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When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraord When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks, for troops to carry in their pockets and their rucksacks, in every theater of war. Comprising 1,200 different titles of every imaginable type, these paperbacks were beloved by the troops and are still fondly remembered today. Soldiers read them while waiting to land at Normandy; in hellish trenches in the midst of battles in the Pacific; in field hospitals; and on long bombing flights. They wrote to the authors, many of whom responded to every letter. They helped rescue The Great Gatsby from obscurity. They made Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, into a national icon. When Books Went to War is an inspiring story for history buffs and book lovers alike.


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When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraord When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks, for troops to carry in their pockets and their rucksacks, in every theater of war. Comprising 1,200 different titles of every imaginable type, these paperbacks were beloved by the troops and are still fondly remembered today. Soldiers read them while waiting to land at Normandy; in hellish trenches in the midst of battles in the Pacific; in field hospitals; and on long bombing flights. They wrote to the authors, many of whom responded to every letter. They helped rescue The Great Gatsby from obscurity. They made Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, into a national icon. When Books Went to War is an inspiring story for history buffs and book lovers alike.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    They don't call them The Greatest Generation for nothing! I knew they were called that because of the sacrifices they made during World War II. What I didn't know was that part of their legacy was solidified after the war. Soldiers in WWII LOVED to read. Some of them hadn't so much as picked up a book outside of mandatory school reading. However, when they got into the Army and Navy they realized they had a lot of boring down-time. Without video games and things like movies not being readily ava They don't call them The Greatest Generation for nothing! I knew they were called that because of the sacrifices they made during World War II. What I didn't know was that part of their legacy was solidified after the war. Soldiers in WWII LOVED to read. Some of them hadn't so much as picked up a book outside of mandatory school reading. However, when they got into the Army and Navy they realized they had a lot of boring down-time. Without video games and things like movies not being readily available or portable, soldiers turned to books. In turn, books transformed themselves for the soldiers, who needed lightweight reading material. The publishing world's predilection for hardcovers didn't work mobility-wise. Thus paperbacks took off like gangbusters and millions were shipped around the globe to wherever the armed services were stationed. This was not an easy task and much of the book focuses on this undertaking. I was fairly, though not 100%, sure what I was in for when I picked up When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II. I mean, I didn't expect to read about gun-toting novels marching off to war. On the other hand, could the title be referring to propaganda tracts printed and sent to the various fronts? Nope, it just refers to the dissemination of good old normal books, some of which became very popular amongst the ranks. When Books Went to War describes how the reading generation of the war years created classics out of forgotten books -The Great Gatsby is one example- which now we take for granted as having always been consistently popular. That period also created a whole generation of educated youths who hungered for learning once they were done fighting. That was the big take-away of this book for me. The young men coming out of the war were disciplined machines with a drive and ability to consume knowledge. On the GI bill, they went to college and tore through more books, studying harder and getting better grades than the career students from rich families that prior-to constituted most campuses. The former soldiers then went into business administration and engineering on a scale never seen before. That, to me, is the lasting legacy of the Greatest Generation. It wasn't sitting on their laurels and patting themselves on the back for the brave and noble work they'd done during the war. It was what they were then able to accomplish after their tremendous sacrifice and struggle. This is quite a good read. However, it's a book about books, so go into it with that in mind. It's not going to be a scorcher. When Molly Manning isn't writing about how books were transported and distributed, etc she's often giving a rather dry summary of the war. Having said that, you're here on Goodreads.com, so you're already a book nerd, ergo I have a feeling you'll get some level of enjoyment out of this. Now, I'm off to find a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to find out why it was arguably the most popular book amongst American soldiers!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    In a slice of history that's hard to imagine could be repeated today, When Books Went to War tells the story of a program that delivered millions of books to Americans in the military overseas during World War II. For some reason, this story has been all over place recently, in an article in Atlantic magazine, in a book about The Great Gatsby by Maureen Corrigan (So We Read On), and now here. It was no secret, but I never heard of the program until a few months ago. It's a fascinating history and In a slice of history that's hard to imagine could be repeated today, When Books Went to War tells the story of a program that delivered millions of books to Americans in the military overseas during World War II. For some reason, this story has been all over place recently, in an article in Atlantic magazine, in a book about The Great Gatsby by Maureen Corrigan (So We Read On), and now here. It was no secret, but I never heard of the program until a few months ago. It's a fascinating history and Molly Guptill Manning does it justice. The book is short, under two hundred pages, but it covers a lot of territory. It touches on the effects the books themselves had on the troops, as well as the boost to the popularity of paperbacks during and after the war. By providing over a thousand titles to those at war, a generation of readers was created and many went on to go to college (through the G.I. Bill) while others simply kept the habit of reading for pleasure. In addition to the wartime program of providing small, cheap paperbacks to the military, another program after the war provided translations of American works to civilians in countries where few books had been published since before the war. This was a huge opportunity for American propaganda and influence, which Manning glosses over, but is dealt with in more detail in John Hench's Books as Weapons. When Books Went to War is the best kind of history book -- well-researched, informative, and hard to put down.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    Excerpt from a letter written to Betty Smith, the author of 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' from a 20 year old Marine in sick bay during World War II….. "Ever since the first time I struggled through knee deep mud… carrying a stretcher from which my buddie's life dripped away in precious blood and I was powerless to help him, I have felt hard and cynical against the world and have felt sure that I was no longer capable of loving anything or anybody… I can't explain the emotional reaction that took pl Excerpt from a letter written to Betty Smith, the author of 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' from a 20 year old Marine in sick bay during World War II….. "Ever since the first time I struggled through knee deep mud… carrying a stretcher from which my buddie's life dripped away in precious blood and I was powerless to help him, I have felt hard and cynical against the world and have felt sure that I was no longer capable of loving anything or anybody… 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…. I'll never be able to explain to you the gratitude and love that fill my heart in appreciation of what your book meant to me….." 'When Books Went to War' is a terrific read! Over the past several years, I have read a great many stories centered around both world wars… moving and heartbreaking stories. This book.. a true story…was one of the best. Molly Guptill Manning presents the book in a methodical and clever way…. first, the book is a broad outline of the events that led up to World War II; how the war itself played out and most interestingly, the tying in of history with the incredible story of the role books played in the war effort. This book demonstrates how books inspired and lifted the morale of the troops, became a battle cry of sorts and finally how books turned out to be the secret weapon that just may have helped the Allies win the war. Ms. Manning begins by setting the stage for how books became such a huge deal in World War II. The story begins at a tremendous and horrifying 'book burning' which took place in Berlin on May 10, 1933. Students from Friedrich Wilhelm University, in from of an audience of 40,000 spectators, tossed armloads of books into a massive pyre.The book burning was broadcast live on the radio and was filmed so that it could be shown in movie theaters across Germany; and it included commentary that 'harmful books eroded German values and culture and must be destroyed." People were 'encouraged' to weed out and contribute books for the book burnings and in the end, 100 million books were destroyed. When word spread throughout Europe and the United States about the book burnings and the list of authors whose works were banned became available…. Karl Marx, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann…. librarians everywhere were outraged. Newspapers filled with critical editorials and recriminations were leveled at the Nazi regime. This book burning and banning 'experience' became known as the "bibliocaust." The outrage over the massive assault on ideas continued to build until the United States entered World War II in 1941. Although the United States entered the war with determination and resolve, the War Department was ill-equipped to handle the necessities required by all of the newly enlisted men. Equipment and weaponry were scarce and even complete uniforms were difficult to come by. Despite the loyalty and firm determination of the troops, morale began to sag. For many, their service was the first time they had been away from home. They were not accustomed to the total lack of privacy; and when they did manage to snag some well-deserved down time, there was nowhere to go and not much to do to occupy themselves. Word began circulating that the men needed books… books would lift the spirits and provide a much needed escape. First Lieutenant Raymond L. Trautman, chief of the Library Section of the U.S. Army, heard about the plea for books and he immediately mobilized librarians across the country.In response, the Victory Book Council was created and citizens and publishing houses were asked to donate hardcover books on any topics which might interest the servicemen. Amazingly, although millions of books were collected and distributed, the Victory Book Council learned that still MORE books were needed… AND there appeared to be a NEW problem. The donated hardcover books were too large and bulky to be carried easily by servicemen. A new council was quickly formed to deal with the problem. Started by the publicity director of G. P. Putnam's Sons and the managing editor of 'The New York Times', the Council on Books in Wartime was created in 1942. This collaboration combined the efforts of the publishing houses of the day to exclusively print special editions of carefully chosen titles.. called Armed Services Editions.. to send to the servicemen serving in both the European and Pacific Theaters. Great care was taken to print and distribute many of the books and authors that were specifically targeted by Hitler's Nazi regime for burning and banning . The war was viewed not only as a conflict between nations but as a conflict which threatened the very precious right to share and spread ideas. The war became thought of as a TOTAL war. And the titles so painstakingly chosen to send overseas became a weapon. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said…. "Books cannot be killed by fire. People die but books never die. . No man and no force can put thought in concentration camps forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons." These very special, small and lightweight paperback editions of over 1,200 titles were printed and sent to servicemen in Europe and the Pacific until the very last days of the war. I love both history AND books so this particular book enthralled me from the first page to the last! If you love history and books and you wish to read a truly uplifting book about World War II, I highly recommend this book by Molly Guptill Manning.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    "More books were given to the American armed services than Hitler destroyed.". That just about sums up the goals of the American government in creating and publishing the ASE, Armed Services Editions, for distribution to American servicemen in WWII. Remembered fondly by veterans, it provided free, small, easily transportable paperback books for servicemen to fit in their pockets to be read whenever they needed the escape books provided. For book lovers, this is an informative account of how read "More books were given to the American armed services than Hitler destroyed.". That just about sums up the goals of the American government in creating and publishing the ASE, Armed Services Editions, for distribution to American servicemen in WWII. Remembered fondly by veterans, it provided free, small, easily transportable paperback books for servicemen to fit in their pockets to be read whenever they needed the escape books provided. For book lovers, this is an informative account of how reading literally saved the sanity of hundreds of thousands of soldiers during the war.