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AFRH Book Club on “When Books Went To War” Chapters 7-11

Dear Fellow Book Club Team!

I have saved my copious notes, in order to have them in hand when we resume our weekly Book Club meetings at your beautiful residence, The Armed Forces Retirement Home, Washington, D.C. Your first-hand experiences and knowledge about the content and story line in our book selection, "When Books Went To War," will be yet another classroom of learning for me. I thoroughly enjoyed Molly Guptill Manning's book. She expertly guided me through a topic that had such an impact on our country during WWII. I am adding this exceptional read to my on-going collection of "Glenna's Book Club," selections, and look forward to sharing it with friends and family!

Closing Comments for Chapter's 7-11

I would like to begin this writing by traveling full circle-back to the very beginning of "When Books Went To War." On pages 22 & 23 of Chapter 2, "$85 Worth of Clothes, But No Pajamas," the author Molly Guptill Manning wrote about the life of a soldier during WWII. She wrote that those who served our country ate together, slept together, took a shower with little privacy, etc.; they were always part of a crowd, they were never alone. Her words resonated with me throughout the entire book. They did so, because this is exactly why our country survived the squalls of WWII...because of the strength, because of the loyalty, and because of the devotion that our men and women in uniform had for one another. When I arrived to Chapter 9, "Germany's Surrender and the Godforsaken Islands," again I was reminded of the strength and perseverance of our WWII troops that had been written about throughout Manning's book. Germany officially surrendered on May 8, 1945, and on May 10, the Army announced that, of its 3.5 million men in Europe, 3.1 million were destined for the Pacific, and the remaining 400,000 would stay in Europe as reoccupation forces. Our soldiers remained strong, loyal, and devoted.

The one-month battle in June of 1944, of Saipan in the Pacific was the worst up to that point-over fifteen thousand Marines were wounded, killed, or were missing. In order to temper the stress of the battle and to provide an escape from the death that surrounded the men, a boatload of books was offered to the Marines and three days later a library was established. Author, Molly Guptill Manning shared stories and testimonials throughout her entire book much like those of the Battle of Saipan, and the books that were provided to the servicemen. Unimaginable circumstances for our soldiers, and remarkable services that the Armed Services Editions offered to them.

The Armed Services Edition faced other kinds of battles during its dedication and service to our troops. During the summer of 1944, the Council on Books in Wartime waged a battle of its own-against censorship. The censorship fight waged in 1944 was spurred by the congressional revision of the Soldier Voting Act. For those Republican politicians that were adamantly opposing a fourth term for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, an amendment to the 1944 Soldier Voting Bill known as Title V was being asserted. Robert A. Taft, Ohio senator headed up this amendment. This provision to Title V would prohibit the government from delivering any "magazine, newspaper, motion-picture, film, or other literature or material...paid in whole or in part with Government funds that contained political argument or political propaganda of any kind designed or calculated to affect the result of any federal election. If the act was violated, a person could be criminally charged and convicted. Punishment included a fine of up to $1,000, one year of imprisonment, or both. The War Department notified the Council that the Armed Services Edition would be affected. The Council was duty bound to wage their war for the repeal of Title V-they did not want to restrict the servicemen's freedom to read. The cooperation from the media to repeal Title V was extraordinary. Through many trials and tribulations the council's victory in the battle over Title V was one of the greatest achievements. By engaging the media to report the issue and inspiring Americans to exercise their freedom of speech to criticize an unreasonable law, the nation exhibited a true and honest example of democracy. In November, 1944 voters elected Roosevelt to a fourth term as president by a slim margin of approximately 3 million votes. An estimated 3.4 million votes were cast by absentee ballots under the mechanism provided by the Soldier Voting Act, and that may well have made the difference.

On August 14, 1945, Japan unconditionally surrendered, V-J Day had arrived. The Armed Services Edition finally came to an end in September 1947. And yet, the government had one more inspirational idea by which books would help veterans as they prepared to resume their civilian lives. To honor President Roosevelt's vision of a law that would provide each veteran with a sum of money that would tide them over as they searched for employment and readjusted to civilian life, the American Legion, a veterans' organization drafted the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944 that came to be known as the "GI Bill of Rights." The GI Bill promised servicemen and servicewomen in the Army and Navy access to counseling, disability, and unemployment benefits, low-interest loans for homes and businesses, and two years of college or job training. It was unanimously passed in the House and the Senate. And one more time, librarians rose to action! Just as librarians prepared and educated their patrons as the United States transitioned to a nation at war, librarians assisted the nation as it demobilized. They worked alongside the Veterans Administration and the Red Cross to help veterans learn more about the GI Bill of Rights.

Before WWII, Pocket Books and Penguin Books were the only companies experimenting with softcover business. Post-war, many publishing firms joined in on the production of paperbacks. Paperbacks were no longer quarantined to drugstores and five-and-dimes; they were sold everywhere, from traditional bookstores to newsstands, variety stores, tobacconists, and railroad stations. The servicemen would no longer have Armed Services Editions, but the booming paperback trade ensured they would have an endless supply of pocket-sized softcovers.

"When Books Went To War, The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II," is a remarkable and a detailed account of a time in the history of our country when all walks of life worked together to promote the well being of "America's Finest" and to further promote the written word. An extraordinary book!



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