War bonds: Financing Victory and Patriotism


War bonds, also known as Liberty Bonds in the United States, have played a pivotal role in shaping the financial landscape during times of war. These debt securities issued by governments served not only as a means of raising funds for military operations but also as a powerful tool for fostering patriotism and unity among citizens. In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the world of war bonds, exploring their history, characteristics, advantages, disadvantages, and even the intriguing stories behind their issuance.

Understanding war bonds

War bonds are a financial instrument issued by governments to secure funding for their defense initiatives and military endeavors during times of conflict. Essentially, a war bond represents a loan made by citizens to their government. These bonds were typically sold at a price lower than their face value, making them accessible to a broader range of investors.

Unlike traditional bonds that pay periodic interest, war bonds were akin to zero-coupon bonds. This means they didn’t provide interest payments throughout the bond’s term. Instead, investors received the difference between the purchase price and the bond’s face value upon maturity.

One distinguishing feature of war bonds was their nontransferability. Only the original bond purchaser could redeem them in the future, ensuring that these investments remained within the patriotic circle of supporters. Initially, war bonds had a 10-year maturity period, offering investors a 2.9% return.

The history of war bonds

The issuance of war bonds was not exclusive to the United States; several countries, including Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Austria-Hungary, also utilized this financial mechanism to fund their wartime efforts.

In the U.S., the promotion of war bond sales was orchestrated by the War Advertising Council, which used various media channels such as radio, newspapers, magazines, and newsreels to reach the American public. Hollywood icons like Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth actively participated in promoting war bonds by touring the nation, emphasizing patriotism as a driving force behind these investments.

To make war bonds even more accessible to the average citizen, people could save up for them by contributing as little as 25 cents at a time. The Girl Scouts also played a role by selling 10-cent stamps that could be accumulated towards the purchase of war bonds. Renowned artist Norman Rockwell created several paintings as part of the advertising campaign for War Bonds.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Defense Bonds were rebranded as War Bonds. This transformation saw more than 80 million Americans purchase these bonds, generating over $180 billion in revenue. Depending on the year of issuance, war bonds were sold at discounts ranging from 50% to 75% of their face value and had denominations ranging from $10 to $1,000.

Advantages and disadvantages of war bonds

War bonds offered both benefits and drawbacks to governments and investors alike. Let’s examine the pros and cons:

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.


  • War bonds could be purchased for a price that was below their face value.
  • War bonds were guaranteed by the U.S. government.
  • Investors experienced a sense of pride and patriotism by helping the nation in times of war.


  • Paid a lower interest rate than other securities in the market.
  • War bonds did not pay interest payments throughout the life of the bonds.
  • As with any security, war bonds carried the risk of a loss if sold before maturity for a lower price than the purchase price.

Example of war bonds

The sale of war bonds in the United States was overseen by the War Finance Committee. These bonds, initially known as Defense Bonds, were first issued as Liberty Bonds in 1917 to finance the U.S. government’s participation in World War I. Through the sale of these bonds, the government raised an astounding $21.5 billion for its war efforts.

Following the U.S. entry into World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Defense Bonds were rebranded as War Bonds. This transformation saw more than 80 million Americans purchase these bonds, generating over $180 billion in revenue. War bonds were accessible to citizens from all walks of life and contributed significantly to financing the war effort.

The bottom line

War bonds offer nations a valuable means of raising emergency funds to support military expenditures, often at a lower cost compared to traditional sovereign bond issues. However, investing in war bonds comes with its risks, primarily related to lower yields and the possibility of losing the investment if the country defaults on its obligations.

Frequently asked questions

How do you buy Ukrainian war bonds?

Ukrainian citizens and residents interested in purchasing war bonds can do so through Ukraine-licensed brokers or banks. While overseas institutional investors may also have access, it remains unclear whether foreign retail investors will be able to participate in these investments.

What is the purpose of war bonds?

War bonds serve a critical purpose for governments, allowing them to raise essential funds for military expenditures without resorting to heavy taxation or inflationary monetary policies. However, governments must exercise caution to avoid accumulating excessive debt that they may struggle to repay.

How much are war bonds worth today?

For those curious about the current value of war bonds, the U.S. government provides an online tool to calculate their present worth. For instance, a Series E bond issued in 1942 with a face value of $100 would be valued at approximately $377.40 as of September 2022.

Are war bonds still issued today?

Yes, war bonds are still issued by some countries during times of conflict or war. For example, the Ukrainian government issued war bonds to raise funds during the conflict with Russia in 2022.

Can I sell my war bonds before they mature?

No, war bonds were typically nontransferable, which means only the original bond purchaser could redeem them. They were designed to be held until maturity.

What happens if a country defaults on its war bonds?

If a country defaults on its war bonds, investors who hold these bonds may lose their investment. However, such defaults are relatively rare for government-issued bonds.

Did other countries use different names for war bonds?

Yes, war bonds were often referred to by different names in various countries. For example, in the United States, they were known as Liberty Bonds and later as War Bonds.

Why did governments choose not to pay interest on war bonds?

Governments typically chose not to pay interest on war bonds to keep the cost of borrowing low and to encourage citizens to invest in them as an act of patriotism and support for the war effort.

Key takeaways

  • War bonds are debt securities issued by governments to fund military operations during wartime.
  • They were sold below face value and matured at face value, providing a means for citizens to support their country’s war efforts.
  • War bonds do not pay interest but were a patriotic investment during times of conflict.
  • Investors should be aware of the pros and cons of war bonds, including their lower interest rates and nontransferability.
View Article Sources
  1. Defense and War Bonds – Illinois State University
  2. War Bonds and Women – NABB Research Center Online Exhibits
  3. What To Invest In During War – SuperMoney
  4. What are Bearer Bonds and How Do They Work? – SuperMoney