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I vividly remember the American Service Edition of W. H. Hudson's Green Mansions that was among my parents' books, with its distinctive shape--the width about double in size from the height, its double columns of type, and its floppy cover. I suspect that my father brought this book back from his Army service in World War II. A draftee from the Chicago slums, he exemplified the person for whom these books were distributed by the U.S. Army and Navy. Thrown together with draftees from places as r I vividly remember the American Service Edition of W. H. Hudson's Green Mansions that was among my parents' books, with its distinctive shape--the width about double in size from the height, its double columns of type, and its floppy cover. I suspect that my father brought this book back from his Army service in World War II. A draftee from the Chicago slums, he exemplified the person for whom these books were distributed by the U.S. Army and Navy. Thrown together with draftees from places as remote as rural Georgia and officers from Nashville's upper classes and sent to North Africa, Sicily, Germany, and the Netherlands, he found his war experiences terrifying, boring, and fascinating. Always a reader, his access to the surprisingly wide variety of newly-created paperbacks supplied by American librarians, publishers, and government officials must have stimulated and comforted him, as it appears to have done for many other soldiers. After five years of military service, my father returned home and took advantage of the G.I. Bill to go to college and earn a PhD in American Literature. Though he was married and working at the same time, he found going to school with other veterans, who were as serious about learning as he was, one of the most exciting periods of his life. His rise to middle-class status and his later career as a professor, novelist, and author of several scholarly books was directly linked to his military service, particularly to the G.I. Bill, and possibly even to the ASE paperbooks with which he had been supplied. This book is a paean to the far-sighted and broad-minded librarians, publishers, and government officials who wanted to supply soldiers with a solitary form of comfort and distraction on the battlefield, regardless of how remote that battlefield might be. In an era when conscription drew fairly democratically from all social classes in the U.S., the reading material given to the soldiers was similarly broad in scope and point of view. The G.I. Bill capitalized on those democratic impulses and made it possible for many people who could never before have afforded to go to college to join the middle class. Like so many other aspects of American democracy, this one seems very remote from today's world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    American librarians worked together in a campaign to collect books for the troops in World War II. The hardcover books were very appreciated in training camps and on transport ships. But the hardcover books were too heavy and awkward for the troops to carry in their packs. In 1943, the War Department and publishers joined together to make lightweight books that were small enough to fit into the soldiers' pockets. 1,200 different titles were published. They served as a distraction from the pain o American librarians worked together in a campaign to collect books for the troops in World War II. The hardcover books were very appreciated in training camps and on transport ships. But the hardcover books were too heavy and awkward for the troops to carry in their packs. In 1943, the War Department and publishers joined together to make lightweight books that were small enough to fit into the soldiers' pockets. 1,200 different titles were published. They served as a distraction from the pain of injuries, the tensions of war, and the boredom on transport ships. The book includes remarks from servicemen about the books they read. The most beloved book was Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which was printed twice. A list of all the lightweight books is in the back of this book, and it includes titles in many genres. There were a few parts of the book that were repetitious, but I found it interesting overall. Although it is a nonfiction book, it's a quick read. It seems like World War II history usually includes mentions of entertainment by the USO, and many good works by the Red Cross. But this was the first time I had read about the massive printing of books--120 million in all--to entertain and educate the troops. Printing a huge number of books was also an important statement that contrasted with the Nazi campaign of burning and censoring books in Germany. 3.5 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    This is just a fascinating topic to me. I had no idea the ASE Program existed during WWII. Certainly none of the manly men (think John Wayne) portraying servicemen in all the war movies I ever saw would ever be caught dead reading a book. And yet, we learn from this book that reading was ubiquitous in all theaters of war. Who knew? The introduction to this book was wonderful, and had me in tears, thinking I needed to re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The rest of the book I found to be, for the m This is just a fascinating topic to me. I had no idea the ASE Program existed during WWII. Certainly none of the manly men (think John Wayne) portraying servicemen in all the war movies I ever saw would ever be caught dead reading a book. And yet, we learn from this book that reading was ubiquitous in all theaters of war. Who knew? The introduction to this book was wonderful, and had me in tears, thinking I needed to re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The rest of the book I found to be, for the most part, a dry recitation of facts and figures. The only time the book came alive for me was when the author quoted from the many letters servicemen sent to the authors, trying to explain what the books meant to them.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    As a professed bibliophile I was intrigued when I learned of the publication of When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning. The concept of the book was fascinating and it seemed to me that the topic, the impact of reading on American military personnel during World War II has never been given much attention. Now, with Manning’s monograph we have a short history of the role of books during the Second World War ranging from Nazi book burnings, the ideological war between Nazism and Democracy, As a professed bibliophile I was intrigued when I learned of the publication of When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning. The concept of the book was fascinating and it seemed to me that the topic, the impact of reading on American military personnel during World War II has never been given much attention. Now, with Manning’s monograph we have a short history of the role of books during the Second World War ranging from Nazi book burnings, the ideological war between Nazism and Democracy, the diversion provided to American soldiers that allowed them to endure, and the impact on the publishing industry that led to the production of the mass market paperback. Manning has written a wonderful book as she integrates her theme in relation to the important events that took place during the war. According to Manning there was no escape from the fear of dying during World War II. Whether on land, sea, or in the air American GIs faced the likelihood that they or someone very close to them would not survive. Any diversion from the anxiety that soldiers faced on an everyday basis was welcomed. As Manning describes it, “the days were grinding, the stress was suffocating, and the dreams of home were often fleeting. Any distraction from the horrors of war was cherished. The men treasured mementos from home. Letters from loved ones were rare prizes. Card games, puzzles, music, and the occasional sports game helped pass the hours waiting for action or sleep to come. Yet mail could be frustratingly irregular—sometimes taking as long as four or five months to arrive—and games and the energy to play them could not always be mustered after a long day of training or fighting. To keep morale from sinking, there needed to be readily available entertainment to provide some relief from war.” (xiii-xiv) The answer that evolved was the creation of book editions designed for soldiers; portable and accessible for those in combat, rehabilitation, or other wartime situations. Manning begins her narrative with a Nazi book burning rally on May 10, 1933. The purpose of the rally organized by Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Public Enlightenment, Joseph Goebbles was “to ensure the purity of German literature” and rid Germany of ideas “antagonistic to German progress.” (2) The works of Sigmund Freud, Emile Ludwig, Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, among many others were tossed into the fire, no longer available to German students. Thousands of book burnings took place nationwide including major universities. It is estimated that the Nazis burned over 100 million books during their reign of terror. This set the stage for an aspect of the war that was apart from the battlefield as Hitler fought to eliminate democracy and free thought. The American Library Association (ALA) described Nazi actions against intellectual freedom as a “bibliocaust,” their weapon of choice was to encourage Americans to read, and once the United States became an active belligerent supply books to American soldiers. Manning reviews the history of how America organized the distribution of books to American soldiers. Beginning with conscription and the military training that followed the ALA and other organizations were created to gather and distribute books to American GIs. At first, the effort was based on collecting donations from the public at large, but when that was deemed inadequate; because of the increasing number of men in the military, the fact that hardcover books which had been the staple of the American publishing industry before the war were much too heavy to be taken into combat, also, the supply of books was being exhausted, and finally many books that were donated did not meet the needs of the troops. The Victory Book Campaign (VBC) which had been in charge of book donations turned to the American publishing industry to solve the problem as one company, Pocket Books had already begun publishing paperbacks. The magazine industry had developed miniature editions for servicemen and they were very successful, so why not the book industry. The key for infantry soldiers and those near the front was to travel as light as possible, and at the same time meet the needs of soldiers who craved reading to make the non-combat time go quickly. Manning provides details how the paperback volume evolved and how it caused a revolution in American publishing. Publishers joined together to create the “Armed Services Edition” (ASEs) of hundreds of titles under the auspices of the Council of Books in Wartime. Problems did develop in the production and distribution of these volumes but once these problems were solved millions of books came off the presses and were distributed overseas and to military facilities at home. One of the more interesting insights that Manning provides centers on unpopular books before the war that would emerge as best sellers later on. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn are cases in point. The impact of these books on soldiers was profound. Manning includes numerous letters written by GIs during the war extolling the virtues of the books they read, and the need they filled. GIs were interviewed after the war and expressed similar feelings. As men waited on Landing Craft in the English Channel for the D Day landing, many turned to books. A.J. Liebling, a war correspondent for New Yorker magazine wrote that one infantry man told him “these little books are a great thing. They take you away.” (99) Many soldiers developed a relationship with the authors they read. Katherine Anne Porter’s Short Stories touched the hearts of many soldiers and she received over 600 letters. Betty Smith, the author of A Tree grows in Brooklyn received 1500 letters a year and answered each one. As one private wrote, “Books are often the sole means of escape for GIs….I haven’t seen many a man who never before had the patience or inclination to read a book, pick up one of the Council’s and become absorbed and ask for more.” (111) In fact many soldiers would become lifelong readers because of their experiences during the war. Manning deftly captures the emotions that soldiers felt as they identified with the literature they read. It brought them home and gave them hope for the future, and helped them deal with the present. Manning must have scoured many sources to come up with the letters she integrates into the narrative and it provides tremendous insight for the reader into the minds of the soldiers who fought. The program to supply books did provoke some controversy, particularly as the 1944 Presidential election approached. Senator Robert Taft amended the Soldier Voting Act which created a partisan battle over the ballots that soldiers would use. Taft’s amendment, titled Article V stated no book could be sent to soldiers funded by government funds that “…contained[ed] political argument or political propaganda of any kind designed or calculated to affect the result of any election.” (136-7) The Council responsible for choosing titles and the War Department afraid to run afoul of the legislation trimmed the approved list and books such as Charles Beard’s The Republic, Catherine Drinker Bowen’s Yankee from Olympus, and E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat, along textbooks for military education courses were no longer available. The Council led the opposition arguing that books available in the United States now were not available overseas for American soldiers. Manning characterizes the conflict as nothing more than a Republican attempt to hold down Roosevelt’s vote since 69% of GIs polled said they would vote for a fourth term. Whether accurate or not Manning presents both sides of the argument, as Republicans were forced to amend the legislation, ostensibly overturning Article V. Once the war ended there was an obvious correlation between the success of the Council on Books in Wartime and postwar developments. Under the GI Bill of Rights veterans were allowed a free college education. Eventually 7.8 million veterans took advantage of this opportunity and many did so because of the reading habits they developed during the war. For those who were not avid readers before the war, the Victory Book Campaign was responsible for showing men they could thrive at book learning and studying after the war. “After all, if they could read and learn burrowed in a foxhole between shell bursts, surely they could handle a course of study in the classroom.” Further the American publishing industry continued publishing paperbacks revolutionizing the industry. Numerous publishers began producing paperbacks and sales went from 40 million in 1942 to 270 million in 1952, and by 1959 hardback sales were overtaken by those of paperbacks, changes directly related to the ASE’s of the war. (191) Molly Manning has examined a different aspect of World War II and its influence on post war America. Her thoughtful approach and reasoned analysis has produced a wonderful story that needed to be told. It is a reflection of American values and deserves to be read by a wide audience.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lee Anne

