DuBose Heyward. Star Spangled Virgin

What Would Freud Say?

NONE OF THE ASE's had subject content that was particularly titillating, but this constraint did not stop servicemen from grabbing promising-sounding titles. Commenting on the reception of ASE's in 1945, David G. Wittels reported: "The women-starved fighting men clamor for books with sex situations. Such books so far have not been given them unless the volumes have other virtues. They grab [these books] often with disappointing results.... One soldier wrote that books with 'racy' passages were as 'popular as pinup girls.' But even the search for ribald passages tends to cause a taste for reading books to sneak up on men not previously interested."

Wittel's observations remind us that sharpening literary comprehension was not a top priority for most Gl's. For many of them, the ASE's were simply a way to pass the time. Others were too preoccupied with wartime activities to pursue reading at all.




DuBose Heyward. Star Spangled Virgin

DuBose Heyward. Star Spangled Virgin. Armed Services Edition [C-74]. UVa

The locale of this ASE novel, with its promising but possibly misleading title, is the Virgin Islands.



Thorne Smith. The Passionate Witch

Thorne Smith. The Passionate Witch. Armed Services Edition [953]. UVa

"The oddly sophisticated works of Thorne Smith, particularly the one intriguingly entitled The Passionate Witch, are well-nigh fought over," reported Wittels.

Kenneth Roberts. The Lively Lady

Kenneth Roberts. The Lively Lady. Armed Services Edition [Q-29]. UVa

Other titles that fooled Armed Services personnel into thinking the Contents were racy included Kenneth Roberts's The Lively Lady (a historical novel about the activities of the ship of that name in the War of 1812): and James Thurber and E.B. White's Is Sex Necessary? (a collection of humorous essays).

James Thurber and E.B. White.  Is Sex Necessary?

James Thurber and E.B. White. Is Sex Necessary? Armed Services Edition [M-2]. UVa

William H. Rehnquist. Letter to Daniel J. Miller, 2 January 1996

William H. Rehnquist. Letter to Daniel J. Miller, 2 January 1996

Though Chief Justice Rehnquist fought in World War II, he does not remember the ASE's. In a letter to the curator of this exhibition, he explained that during the war men his age had more pressing concerns than reading.

Irving Stone. Lust for Life.

Irving Stone. Lust for Life. Armed Services Edition [L-29]. UVa

Irving Stone's 1982 letter to John Y. Cole recounts the praises he received from servicemen who read Lust for Life and found the Contents even more engaging than the title. The popularity of the stormier ASE titles like Lust for Life (a biography of the painter Vincent Van Gogh) provides a insight into the psychological behavior of servicemen far away from home.