I enjoyed Manning’s book: When Books Went To War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II. It was a heart-warming story of learning to love reading- a love I have myself.
It turns out soldiers love books. Most of the time they’re bored out of their skull and books were a great way to pass the time. But they also had a ‘therapeutic’ use. It turns out when you’re getting shelled, it keeps your mind off of dying. If you do get wounded, they mentally help you heal.. What seemed like a small thing: getting books into the hands of soldiers turned out to pay huge benefits.The idea, partially propaganda, was a response to Nazi book burning. The Germans were burning millions of books and thinning libraries throughout Europe. But once the US Army and Navy started shipping books to their soldiers they found they couldn’t keep up with demand. They were like very long letters from home; more important than cigarettes or booze! The government with help from state-side libraries started book drives, but due to the overwhelming demand, and the unsuitability of hardcover books in combat locations, the War Department (with help from the publishers) developed the American Services Editions (ASE) paperback. There were few paperback books before the war, but thanks to the success of the ASE, paperback book publishing exploded after the war. Suddenly millions of men who had never had much interest in reading, did. Reading also played a role in inspiring returning veterans to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and attend college. Many of the 1,200 paperback book titles were Non-fiction and technical. Manning reprints some letters the G.I.’s sent to the publishers and authors: they are quite moving. I recommend this book to anyone who loves books, or is interested in a little known aspect of World War II.