    A classic example of a book that would have made a great magazine article. I didn't know about the ASE editions of books printed for soldiers in WWII, and I would have been riveted if it had been short form reading. But Molly Guptill Manning gets so bogged down in recounting political maneuverings and brave librarians and censorship battles and so on that she sucks all the readability out of the story. Even the best part of the book, where she prints excerpts of the fan letters the soldiers wrot A classic example of a book that would have made a great magazine article. I didn't know about the ASE editions of books printed for soldiers in WWII, and I would have been riveted if it had been short form reading. But Molly Guptill Manning gets so bogged down in recounting political maneuverings and brave librarians and censorship battles and so on that she sucks all the readability out of the story. Even the best part of the book, where she prints excerpts of the fan letters the soldiers wrote to authors whose books they loved, gets repetitive after a while. I will say one good thing for this book: it led me to seek out a few titles of my own to read. But this is one book that wouldn't have entertained very many soldiers in the trenches. Too bad.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    "Dear Sirs: I want to say thanks a million for one of the best deals in the Army- your Armed Services Editions. When we get them they are as welcome as a letter from home. They are as popular as pin-up girls - especially over here where we just couldn't get books so easily, if it weren't for your editions. - Private W.R.W. and the Gang" (75) "One commanding colonel felt a duty to share how A Tree Grows in Brooklyn helped him and a group of his men keep their mental bearings while under attack...H "Dear Sirs: I want to say thanks a million for one of the best deals in the Army- your Armed Services Editions. When we get them they are as welcome as a letter from home. They are as popular as pin-up girls - especially over here where we just couldn't get books so easily, if it weren't for your editions. - Private W.R.W. and the Gang" (75) "One commanding colonel felt a duty to share how A Tree Grows in Brooklyn helped him and a group of his men keep their mental bearings while under attack...He explained that: not long ago I was down inspecting of of my batters in a pretty tough position and was in a gun pit when some Germans stared in on us with 88's...Anyway, I noticed one Gi reading in between bursts. I asked him what he was reading and he told us "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." He started to read us a portion about "giving the baby the gussie" - a part of the book - and we laugh like hell between bursts. It was sure funny...I was thinking about that book under pretty intense fire, he said; it was that interesting." (126-127) When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II is such a cherished and heartwarming piece of non-fiction about an important era in history that continues to provide little known but important facets of historical knowledge. It's uplifting when Molly Guptill Manning talks about American GI's fighting against the Nazi's and Japanese empire equipped with pocket sized books they cherished more than ice cream stands, lighters, and other desirables out in the field. Perhaps so unknown about WWII is just the impact books had on the war, a beautiful oasis of pleasure among the pains and heartaches of the various battlefields American soldiers trudged and fought through. GI's carried them everywhere, wounded soldiers read while bleeding out on Omaha Beach or while guarding captured Japanese planes, and it's almost to a point where the moral boost given by books helped turn the tides in the Allies favour. Betty Smith corresponded with many who wrote to her and sent signed pictures. An entire generation of American servicemen became the most well-read military in the world, paving the way for further education services where they excelled under the GI Bill. The Armed Service Editions of books launched the way for the desire of paperbacks and contributed to a wave of patriotism back home to help send books to support the troops. Quite a warm-warming and informative piece of non-fiction.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This was the most bookish book I've ever seen on World War II. And because of its extreme bookishness, it also managed to be the most heartwarming nonfiction book about that war I've read. (There just aren't a lot of heartwarming books about Nazis. Not sure why...) Anyway, the author set out to chronicle how books helped American soldiers serving overseas. Librarians organized massive donations of books to send to soldiers, but eventually the Armed Services started printing their own editions of This was the most bookish book I've ever seen on World War II. And because of its extreme bookishness, it also managed to be the most heartwarming nonfiction book about that war I've read. (There just aren't a lot of heartwarming books about Nazis. Not sure why...) Anyway, the author set out to chronicle how books helped American soldiers serving overseas. Librarians organized massive donations of books to send to soldiers, but eventually the Armed Services started printing their own editions of lightweight paperbacks (ASEs), which were read often and frequently shared. (According to the author, one of the most popular books was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which I read when I was a kid and am now excited to reread.) I listened to this on audio, and it was one inspiring story after another about how books helped the soldiers. Sure, there were upsetting references to the Nazis burning books, but overall this was a highly enjoyable story of the power of the written word. Preach on, sister. Favorite Quotes "If it had not been for the mountains of books that were sent to the training camps and overseas units during the war, many men may never have developed an interest in reading, studying, or returning to school." "Librarians felt duty-bound to try to stop Hitler from succeeding in his war of ideas against the United States. They had no intention of purging their shelves or watching their books burn, and they were not going to wait until war was declared to take action." "They weren’t just for entrainment and diversion. Books also served as the premier weapon in fighting Adolf Hitler’s 'war of ideas.' Nazi Germany sought control over people’s beliefs, not just their bodies and territory. From the 1933 state-sanctioned book burnings in Germany to the purging of libraries across Europe as nations were conquered by the Nazis, 'un-German' reading material was threatened with extinction. The scale of destruction was impressive. By V-E Day, it is estimated that Germany had destroyed over 100 million books in Europe." "It is no exaggeration to say that the ASEs helped create an entire new cohort of readers. The flip side of a new universe of readers, however, is that almost everyone thinks he can be a writer. Ironically, council publishers were soon besieged with book proposals as countless men expressed a desire to publish their war stories." "Under Roosevelt’s plan, higher education would be doled out irrespective of social class or wealth for the first time in American history. This democratization of education for veterans was a fitting conclusion to a war fought in the name of democracy and freedom."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War traces the various campaigns led by citizen groups, librarians, and the publishing industry during World War II to provide American service members with books for entertainment and education. In an effort to ease anxiety and loneliness/homesickness for service members, the facilitators of the Victory Book Campaign, and later the Council on Books in Wartime brought millions of books in the form of Armed Service Edition (ASEs). Over 1200 titles were publish Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War traces the various campaigns led by citizen groups, librarians, and the publishing industry during World War II to provide American service members with books for entertainment and education. In an effort to ease anxiety and loneliness/homesickness for service members, the facilitators of the Victory Book Campaign, and later the Council on Books in Wartime brought millions of books in the form of Armed Service Edition (ASEs). Over 1200 titles were published between 1943 and 1946 for distribution. Authors whose books were selected as ASEs were rewarded with a loyal readership of millions of men. Words spread quickly about the titles that were perennial favorites, even reaching the homefront. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which was written in 1925, was considered a failure during Fitzgerald's lifetime. But when this book was printed as an ASE in October 1945, it won the hearts of an army of men. Their praise reverberated back home, and The Great Gatsby was rescued from obscurity, and has since become an American literary classic. The ASEs were cherished and shared, with many stories of the book distribution lines at the camps/bases being longer than the food lines. In more remote outposts (specifically on the Pacific front on small islands) the books were the community builder: with only one or two books for the whole unit, the men would gather and read aloud to each other, or cut the books apart and round-robin the pages to read. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one of the top 5 most popular ASEs The program was a resounding success, and the ASEs proved to be so popular that many service members credited their later interest in education (with the GI Bill post-war) to the love of reading ASEs. The program also paved the way for the now-ubiquitous paperback editions of the publishing industry. The book begins and ends with important notes about fighting censorship: citing the massive book burnings in Nazi Germany and later desctruction of archives and libraries. The motto of the Council for Books in Wartime rings true today just as it did in the 1940s: "Books are weapons in the war of ideas." -- Book Riot 2017 Read Harder Challenge: "Book About Books"

  13. 4 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    While Nazis were burning books in Europe, Americans were trying to get more books distributed to the men fighting in the war. Their first efforts were a massive book drive, collecting about 10 million books to send to various training camps and overseas bases to support military libraries. But the hardcover books that were donated were too heavy for soldiers to carry into combat. So an unprecedented collaboration was born, including publishers, librarians and the military, and the Armed Service While Nazis were burning books in Europe, Americans were trying to get more books distributed to the men fighting in the war. Their first efforts were a massive book drive, collecting about 10 million books to send to various training camps and overseas bases to support military libraries. But the hardcover books that were donated were too heavy for soldiers to carry into combat. So an unprecedented collaboration was born, including publishers, librarians and the military, and the Armed Service Edition (ASE) was launched. The ASEs were printed on thinner paper with smaller type, and small enough to fit in a pocket. Soldiers and sailors were eager for this reading material and many wrote letters of thanks to authors, publishers and the council who ran the program. Manning does a wonderful job of including the history of the times and the challenges faced by the Council, including efforts to censor the books that would be included. I was completely fascinated and engaged from beginning to end. This was an episode of our history about which I had never heard. How I wish I had read this book when my father was still alive, so I could ask him about it; he spent 33 months in the Pacific, making landings from New Guinea to the Philippines and eventually helping with the clean-up in Hiroshima. He hardly ever talked about his experiences, and I know so little about what he went through.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shiloah

