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Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II

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Only weeks after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, a surprising cargo--crates of books--joined the flood of troop reinforcements, weapons and ammunition, food, and medicine onto Normandy beaches. The books were destined for French bookshops, to be followed by millions more American books (in translation but also in English) ultimately distributed throughout Europe and th Only weeks after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, a surprising cargo--crates of books--joined the flood of troop reinforcements, weapons and ammunition, food, and medicine onto Normandy beaches. The books were destined for French bookshops, to be followed by millions more American books (in translation but also in English) ultimately distributed throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The British were doing similar work, which was uneasily coordinated with that of the Americans within the Psychological Warfare Division of General Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, under General Eisenhower's command. Books As Weapons tells the little-known story of the vital partnership between American book publishers and the U.S. government to put carefully selected recent books highlighting American history and values into the hands of civilians liberated from Axis forces. The government desired to use books to help "disintoxicate" the minds of these people from the Nazi and Japanese propaganda and censorship machines and to win their friendship. This objective dovetailed perfectly with U.S. publishers' ambitions to find new profits in international markets, which had been dominated by Britain, France, and Germany before their book trades were devastated by the war. Key figures on both the trade and government sides of the program considered books "the most enduring propaganda of all" and thus effective "weapons in the war of ideas," both during the war and afterward, when the Soviet Union flexed its military might and demonstrated its propaganda savvy. Seldom have books been charged with greater responsibility or imbued with more significance. John B. Hench leavens this fully international account of the programs with fascinating vignettes set in the war rooms of Washington and London, publishers' offices throughout the world, and the jeeps in which information officers drove over bomb-rutted roads to bring the books to people who were hungering for them. Books as Weapons provides context for continuing debates about the relationship between government and private enterprise and the image of the United States abroad.


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Only weeks after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, a surprising cargo--crates of books--joined the flood of troop reinforcements, weapons and ammunition, food, and medicine onto Normandy beaches. The books were destined for French bookshops, to be followed by millions more American books (in translation but also in English) ultimately distributed throughout Europe and th Only weeks after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, a surprising cargo--crates of books--joined the flood of troop reinforcements, weapons and ammunition, food, and medicine onto Normandy beaches. The books were destined for French bookshops, to be followed by millions more American books (in translation but also in English) ultimately distributed throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The British were doing similar work, which was uneasily coordinated with that of the Americans within the Psychological Warfare Division of General Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, under General Eisenhower's command. Books As Weapons tells the little-known story of the vital partnership between American book publishers and the U.S. government to put carefully selected recent books highlighting American history and values into the hands of civilians liberated from Axis forces. The government desired to use books to help "disintoxicate" the minds of these people from the Nazi and Japanese propaganda and censorship machines and to win their friendship. This objective dovetailed perfectly with U.S. publishers' ambitions to find new profits in international markets, which had been dominated by Britain, France, and Germany before their book trades were devastated by the war. Key figures on both the trade and government sides of the program considered books "the most enduring propaganda of all" and thus effective "weapons in the war of ideas," both during the war and afterward, when the Soviet Union flexed its military might and demonstrated its propaganda savvy. Seldom have books been charged with greater responsibility or imbued with more significance. John B. Hench leavens this fully international account of the programs with fascinating vignettes set in the war rooms of Washington and London, publishers' offices throughout the world, and the jeeps in which information officers drove over bomb-rutted roads to bring the books to people who were hungering for them. Books as Weapons provides context for continuing debates about the relationship between government and private enterprise and the image of the United States abroad.

36 review for Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II

  1. 5 out of 5

    Boston Book Bums

    No fluffy book that finds cute facts to assemble a vibrant picture, Hench’s Books As Weapons uses a researchers eye to create possibly the most complete work on the collision of book and martial culture.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Great discussion of the U.S. government's politicization of books and reading during WWII. Fascinating stuff and oh-so-useful to my research. A very readable history and scholarly book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane Lochner

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bob3785

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kges1901

  6. 5 out of 5

    Frank Moore

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Brozyna

  8. 5 out of 5

    Yleana Santos

  9. 5 out of 5

    Inknscroll

  10. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Swan

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dominique Zuniga

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Stirrat

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dana Pavlychko

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shanshad Whelan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anners

  16. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rocky

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanu

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sally Fouhse

  22. 4 out of 5

    Torie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  24. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  28. 4 out of 5

    Goldie Poll

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paige

  30. 4 out of 5

    Annette

  31. 4 out of 5

    Monica

  32. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  33. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  34. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Phillips

  35. 5 out of 5

    Book Club of One

  36. 4 out of 5

    Mary

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