The Books That Went to War

Posted by Aaron on

It is widely know that Americans did their part during World War II with Victory Gardens, cutting back on goods and services and donating books. But did you know that during World War II the U. S. Government, librarians and book publishers sent millions of books to our service members fighting over seas? Service members were often faced with long periods of waiting around, and reading was (and still is) a good use of time.

A Few Things to Note


  • More than 100 million books were banned and burned during 1941 (in Germany) Ernest Hemingway, Emile Zola and Helen Keller were among the thousands of banned authors.
  • The American Library Association (ALA) helped launch the National  Book Defense Campaign.
  • In 1921 the War Department created an Army Library Service to maintain 228 Army libraries.
  • The Victory Book Campaign replaced the name of the National Book Defense Campaign.
  • President Roosevelt and the First Lady often donated books publicly. With their support the Victory Book Campaign officially began on January 12, 1942.
  • In 1943, 120 million small and lightweight (to keep the weight down in soldiers packs) paperbacks were published. They are known as the Armed Services Editions.
  • 17,000,000 books were collected and 10,999,000 distributed.
  • The Victory Book Campaign closed down on December 31, 1943.  The War and Navy Departments resumed the duties of providing books to service members. when books went to war

More About Books That Went to War

You can learn more about the books that went to war at your local library. Molly Guptioll Manning’s When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II, provides a history lesson of the Victory Book Campaign. Books like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith are a sampling of what was sent overseas. Manning’s book gives a complete list of the Armed Services Editions.

Stop by the Warrenton central library where some of the Victory Book Campaign titles will be on display and available for checkout: March 16 – April 1.

Jody, adult reference librarian, Warrenton central library

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