    This book was absolutely inspirational and incredibly informative. I am delighted at how much I learned and enjoyed my experience. I came away with so many more books to read. I also have a renewed appreciation for books, and for our librarians who helped campaign for books for our service members. I was impressed with the difference it made for the individual soldiers and their lives following combat. (Also thanks to the G.I. Bill) Books gave the service members the courage and confidence to go This book was absolutely inspirational and incredibly informative. I am delighted at how much I learned and enjoyed my experience. I came away with so many more books to read. I also have a renewed appreciation for books, and for our librarians who helped campaign for books for our service members. I was impressed with the difference it made for the individual soldiers and their lives following combat. (Also thanks to the G.I. Bill) Books gave the service members the courage and confidence to go to the University following the war. I loved that they shared with the English soldiers who weren’t as book wealthy as our American boys. Added insights I learned about the war were especially important to me as well. I have an interest in learning about the world wars. Finally, the censorship battle that ensued within our own country was as frustrating to learn about as interesting. Learning this strengthened my resolve to keep reading and encouraging all within my sphere of influence to read. The last line in the book was absolutely perfect. Our troops were given more books than the Nazi’s burned. How’s that for the war on ideas?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jim Cooper

    Fascinating and delightful. Manning gives a history of how American servicemen acquired, transported, consumed, and interacted with books during World War 2. She covers the failure of the national book drive (book drives never work because people always use them to clean out their houses of garbage - I know, I've been a part of them before), and the rise of the ASE - American Service Editions of popular books that were printed in a way that soldiers in two disparate theaters of war could easily t Fascinating and delightful. Manning gives a history of how American servicemen acquired, transported, consumed, and interacted with books during World War 2. She covers the failure of the national book drive (book drives never work because people always use them to clean out their houses of garbage - I know, I've been a part of them before), and the rise of the ASE - American Service Editions of popular books that were printed in a way that soldiers in two disparate theaters of war could easily travel with them and read them. The ASE changed history - it instituted the age of the paperback book, it turned a generation of servicemen into lifelong readers (and prepared them to excel in universities when they came home to take advantage of the GI Bill), and made instant classics out of two by-then forgotten books - The Great Gatsby and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Manning sets the story inside the context of what was happening with books in Europe - Nazis had banned and burned countless books by hundreds of authors. Those same books came back into Germany in 1945 in the pants pockets of American soldiers coming to conquer the Third Reich. One of the best parts of the book is the appendix at the end listing all the ASE titles - over 1,300 in all covering best-selling fiction, history, sports, current events, comedy, and biography.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Monty

