as Liberty Bonds in 1917 to fund the United States government’s involvement in the First World War. The sale of these bonds yielded a total of $21.5 billion to support the nation’s war endeavors.

The most recent instance of the United States issuing war bonds occurred in World War II, marked by full employment and rationing. War bonds were regarded as a means to withdraw money from circulation and mitigate inflation. Defense Bonds were renamed War Bonds following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The responsibility of overseeing the sale of all bonds was entrusted to the War Finance Committee, while the War Advertising Council encouraged voluntary participation in bond purchases.

Promotional campaigns for these bonds were disseminated across diverse media platforms, including radio broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, and theater newsreels, effectively reaching the American population. Renowned figures from Hollywood, such as Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth, toured the nation to promote war bonds. Individuals could accumulate funds for War Bonds by contributing as little as 25 cents per donation, while the Girl Scouts also participated by selling stamps valued at 10 cents each. Artist Norman Rockwell contributed several paintings as part of the War Bonds advertising campaign.

War bonds

What is the purchase of war bonds?

The purpose of war bonds lies in their capacity to mobilize funds for wartime activities by encouraging citizens to invest in these financial instruments. Especially prominent during periods of conflict like the Second World War, war bonds play a pivotal role in generating substantial financial resources required to sustain and support military operations. Governments rely on the collective financial contributions of their citizens through war bond purchases to amass significant sums, often reaching billions of dollars. These funds are vital for financing diverse aspects of war, ranging from procuring essential equipment and supplies to funding troop deployments and supporting various critical wartime expenditures.

War bonds are a tangible manifestation of citizens’ commitment to their country’s defense during times of crisis. They serve as a mechanism to channel patriotic sentiments and national solidarity into tangible financial support. By participating in war bond campaigns, individuals contribute to their country’s war efforts and gain a sense of active involvement and shared responsibility. This investment in war bonds provides crucial financial backing and fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose among citizens as they collectively work toward the common goal of ensuring the nation’s security and success.

The historical significance of war bonds, particularly during the Second World War, cannot be overstated. These instruments not only raised substantial capital for wartime endeavors but also fostered a sense of unity and patriotism among the population. The billion-dollar sums generated through war bond campaigns underscore their effectiveness as a means of rallying public support and financial resources during critical periods in a nation’s history.

How do war bonds work?

A war bond functions as a government-issued debt instrument designed to secure funds for defense initiatives and military endeavors during times of war. Essentially, it entails the government borrowing money from investors through the issuance of these bonds.

These bonds were sold at a price lower than their face value, leading investors to pay an initial amount below the face value. Upon reaching maturity, investors were reimbursed the bond’s full face value. War bonds operated as zero-coupon bonds, devoid of interest or coupon payments throughout their term. Instead, investors earned a profit equivalent to the disparity between the purchase price and the bond’s face value upon maturity.

War bonds, often called baby bonds, possessed a smaller par value or face value than standard bonds. This characteristic rendered them more affordable for everyday investors. Notably, these bonds were nontransferable, signifying that only the initial bond purchaser could redeem them at a later time. Originally featuring a 10-year maturity period, they yielded a 2.9% return.

In a move by Congress, the interest-earning duration was extended. Bonds sold from 1941 to 1965 accrued interest over 40 years, while those issued after 1965 accumulated interest for 20 years. Following World War II, War Bonds were rebranded as Series E bonds. The issuance of Series E bonds persisted until 1980, at which point Series EE bonds succeeded them.

How do you buy war bonds?

  1. Research and Locate. Start by researching if your country offers war bonds or similar government securities. Check official government websites or financial institutions for information on availability.

  2. Choose Bond Type. If available, determine the type of war bonds being offered. Understand their terms, such as maturity period and potential returns.

  3. Visit Authorized Channels. Identify authorized channels for purchasing war bonds. These might include banks, post offices, government agencies, or online platforms.

  4. Gather Documentation. Prepare necessary identification and financial documents as required by the purchasing channel.

  5. Visit or Access Chosen Channel:

    • In-person. Visit the bank, post office, or relevant agency. Inquire about available war bonds and their purchasing process.

    • Online. If available online, visit the designated website or platform.

  6. Select Bond Amount. Choose the amount of war bonds you wish to buy. The purchase may be based on a specific face value or a certain investment amount.

  7. Provide Information:

    • In-person. Present your identification and financial documents. Fill out any required forms.

    • Online. Fill out necessary online forms, providing accurate information.

  8. Make Payment:

    • In-person. Pay the designated amount using cash, check, or other accepted payment methods.

    • Online. Complete the payment process using secure online payment methods.

  9. Receive Confirmation. After payment, you will receive a confirmation of your purchase. This might be a physical certificate or an electronic confirmation.

  10. Store Documentation. Safely store your confirmation or certificate, as you’ll need it for future reference.

  11. Monitor and Manage. Keep track of your investment by checking for updates on its performance, maturity date, and any relevant news.

  12. Redemption or Maturity. At the bond’s maturity date, follow the instructions provided by the issuing authority to redeem your bond and receive your return.

Features of war bonds

War bonds issued by the United States exhibited unique attributes compared to other Treasury securities.

Termed as war bonds (or Liberty bonds in specific years), these instruments functioned as zero-coupon securities, signifying their lack of interest payouts throughout the bond’s lifespan. Furthermore, their face value differed from the actual purchase price: Investors would procure the bond at a discount (usually ranging between 50% to 75% of the bond’s face value) and eventually receive the complete face value upon bond maturity.

The precise maturity date was contingent on the year of issuance. For instance, a war bond issued at the onset of World War II could only be redeemed a decade later. Subsequently, Congress modified the legislation, enabling war bonds to accumulate interest for up to 40 years.

Pros and cons of war bonds

Pros

  • War Bonds were available at a cost lower than their nominal value.

  • These bonds carried the assurance of backing by the U.S. government.

  • Investors garnered a feeling of honor and nationalism by contributing during times of war.

Cons

  • War Bonds yielded a lower interest rate compared to alternative securities available in the market.

  • Throughout the lifespan of the bonds, War Bonds did not provide any interest payments.

  • Like any financial security, War Bonds carried the potential risk of loss if sold before maturity, potentially resulting in a sale price lower than the original purchase price.

How much are war bonds worth?

The value of war bonds can be determined using an online tool provided by the U.S. government. For instance, a Series E bond issued in 1941 with a $100 face value would hold a current value of $362 as of August 2023.

FAQ

  • What were war bonds in WW2?

  • Does the US still use war bonds?

  • How much do war bonds pay?

Terms from the same category

explore the most comprehensive database

800 000

bonds globally

Over 400

pricing sources

80 000

stocks

9 000

ETF

track your portfolio in the most efficient way
Bond Search
Watchlist
Excel ADD-IN
×

— Are you looking for the complete & verified bond data?

— We have everything you need:

full data on over 700 000 bonds, stocks & ETFs; powerful bond screener; over 350 pricing sources among stock exchanges & OTC market; ratings & financial reports; user-friendly interface; available anywhere via Website, Excel Add-in and Mobile app.

Register
×

Why

You will have detailed descriptive & pricing data for 650K bonds, 76K stocks, 8K ETFs
Get full access to the platform from any device & via Cbonds app
Enhance your portfolio management with Cbonds Excel Add-in
Build yield maps, make chart comparison within a click
Don't wait any longer — start using Cbonds today! Register
Registration is required to get access.