Veterans Day in the United States honors everyone who served in the U.S. military. Since Veterans Day is coming up on November 11, I'm reading Molly Guptill Manning’s nonfiction book, When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II.
Americans were hesitant—and sometimes outright opposed—to enter the war in Europe. After all, a mere eighteen years had passed from the armistice of the Great War in 1918 to the invasion of Poland in 1939.
Hitler’s military rampage across eastern and western Europe eliminated any doubts that Americans might have had regarding Nazi goals to obliterate not only armed forces, but also free thought, democracies, and the cultures in which they thrived. After France fell in June 1940, the U.S. Congress passed, in September 1940, the Selective Training and Service Act: the first peacetime draft in U.S. history. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Act into law on September 16. Barely fifteen months later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
In 1939, the U.S. armed forces consisted of outdated equipment, scant supplies, and approximately 334,000 volunteers. From 1941 to 1945, the armed forces grew rapidly from approximately 1.8 million to over 12 million men and women in uniform. Throughout the war, books played a critical role in building morale and winning the battle for ideas.
Current-day readers like you and me can enjoy the engrossing story of that role in Manning's 2014 book, When Books Went to War. You'll learn why and how Americans made fiction and nonfiction books accessible to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (November 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA.