By: Allyson Holliday, complex copy-cataloger
As we approach the 75th Anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War II, Hoole Library actively seeking to complete its collection of Armed Services Editions.
Editions for the Armed Services, Inc., was a non-profit organization established in 1943 by the Council on Books in Wartime. Its purpose was to publish and supply American troops with easily portable, pocket-sized paperback books. Any reminder of the comforts of home and entertainment were welcome distractions for World War II servicemen. Over 120 million of these inexpensive, light-weight paperbacks were distributed to troops everywhere – from the beaches at Normandy, the trenches in the Argonne forest, to warships at sea, and to the island jungles of the Pacific. The diversity of the more than 1,200 original titles chosen for printing meant that there was surely something to satisfy the interests of any given serviceman. From classic literature, to history, mysteries, Westerns, popular fiction, and even romance – authors and the publishing industry provided them all. For more on the history of Armed Services Editions, see Molly Guptill Manning’s When Books Went to War: the stories that helped us win World War II.
In 1983, for the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the ASE program at the Library of Congress, our library was noted “as having a set, received as duplicates from the Library of Congress, which lacked only sixteen titles.” At the time, the set was displayed in the special collections reading room in Gorgas Library, and then-Curator Joyce H. Lamont “reported that the books always draw comments from World War II veterans, who point out titles they read. Furthermore, many tell me they have copies of especially meaningful books at home.”
Today, only 5 titles are missing to complete The University of Alabama Division of Special Collections ASE collection. So, in honor of our nearly-complete collection, I’ve put together a list of my favorite selections!
Forever Amber is a historical novel written by Kathleen Winsor. Her husband served as a First Lieutenant in the Fourth Marines, Pacific Theater. Described as “bawdy” and “romantic” on the back cover, Forever Amber was thought so indecent that the city of Boston had it banned (Manning, 123). Considered trashy for its racy descriptions of a young woman and her exploits in London society, the publishing council at first balked at the notion of printing it for the armed services. However, as Americans were fighting to preserve freedom, the decision was made to provide “access to a diverse set of titles – even trashy ones” (Manning, 124). It was a best-seller on the home front and a very popular title amongst the soldiers as well.
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells is perhaps best known for its adaptation into a radio play whose broadcast frightened some unsuspecting listeners in 1938! It was also made into a movie starring Tom Cruise in 2005. This convincing tale of an Earth invasion by creatures from Mars is a stalwart of the science fiction genre.
Soldier Art is a complete pictorial record of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art from July-September, 1945. Featured in the text are prize winning works submitted by servicemen in the first National Army Arts Contest held in December, 1944. Captain Agnew Fisher’s photograph (Maxwell Field, Alabama) “Night Mission” appears at the top right. Also pictured is Sgt. C. D. Nelson, Jr.’s (Tuskegee AAF, Alabama) oil painting “Green Corn and White Roofs.”
I had to highlight a book with my surname in the title! Adventures of Hiram Holliday by Paul Gallico is an action-packed mystery novel of intrigue and international kidnapping. The main character, Hiram Holliday, saves a Habsburg princess from Nazi agents.
And finally, one of my favorite books and movies of all time, there’s The Ugly Dachshund by G. B. Stern. This hilarious book will delight any dog lovers. A Great Dane puppy is raised with dachshund puppies and hilarity ensues. Walt Disney Productions brought The Ugly Dachshund to the silver screen in 1966. Starring Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, the movie is a perfect light-hearted comedy!