Lovely article from Smithsonian magazine about the critical role books wound up playing throughout World War II and going on into the veterans’ lives afterward. With thanks being given to The Victory Book Campaign and its being highlighted recently by Molly Guptill Manning in her new book When Books Went to War.
Read the entire article at the link below and enjoy an excerpt explaining how the soldiers viewed the books they received while away at war.
For the soldiers themselves, the books were more practical than symbolic. Homesick, bored and anxious, the young men seized on any reading material they could find to pass the time, and their letters vividly express the importance of the books (one private reports that “they are as popular as pin-up girls.”) The huge reach of the Armed Services Editions (print runs began at 50,000 and grew from there) could turn a popular book into an instant classic. Betty Smith’s 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—a coming-of-age story set among a poor but loving immigrant community in New York—resonated so deeply with the soldiers, who recognized its world as their own, that several were moved to write to the author. “A surge of confidence has swept through me and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all,” one battle-scarred young Marine told Smith.