    This book is a minor gem in portraying and describing a little-known but very important aspect of the Second World War. Most people are aware of the physical and psychological damage inflicted on the world by the Axis powers, but many probably are not aware of the cultural, literary and intellectual damage perpetrated by those barbaric and inhuman thugs. While the Nazis closed and sealed libraries in France, Holland and other Western European countries--they treated Eastern Europe far worse. The This book is a minor gem in portraying and describing a little-known but very important aspect of the Second World War. Most people are aware of the physical and psychological damage inflicted on the world by the Axis powers, but many probably are not aware of the cultural, literary and intellectual damage perpetrated by those barbaric and inhuman thugs. While the Nazis closed and sealed libraries in France, Holland and other Western European countries--they treated Eastern Europe far worse. They destroyed 375 archives, 422 museums, 531 Institutes, and 957 libraries. It is estimated that 50 per cent of the existing books in Poland and Czechoslovakia were destroyed by the Third Reich. An additional 55 million books were destroyed in the Soviet Union. The United States countered this "Bibliocaust" campaign with the National Defense Book Campaign (1939-1941) followed by the Victory Book Campaign in December 1941. Through volunteer efforts by individuals, libraries, and eventually publishers and booksellers--inexpensive wartime editions of novels and classics were put into the hands of millions of GI's, sailors and airmen. By 1944 inexpensive copies of American Servicemen's Editions (ASEs) were published in several languages for readers in occupied countries to enjoy. These books were nearly as popular as food, and gave soldiers necessary escape and entertainment from the drudgery and boredom which made up most of the time in military service. It provided civilians in occupied countries with something to read which was NOT Nazi propaganda. Almost every conceivable topic was covered in these diminutive little paperback books--and they were enjoyed by millions, with at least six readers per book (sometimes 20, until they fell apart). These books also led to the biggest revolution in book publishing in 150 years--the popular paperback. The American publishing industry had been very reluctant to print paperbacks in mass quantities due to the profits obtained from Hardbound copies. In addition, booksellers were not in a hurry to let drugstores and five and tens take over a chunk of their business. Wartime shortages and military supply and logistics realities forced them to reconsider. Pocket Books was launched in 1943 and every publisher soon jumped on the bandwagon. Molly Manning's work brings to light a fascinating part of WWII that needs to be told. Her book shows that while tens of millions of books can and may be destroyed--ideas cannot be destroyed. World War II was waged against mind control as much as against the physical enemy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Did I read the same book as other reviewers? I have to say, I'm really confused by the high praise this book is getting. It's a really interesting topic: the role books played for US soldiers in WWII. I don't think I've ever encountered this particular topic (there's propaganda, but that's more for people at home, rather than the soldiers themselves). I thought, a book about books? During a very dark time at home and for soldiers abroad? Sounds interesting!   Instead, it's an incredibly dry retell Did I read the same book as other reviewers? I have to say, I'm really confused by the high praise this book is getting. It's a really interesting topic: the role books played for US soldiers in WWII. I don't think I've ever encountered this particular topic (there's propaganda, but that's more for people at home, rather than the soldiers themselves). I thought, a book about books? During a very dark time at home and for soldiers abroad? Sounds interesting!   Instead, it's an incredibly dry retelling of the role books played for the men (unfortunately it was decided that women didn't need this service) who fought on the beaches, in the trenches, and at sea. What began as a book drive evolved into what we now know as mass market paperbacks: books that could easily fit into a soldier's pocket and could be read while they waited, before they went to sleep, when on a break, when traveling, during recuperation from injury, etc.   Some stories were incredibly touching: men who were gravely wounded passed waiting time for medics by reading, soldiers recuperating or homesick wrote to authors saying they had given the men a little piece of home and to thank them for writing these books, etc. It was really interesting to see how some soldiers actually established a rapport with some (post-war, one author saw an uptick of soldiers enrolling in his university class, another dedicated his PhD dissertation to another author, thanking her for inspiring him to read).   Unfortunately these really fascinating parts are stuck between extremely dry retelling of war history (and also making it very US-centric, which is part of the book's purpose, but also perhaps glosses over the uglier parts). The author's style just doesn't flow well for me, and even the book-focused sections sometimes needed me to really sit through it.   While I'm glad I read it, I'm also really glad I didn't buy it. Definitely library or borrow elsewhere. I think only WWII historians would really want it (I don't think hardcore book lovers or librarians would want it for their own personal collection unless they are also historians).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Furrawn

    I bought this book because I was curious about the premise... Instead, my worldview has changed because of reading this book. My undergrad degree is in English Literature. I think after reading this book, that if I was teaching an English class, the first two weeks would be devoted to the history and life of books. Yes, this book was that fascinating of a read. I'm utterly enchanted by how books were such an integral part of fighting Hitler. I learned a lot of things I didn't know about WWII. Re I bought this book because I was curious about the premise... Instead, my worldview has changed because of reading this book. My undergrad degree is in English Literature. I think after reading this book, that if I was teaching an English class, the first two weeks would be devoted to the history and life of books. Yes, this book was that fascinating of a read. I'm utterly enchanted by how books were such an integral part of fighting Hitler. I learned a lot of things I didn't know about WWII. Reading the book prompted me to pepper my great aunt with questions- she was eleven when the Pearl Harbor was bombed. I also have gone to ebay to search for a few ASEs to buy and read. The research must have been extensive to write this book. Yet, the words fall easily into the mind vivid and compelling. I wish there was a website for people to upload stories and photos of soldiers with their ASEs during WWII. For a bibliophile or a lover of a good story, this book is a must read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    This book made me laugh and cry, and really made me feel like I was living during WWII. It was that good. I had no idea that books played such an important role in the war, and this book did an excellent job of telling the story. Not all non-fiction books keep my attention, but this one did. It begins with the Berlin book burning and then shows how America's librarians and publishers fought back against this destruction of books by sending millions upon millions of popular books to the Americans This book made me laugh and cry, and really made me feel like I was living during WWII. It was that good. I had no idea that books played such an important role in the war, and this book did an excellent job of telling the story. Not all non-fiction books keep my attention, but this one did. It begins with the Berlin book burning and then shows how America's librarians and publishers fought back against this destruction of books by sending millions upon millions of popular books to the Americans serving in the armed forces. And I was amazed at how much these books meant to the men. There's a really great section of the book that explores what the servicemen, themselves, thought of the books. I loved reading their own words and seeing how they really felt about them. Some of these letters were so heartfelt that I teared up. The book ends with the GI Bill, and how millions of veterans went to college after the war after having read books for years while they served. All in all, this book was a fast read, I was sorry to put it down, and I think anyone who loves to read, or is interested in history, would really enjoy this book. My main complaint is that it ended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    A very readable, well researched book on a facet of World War II I knew little about. It made me think about the role of Hitler's propaganda in priming Germany, as well as Europe, for conflict. It covers the horrendous book burning of 1933 in Germany and the reaction of the press in America and other countries. It tells the story of how American servicemen treasured any reading material they could get their hands on and how the dissemination of Armed Services Edition books provided diversion, co A very readable, well researched book on a facet of World War II I knew little about. It made me think about the role of Hitler's propaganda in priming Germany, as well as Europe, for conflict. It covers the horrendous book burning of 1933 in Germany and the reaction of the press in America and other countries. It tells the story of how American servicemen treasured any reading material they could get their hands on and how the dissemination of Armed Services Edition books provided diversion, comfort, escapism and a taste for reading that may have led many GIs to take advantage of educational benefits of the GI Bill. It made me proud of my profession as a keeper of words and books. We are SO FORTUNATE to have access to ideas and the ability to read just about anything we want. Highly recommended!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lesa

    Frankly, Molly Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II can be a little dry at times. At the same time, I teared up over and over again. It's hard for a librarian to resist a book that's about, "The inspiring story of an army of librarians, 120 million special paperbacks, and the authors and books that lifted the spirits of our troops." According to Manning, when American "citizen soldiers" went to war, the war took a physical and psychological toll. T Frankly, Molly Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II can be a little dry at times. At the same time, I teared up over and over again. It's hard for a librarian to resist a book that's about, "The inspiring story of an army of librarians, 120 million special paperbacks, and the authors and books that lifted the spirits of our troops." According to Manning, when American "citizen soldiers" went to war, the war took a physical and psychological toll. This is the story of the movements in the U.S. to see that "America's fighting men were equipped with spirit and resolve to carry them through their battles." It was a movement carried out first by librarians, supported by the American Library Association, who saw that 18 million donated books went to the military. And, it was a movement by publishers of books, magazines and newspapers who joined together to revolutionize publishing to send paperbacks to the armed forces. The Council on Books in Wartime saw that over 123 million Armed Services Editions were printed, books that fit into breast and pants pockets. And, they were books that won over the hearts of American soldiers and sailors. Many Americans may have been against the country entering the war, but when German university students burned books, and libraries throughout Europe fell to the Nazis, Americans were outraged, writing letters to newspapers. "In Eastern Europe, the ERR burned a staggering 375 archives, 402 museums, 531 institutes and 957 libraries. It is estimated that the Nazis destroyed half of all books inCzechoslovakia and Poland, and fifty-five million tomes in Russia." Hitler attempted to destroy the written word in Europe, but American librarians fought back, urging Americans to read more. It led to a campaign to provide books to soldiers. Manning's book is an account of the books, the changes in publishing, and the reaction of the armed forces. It's those accounts that moved me. My father-in-law fought in the Pacific, in places such as New Guinea. As the book relates stories of the soldiers, desperate for entertainment and escape, I can see Harry, who talked about playing cards and playing baseball, who fought in terrible battles, but never told us those stories. And, to the very end, he read paperbacks, westerns and mysteries, the kinds of books sent to the servicemen via Armed Services Editions. Maybe the book is a little dry. It's history, with a list of all of the books in the Armed Services Editions. But, behind those lists and those facts are faces. Those books represent librarians and publishers who believed in the importance of books, servicemen who needed those books, and whose lives were often changed forever, and authors who received grateful notes from men all over the world. It's a story of American defiance in the face of book burning. When Books Went to War does include "The stories that helped us win World War II".

