Books by Barb and Becky - When Books Went to War, The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II

Barb Lewis


This is Barb Lewis and I just finished "When Books Went to War, The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II", by Molly Guptill Manning. This is a story that I'm sure many didn't know. I've read so much about this time period and had never heard this true story, the story about how books helped win the war!

It's common knowledge that Hitler banned so many books in Germany and then had over 100 million burned. What we discover is that when librarians in the United States learned this awful fact they started a campaign across the country to send free books to our troops. They received over 20 million! I was so amazed and proud to read this because I've been associated with libraries for many years and I know what a difference books can make in a person's life but... I didn't know THIS story!

When war was declared in 1940 so many young American men had to register for military service. A lot had never ventured far from family or friends. It was so very difficult for them to be so far from home in conditions that were depressing, demanding and harrowing. I thought of how now, all over the world, we can stay in touch but times were so different then. Letters were infrequent and morale was going down among many.

As the word went out about our soldiers the American Library Association (ALA) launched a huge book campaign. It was called The National Defense Book Campaign. Millions of books were sent out but many were too heavy or big for the soldiers to carry. In 1943 small light paperback books called Armed Services Editions started being produced from publishing companies that wanted to help. They easily slipped into pockets of our soldiers and it was stated that no uniform was complete without a book sticking out. The books reminded them of home and took their minds off all they were going through. Books helped them cope!

There are quotes from letters sent home saying what a difference books made to their lives. Many soldiers wrote to their favorite authors. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one of the most popular books and the author, Betty Smith, wrote back to many, which made them feel wonderful.

I loved this - free books to American soldiers around the world, easy to carry, providing entertainment and escape when needed.

Good against evil. The power of books in the war. Who knew? I sure didn't. I so wish I could talk to my dad about this. He was one of the country boys, from the hills of Tennessee, who convinced his mom to sign for him at 17, leaving the family farm and joining the Navy at the height of World War II. His love of books was deep and he passed that love to me. I sure wonder if it started in the trenches with a special book.