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 andgathered 20 million hardcover donations.Read more...
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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 andgathered 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."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-12-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Supplying American soldiers with reading material has long been a modest priority, but nothing compares to the massive, WWII operation that sent over 140 million books to U.S. troops. Manning (The Myth of Ephraim Tutt), an attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals, begins this delightful history of a little-known aspect of the war in 1940, with America scrambling to build an army from scratch. Officers responsible for morale noticed that post libraries showed "circulation rates so staggering that it was a wonder the print had not been wiped clean from the pages." Grassroots campaigns produced an avalanche of donations, mostly hardcovers, appropriate for libraries but hopelessly bulky for a frontline soldier. In 1942, publishers put their heads together and Manning delivers an engrossing story of the result: a compact paperback designed to fit into a soldier's pocket. This legendary Armed Services Edition became "the most significant project in publishing history." Over 1,300 titles poured overseas to an enthusiastic reception, and "there was a book for every taste, whether a man preferred Sad Sack comics or Plato." The usual Congressional diehards aside, censorship was minimal. Manning's entertaining account will have readers nostalgic for that seemingly distant era when books were high priority. (Dec.)