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marla

    As a book lover I found this book very interesting. Plus I'm fascinated with anything to do with World War II. It's a good audiobook, the narrator does a good job. As a book lover I found this book very interesting. Plus I'm fascinated with anything to do with World War II. It's a good audiobook, the narrator does a good job.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    If you love books like I do, then this is a book to make you love them even more. During WWII, training base services were nonexistent for drafted men. Services of any kind were nonexistent for men in the European or Pacific theatres. The solution - give them books as a way to escape the horrors of war for a little while, aid in improving their education to move up in rank, and to simply provide entertainment for what could be hours of boredom waiting for the next fight. Propaganda was also a fa If you love books like I do, then this is a book to make you love them even more. During WWII, training base services were nonexistent for drafted men. Services of any kind were nonexistent for men in the European or Pacific theatres. The solution - give them books as a way to escape the horrors of war for a little while, aid in improving their education to move up in rank, and to simply provide entertainment for what could be hours of boredom waiting for the next fight. Propaganda was also a factor as a counter to the Nazi book burnings. Manning chronicles the history of the book idea, book donation drives, and what eventually becomes the ASE - armed service editions (designed for weight and to fit in uniform pockets) of popular books, textbooks, and short story and poem collections. I found this story fascinating. It does read more like an extended research paper, at times, than a fluid story, but I was so interested in the subject I didn't care.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Els

    What an interesting book! Full review to come.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    I think the author accomplished everything she intended writing this book. It is a thorough look at the books that were sent to WWII soldiers overseas. It is an excellent book for anyone interested in the topic and also for high school students who want to learn about the war from another perspective. Hitler's policies in the late twenties paved the way for a climate where violence against Jews could exist. Hitler used psychological warfare against France and Britain before they ever entered the I think the author accomplished everything she intended writing this book. It is a thorough look at the books that were sent to WWII soldiers overseas. It is an excellent book for anyone interested in the topic and also for high school students who want to learn about the war from another perspective. Hitler's policies in the late twenties paved the way for a climate where violence against Jews could exist. Hitler used psychological warfare against France and Britain before they ever entered the war. The idea that Hitler's war machine would destroy the French army was place in the minds of all French citizens. Propaganda was everywhere. France would capitulate in six weeks. Hard to believe. Germany tried the same thing with America over the radio. But it did not have the same effect. When America went to war, publishers and citizen donators would give millions of books away. The Army basic field manual says, "In all phrases of administration, training, and operation make every effort to keep your men informed. Nothing irritates American soldiers so much as to be left in the dark regarding the reason for things." So all points of view were suggested to be sent out in the books. Roosevelt recommended a draft as necessary to the security of the country. Books were donated everywhere. The Greatest Generation has a reputation of self-sacrifice, but when rubber was slashed by 80%, men went out and bought tens of thousands of golf balls before they ran out. Women grabbed handfuls of girdles and other products. A quote from John Milton's Areopagitica was used by the heads of the book collectors. I remember that name well because it was the one I used to name my college intramural basketball team: Areopagitica. Other teams had names like Six-Packs. Free magazines were also sent over. Hardcover books had a weight problem, so paperback books underwent a transformation. They became Pocket Books. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was considered a failure when it was written in 1925. But in October of 1945, it became a hit with many soldiers and went on to become an American classic. I think it must have been that idea of going back and finding that old flame again and rekindling it. One of the biggest hits was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was quickly passed around after it was finished by one soldier. Republican Senator Taft of Ohio worried that "propaganda" would be spread in some of the books, especially before the 1944 election. He made an effort to suppress some books. Eventually, his supporters abandoned him, and the censorship movement ended. The harsh reality of V-E Day was that only a minority of soldiers who fought in Europe would be discharged. Most were sent to Japan. About 3.1 million of 3.5 million soldiers in Europe were sent to the Pacific. The remaining 400, 000 soldiers stayed in Europe as occupation forces. The same would later happen in Japan. As fighting grew closer to Japan, it became more intense. Japanese soldiers fought to the last man. The battle of Iwo Jima was called the bitterest battle in Marine history. There are few phrases more horrible than "hand-to-hand combat." These are the types of things that must be considered when thinking about dropping an atomic bomb. How could you tell soldiers to keep going on like that? The Pacific Islands changed. Now there were baseball diamonds and ice cream factories. The last book to be printed and sent to soldiers was Ernie Pyle's Home Country, a tribute to America's favorite war correspondent who was killed by a Japanese sniper in the Pacific. Many books helped with job training. The GI Bill was a great piece of legislation. Unfortunately, two groups of Americans were left out: women and African-Americans. I have five personal stories about books from the Vietnam War: 1. Going to basic training, I brought along a copy of Couples by John Updike. The sergeant in charge saw the book and made a big scene. He kept asking me if it were pornography. He read from the back cover and looked for interesting scenes before he finally gave up. 2. If I had to pick one book that seemed popular with a lot of soldiers at that time, it would be Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. But it was nowhere near like what was described with the WWII books. 3. Traveling to Vietnam, I packed the complete works of Shakespeare and many other books. My duffle bag weighed well over 100 pounds. I was a total sweat freak. Gross wet fatigues. For some reason, I didn't expect many libraries in Saigon. Then I used the bag as a bullet defender. I placed it beside me on a bus in such a way that it might catch a bullet and save my life. 4. We had free books, but it was nowhere near what was described in this book. I grabbed many of them. Not many other soldiers cared. 5. I also remember before the war being stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. I went to the base library and took out books by Henry Miller. The lack of censorship always impressed me, and gave me a feeling of patriotism.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    Holidays are always a great time for a feel-good book and this one is the story about "how the men of words shared the responsibility with the makers of guns and the users of them" to win World War II. Over the course of the war 1200 titles were printed for the service men in the US armed forces. Intended to help build morale and win the war of ideas, the program was universally popular. I was immediately fascinated when I came across this program while reading Maureen Corrigan's So We Read On: Holidays are always a great time for a feel-good book and this one is the story about "how the men of words shared the responsibility with the makers of guns and the users of them" to win World War II. Over the course of the war 1200 titles were printed for the service men in the US armed forces. Intended to help build morale and win the war of ideas, the program was universally popular. I was immediately fascinated when I came across this program while reading Maureen Corrigan's So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures and was thrilled to see an entire book devoted to the topic! Distributing books to the troops was way more than a logistical issue, it required a revolution in the publishing industry. In 1939 less than 200,000 books were printed in paperback but by 1943 that number had risen to over 40 million in one year. At the end of the war 120 million copies had been distributed. The Armed Services Editions brought together publishers, reviewers, librarians, authors, and generals all in the pursuit of putting books into the hands of GIs that could be read in any theater under any condition (think foxholes, submarines, tropics, and hospitals). The books were printed on paper and of such a size that they could fit in the back pocket of a pair of GI pants. Materials used in regular hardback book were rationed, so a new solution had to be found. The logistical effort to decide what to print, act of procuring the materials, actual printing, and distribution of the editions was sweeping and fascinating. Manning does a great job of juxtaposing the American effort to print all kinds of books with the Nazi's regime of book burning. Manning opens with a chilling account of the book burning in 1933. There she lets the story unfold about the Americans as they entered the war and the need for books. The War Department understood as did Althea Warren, the first American in charge of the initiative, that "some printed pages are medical plasters to extract pain, others are tourists' tickets out of boredom or loneliness to exhilarating adventures, still others are diplomas for promotion and drilling ideas into a quick-step." Books of all kinds were published both fiction and non-fiction and Manning included a list of all the books printed by month and year. The impacts were far and wide. Authors like Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) were inundated by fan mail from adoring troops. The letters from Smith and other authors were prized possessions often kept with letters and photos from home. Often the soldiers could confide in these authors the horrors of the war that they couldn't share with those they loved. From the proliferation of books available and the time to read them, readers were made, reading was rediscovered, and books were treasured and passed from GI to GI. The ramifications of the reading lasted longer than the war as many of these men became learners and went onto college under the GI bill.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Cole

