When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II

This book, by Molly Guptill Manning, will appeal most to bibliophiles and librarians.  It relates the story of the Armed Service Editions (ASE) of books supplied to U.S. soldiers around the world during World War II.  120 million small, lightweight paperback books, small enough to fit into a pocket, on every conceivable topic, were beloved by soldiers.  With a lot of time on their hands between military actions, these books became a lifeline to sanity and battled the loneliness of being away from home.  Over 1200 titles were published during the length of the program.  Soldiers eagerly attempted to read all of the titles published each month.  There were some attempts to censor a few titles over the year but the committee overseeing the program successfully battled and won this fight.

It appears that one of the most popular books was A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. One soldier, confined to bed with malaria, wrote author Betty Smith: “I can’t explain the emotional reaction that took place, I only know that it happened and that this heart of mine turned over and became alive again. A surge of confidence has swept through me and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all. I’ll never be able to explain to you the gratitude and love that fill my heart in appreciation of what your book means to me…I’m not ashamed…to weep over a piece of fiction.”

This story and many more pepper the pages of this book.  If you are looking for something to bolster your belief that books can make a difference in lives, then this is the one for you!


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