Dear Fellow Book Club Members,
While reading "When Books Went To War," written by Molly Guptill Manning, I was reminded of some quotes that I would share with students of all ages throughout my years as a a career public school teacher. To name just a few, "Books Can Take You To Places You Never Believed Possible," and "The Written Word Is A Powerful Tool." I am so very glad that we are reading this particular book together. It is inspirational, optimistic, and compelling all at the same time! I look forward to hearing from you and learning your thoughts on this impeccably researched book!
Sending positive vibes your way, and to all of the residents at AFRH...especially our beloved Book Club! I have read the first six chapters of "When Books Went To War," and the following are my thoughts.....
**Reading, and discussing books written about WWII, and listening to first-hand testaments from the members of our very own Book Club, prepared me for understanding and learning even more about the times beginning on December 7, 1941 thru August 15, 1945. Author, Molly Guptill Manning, has introduced me to yet another set of circumstances that prevailed during WWII in her book, "When Books Went To War."
As a "springboard" to writing my comments for Chapters 1-6 of "When Books Went To War," I would like to make reference to the author's words found on pages 45 & 46-I believe it encompasses the story line that is threaded throughout this entire book. Author, Molly Guptill Manning begins telling a story of a soldier, Charles Bolte who was wounded in Africa, hospitalized, and distressed over his future as he faced the amputation of his leg. A comrade walked up to Bolte's bed waving a copy of Ernest Heminway's "The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories," which he had found in the hospital library. Bolte found comfort in a story about a hero who discovered that crying relieved the pain in his broken leg. Until then, Bolte had never dared cry. He did, and it helped. Charles Bolte endured multiple amputation surgeries and he turned to reading throughout his hospitalization and credited books with helping him mend and move forward. Tens of thousands of men would share Bolte's experience over the course of the war, finding in books the strength they needed to endure the physical wounds inflicted on the battlefield, and the power to heal their emotional and psychological scars as well. From books, soldiers extracted courage, hope, determination, a sense of selfhood, and other qualities to fill voids created by the war.
From the very onset of her book, Manning reveals to her readers and sets the tone of the troubling times that are brewing in Germany. The May 10, 1933 the "book burning" that took place in Berlin, Germany alerted the world to what could possibly lie ahead for the lives of so many. Her detailed account of Hitler's rise to power was both informative and to the point. As many times as I have read accounts of World War II, it's never easy nor simple to digest the horrific circumstances that occurred for the beginning of it all, on September 1, 1939, when Germany declared war on Poland. Hitler sought to destroy not only armies, but also democracy and free thought. His brand of combat was pegged "total war."
Enter, America's librarians. Towering piles of books would rise in libraries, department stores, schools, and movie theaters-not for burning, but for donation to American servicemen. This was the beginning of something so remarkable. Remarkable in that the likes of individuals such as, Raymond L. Trautman(a thirty-four-year-old reserve first lieutenant, selected to become the chief of the Library Section of the United States Army in the late 1940's), Althea Warren(considered #1 in the field of Women Librarians) was chosen to run the ALA's National Defense Book Campaign, Marie Loizeaux(publicity director for the New York Library Association) became the publicity director for the National Defense Book Campaign, President Roosevelt and the First Lady who were instrumental in renaming the NDBC to the Victory Book Campaign(VBC) to reflect the nation's entry into WWII, an organization that called itself the Council on Books in Wartime, and the multiple publishing houses that worked with The Armed Forces to put books into the hands of our servicemen who were selflessly serving our country all around the world. All of these individuals and so many more, tirelessly worked together-worked out the many kinks to support the the wartime slogan: "Books are weapons in the war of ideas."
ARMED FORCES RETIREMENT HOME VETERANS’ RESPONSES:
From Christine Baldwin (Librarian, AFRH): An interesting start to this tale with the unprecedented burning of “un-German” books that started on May 10, 1933. It was good, I suppose, that they created a “Library of Banned Books”, so that something could be saved. The American Library Association’s (ALA) solution was to encourage Americans to read more. It was difficult for civilians training to be soldiers to adjust, so it was acknowledged that books, magazines and libraries should be added into the military. So with the USO and Red Cross, book drives were done. But as we even see today, not all donations are appropriate or in good condition to give to someone else to read. So a Victory Book Campaign began in Jan 1942 and by April of that year, 6.6 million books were donated to the cause. This commitment, along with all the other sacrifices and rationing that was going on, speaks volumes of the caliber of Americans back then. So then we go to the wonderful Pocket Books that we still use today. Yes they were smaller and the paper wasn’t the best quality, but they could be made cheaply and in large quantities. And with the ‘War Book Panel’ picking books, many soldiers could have inspirational reads. I love the part about the reissuing of the 1925 book The Great Gatsby making it a classic that we still read today. The author certainly has researched this book and the topic, though esoteric, is another part of WW2. I was told recently that we don’t need any more books on WW2. I disagreed because new angles and information are always being revealed. We’ll finish this book for next Wednesday and I’ll hand out our next read: Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre.