The Army marches on it’s stomach. The Navy provides 3 hots and a cot. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the physiological needs of food and shelter are the most basic needs. Would reading be a safety, love-longing, esteem or self-actualization need? The level of need may depend upon the reader and his/her circumstances.
Many Americans had a visceral reaction to the Nazi book burnings beginning in 1933. By 1938, millions of books had been burned in Germany. Franklin Roosevelt famously said that “Books can not be killed by fire. People die, but books never die.
According to Wikipedia, ” Armed Services Editions (ASEs) were small, compact, paperback books printed by the Council on Books in Wartime for distribution within the American military during World War II. This program was in effect from 1943 to 1946. The ASEs were designed to provide entertainment to soldiers serving overseas, while also educating them about political, historical, and military issues. The slogan of the Council on Books in Wartime was, “Books are weapons in the war of ideas.”
Historynet shares that before the Armed Service Editions were created, American citizens donated books to the troops. ALA’s Victory Book Campaign “to benefit the army and merchant marine—were wildly successful. Civilians contributed books of every genre, shape, and size; by January 1942, 25,000 books had been donated in New York City alone.”
But, as Lieutenant Colonel Ray L. Trautman, head of the Army Library Service, found, the efficient delivery of those volumes across the globe was another challenge entirely. … Trautman tried a “book kit” program, shipping crates of reference books, paperbacks, and hardbacks to camps overseas, but the same issues surfaced. Trautman was at a loss. He needed books that were light, uniformly sized, and portable—books that, ideally, would cater to every taste: mysteries, westerns, bestsellers. They didn’t exist; he would have to create them. But how?
According to the Library of Congress Blog from September 30, 2015, Books in Action: The Armed Service Editions by Erin Allen:
In 1942, U.S. Army librarian Ray Trautman and Army graphic arts specialist H. Stahley Thompson approached a publisher with their idea to distribute inexpensive paperback editions overseas. They enlisted support from the Council on Books in Wartime, a nonprofit coalition of trade publishers, booksellers and librarians who viewed books as “weapons in the war of ideas.” The council turned a good idea from the U.S. Army into an efficient cooperative enterprise that involved the Army, the Navy, the War Production Board and more than 70 publishing firms.
Designed to appeal to a wide variety of reading tastes, the Armed Services Editions included best sellers, classics, mysteries and poetry. A total of 1,324 titles were published in the series. The Library of Congress holds one of only a few complete sets that survive today.
Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) has a PDF of John Cole’s Books in Action, printed as part of the 40th anniversary of the ASE in 1983. The PDF includes an introduction by John Cole who wrote the original Books in Action, the “Armed Services Editions in Publishing History by Michael Hackenberg, “Recollections of an ASE Collector” by Matthew Bruccoli and other relevant essays.
Have you ever seen an Armed Services Edition? Have you ever read one of its titles without realizing that it might have been an ASE? Join in the conversation and share your stories about ASEs or their titles. Did you know that the military services have libraries and provide book kits to troops in war zones, on ships, Marines at embassies around the world?