    If you love books, you are going to love When Books Went to War. I knew absolutely nothing about Armed Services Editions before I picked up this book, and once I finished it, I knew that one day I would have to have one of these extraordinary books in my personal library-- and not just because my grandfather fought in the Pacific during World War II. I was not prepared for the emotional power this book held for me. As I read about a government that tried to plan for all eventualities, I was inspi If you love books, you are going to love When Books Went to War. I knew absolutely nothing about Armed Services Editions before I picked up this book, and once I finished it, I knew that one day I would have to have one of these extraordinary books in my personal library-- and not just because my grandfather fought in the Pacific during World War II. I was not prepared for the emotional power this book held for me. As I read about a government that tried to plan for all eventualities, I was inspired. Books were a major source of entertainment and enlightenment for soldiers, and much thought was put into the design of the books. Would they fit in a soldier's pockets? Would they fit into rucksacks? How well would they hold up to all sorts of wear and weather? What did the soldiers want to read? What was going to happen when all these soldiers came home? What sorts of jobs could they qualify for? The titles ran the gamut-- from jobs training to Westerns to steamy novels to classics-- and soldiers couldn't get enough. Publishers had to run to get more titles and many more copies ready to send out. Money was tight, and there was a paper shortage. Publishers cut where they could, including royalties to authors whose books were being printed. During the last print runs of these ASEs, authors were only earning one penny per copy-- and most waived their royalties altogether. The war and the men who were fighting it were of the utmost importance. Many of those fighting soldiers had never had a chance for a decent education. They devoured the ASEs like they were starving. Once the government adjusted the age limitations on the G.I. Bill, thousands upon thousands of these soldiers came home and went on to earn college educations. Manning pulls no punches in When Books Went to War. As loathsome as what the Nazis were doing in Europe, she does mention existing problems (such as racism) in the U.S. and how these problems affected soldiers, but that is not the focus of this book, and she made a wise decision to avoid that quagmire. She chose to keep the focus on the power and magic of the printed word. As inspiring as what the government and the publishing industry did, the real, sometimes gut-wrenching, power of When Books Went to War lies in actual heartfelt letters written by soldiers to the authors of the books they'd read, letters that almost every author answered (much to the shock and delight of the soldiers). If I have any complaint at all about this book, it's that Manning didn't include enough of those letters. I would love to read many, many more of them. As it is, Molly Guptill Manning's book is probably the very best book I've read all year. Even though I don't reread books as a rule, I could pick this one up and savor it all over again. I loved it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heather L

    During World War II, Germany destroyed more than one hundred million books between May 1933 through the end of the war through public book burnings and bombings. By contrast, the United States, through their Armed Services Editions, printed and distributed 120 million books to our service members, and also arranged to have bundles of popular magazines distributed to the troops in order to boost morale. This was a fascinating read about how the United States used books to combat Germany's "total During World War II, Germany destroyed more than one hundred million books between May 1933 through the end of the war through public book burnings and bombings. By contrast, the United States, through their Armed Services Editions, printed and distributed 120 million books to our service members, and also arranged to have bundles of popular magazines distributed to the troops in order to boost morale. This was a fascinating read about how the United States used books to combat Germany's "total war" (not only a physical war, but a war on freedom of the press and free thought), and how the GI Bill was born. The back of the book includes both a list of authors banned by the Germans -- which included Americans such as Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, and Helen Keller -- but also a complete listing of the books published by the Armed Services Editions. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves books.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ange

    I LOVED this book! As soon as I finished it I bought a copy for my Dad who devoured it and bought copies for his friends. I love to read and was just mesmerized by this history of books and war. There were moments in this book that brought tears to my eyes and moments that filled me with joy and awe. Reading this was a beautiful experience. All through reading this I kept thinking of my grandfathers, both of whom served in WWII. I wished I'd gotten the chance to ask them about their favorite ASE I LOVED this book! As soon as I finished it I bought a copy for my Dad who devoured it and bought copies for his friends. I love to read and was just mesmerized by this history of books and war. There were moments in this book that brought tears to my eyes and moments that filled me with joy and awe. Reading this was a beautiful experience. All through reading this I kept thinking of my grandfathers, both of whom served in WWII. I wished I'd gotten the chance to ask them about their favorite ASEs. I wish I could get my hands or at least eyes on an actual ASE! If you like books and history you will love this captivating history of books and WWII and how books shape us.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    While I'm not a fan of non-fiction as a general rule, the ones I do read, I tend to love. This is one of those books. When Books Went to War is about how the US came together to deliver paperback books to the military during World War II. It was fascinating to learn about the book productions and the joy they brought to the troops. This is a subject matter that not many people actually know about, and I found it very informative. ASEs paved the way to veteran education programs and changed the w While I'm not a fan of non-fiction as a general rule, the ones I do read, I tend to love. This is one of those books. When Books Went to War is about how the US came together to deliver paperback books to the military during World War II. It was fascinating to learn about the book productions and the joy they brought to the troops. This is a subject matter that not many people actually know about, and I found it very informative. ASEs paved the way to veteran education programs and changed the way book publishing works.

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