Whether it's a conversation with a friend, a word that is penned, or a craft that is made, everything we do leaves a stitch in the fabric of time. Join us as we investigate the stitches of the past and present...
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: ... a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7).
In 1940, the U.S. began to mobilize large numbers of armed
forces. Officials knew from their experience during WWI that a good way to
improve morale was to make reading material, especially books, available to the
troops. With assistance from librarians around the country, the military
initiated the National Defense Book Campaign. (Eventually renamed the Victory
The good news? There was an overwhelming response.
Thousands upon thousands of books were brought to collection centers. Thousands
of people banded together to plan, publicize, sort, store and distribute the
books. Financial support also poured in.
The bad news? The quantity of the donated materials
outweighed the quality. Nearly half of the more than ten million books contributed
were discarded as unacceptable because of poor, unreadable condition or inappropriate
Other drawbacks to the Victory Book Campaign included inefficiencies
in the process, the slowing down of donations, and the weight and size of the
books that made them expensive to ship and heavy for the men to carry. In late 1942,
the Army’s Special Services Division stepped in to remedy the situation by working
in partnership with the Council on Books in Wartime, a non-governmental,
non-profit organization comprised of booksellers, publishers, librarians,
authors and others. The Council was formed to contribute “to the war effort of
the United Peoples” and viewed books as “weapons in the war of ideas.”
During the spring of
1943, the Council launched the effort for which it would become best known, the
Armed Services Edition. These small books were specifically produced to fit
into a cargo pocket of a uniform making them convenient for soldiers.
ASEs were incredibly
popular and included fiction (contemporary and classics) and nonfiction
(biographies, religious, science and self-help) titles. They were shared,
re-read and ripped into sections so they could accommodate two or more readers
at the same time. Two of the more sought after titles were Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Rosemary
Taylor’s Chicken Every Sunday. Years
later, many soldiers said that ASES were the first books they had picked up
since high school. Others indicated the ASEs gave them the confidence to enter
college after the war.
By the time the
program ended in 1947, it had printed 122,951,031 copies of 1,322 books-more
than ten times the number of books destroyed by the Nazis.
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A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda
Matchett also writes historical fiction. She is currently seeking a publisher
for her series about war correspondent Ruth Brown. Visit her at www.lindashentonmatchett.com