Robert Carse. There Go the Ships

Robert Carse. There Go the Ships. Armed Services Edition [A-5]. UVa.

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IMAGINE YOURSELF huddled in a muddy foxhole waiting for your lieutenant's order to leap out onto the battlefield. Or imagine how you might spend an evening aboard a troop ship knowing that you will invade the beaches of Normandy in the morning. Or simply imagine yourself in a foreign country thousands of miles from home, with few diversions and little recreational opportunity. What could you do to take your mind off the unpleasantness of war? Where would you find comfort?

How about in a book? When the United States entered World War II in December of 1941, the Armed Services needed to do everything in their power to mobilize millions of ordinary American civilians to become physically fit, mentally awake, and high-spirited soldiers and sailors. Maintaining morale among the troops became a primary objective, and military officials realized that books could be instrumental in the process.

Beginning in 1942, the covers of new American books began carrying various sorts of war messages, and national Victory Book Campaigns (VBC's) incorporated thousands of local library drives in which American civilians donated new and used books to the Armed Services. In numbers alone, the campaigns were impressive, and they gave civilians an easy way to feel they were contributing to the war effort. Publishers fed this sentiment by printing statements on books urging readers to send them to the army after they had finished reading them. Private organizations helped out, too. The Book-of-the-Month Club donated 1500 subscriptions to 130 libraries overseas, providing a small but much-needed number of popular bestsellers. In all, more than ten million hardbound books and about three million paperbound books were donated.

But in fact, the VBC project gave more sense of participation to civilians than it did books to the Armed Services. Only a small proportion of VBC donations were useable, and (in any event) hardbound books tended to be too bulky to carry around in a war zone. Wartime soldiers were too mobile to be able to take advantage of the selections in overseas libraries.

It began to dawn on everyone that paperbound editions of current books were what was needed. They were cheap, portable, took up less space, and could be consumed in use rather than borrowed and returned. Unfortunately, many of the paperbacks that did exist--and their numbers were relatively small before the Second World War--lacked broad popular appeal.

Margaret Irwin. Young Bess.

Margaret Irwin. Young Bess. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1945. BAP.

The dustjacket of this 1945 book identifies the buying of war bonds as a patriotic effort to help win the war.

John Steinbeck. The Moon is Down.

John Steinbeck. The Moon is Down. New York: Viking Press. 1942. BAP.

The message on this 1942 dustjacket advises the reader to send the book to the Armed Services after finishing it.



Mazo de la Roche. Jalna.

Mazo de la Roche. Jalna. New York: Pocket Books,Inc. 1945. BAP.

The back covers of these 1945 paperback Pocket Books carry instructions on how to send them off to war via the U.S. post, after their purchasers have finished reading them.


John Steinbeck. The Steinbeck Pocket Book.

John Steinbeck. The Steinbeck Pocket Book,ed. Pascal Covici. New York: Pocket Books. Inc. 1945. BAP.

Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Overseas Editions, Inc.

Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Overseas Editions, Inc, [ca. 1942]. UVa.

Overseas Editions were an early publishing venture of the Council on Books in Wartime, a non-profit American group made up of publishers, librarians, and booksellers. Its target was as much European civilians as it was Allied soldiers. Each paperbound Overseas Edition was printed in the same format, with a plain cover; they were smaller and lighter than most hardbound books.

Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Scribner's

Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. First edition/first state (dustjacket); later [1940] printing (text). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1940. BAP.

Robert Trumbull. The Raft: The True and Compelling Story of 34 Days at Sea on a Rubber Raft

Robert Trumbull. The Raft: The True and Compelling Story of 34 Days at Sea on a Rubber Raft. New York: Dell Publishing Company, Inc., 1942. BAP.

Dell War paperbacks featured popular titles that could be sent to Armed Services personnel, in the early days of the war. The page facing the title-page of this Dell War Book contains the following message: "BOOKS ARE WEAPONS--in a free democracy everyone may read what he likes. Books educate, inform, inspire; they also provide entertainment, bolster morale. This book has been manufactured in conformity with wartime restrictions-read it and pass it on. Our armed forces especially need books-you may give them to your nearest U.S.O. office, leave them at your public library, or send them direct to Commanding General, 4th Corps Army Headquarters, Atlanta, GA., marked 'For Army Libraries.'" Other paperback series contained similar statements.