Books for Grunts

There’s a great post on the Art of Manliness blog this week about the history of the Armed Services Editions of books that were produced in the 1940s. Special editions of everything from the “Adventures of Superman” to classic novels like Moby Dick to philosophical works like Plato’s Republic were produced in huge quantities and distributed to American G.I.s fighting overseas in World War II. This was the largest book giveaway in the history of the world.

The article states that the ASE program was discontinued in 1947. Does anyone know whether the armed forces do anything today to provide soldiers with quality reading material? I’m really curious. Regardless, this is an extremely interesting article; please give it a look.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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4 Responses to Books for Grunts

  1. Garret Myhan says:

    While not funded by the government, there is a great private organization that I routinely contribute to called E-Books for Troops. They use donations to purchase Kindle e-book readers to send to US service members overseas, mainly in Iraq & Afghanistan. They also accept donations of gently used Kindles. As a former US Army soldier, I know the importance of having something worthwhile to read during the long, empty hours that can pervade military life. E-Books for Troops can be found at

    Incidentally, Len Edgerly, one of the founders of E-Books for Troops, produces a podcast called The Kindle Chronicles, which is a great resource if you are interested in electronic media.

    • Dr. J says:

      I’ve heard of soldiers carrying e-readers on deployment. It’s great that someone out there is working to get them something to go on those readers.

  2. Piney Woods says:

    As a deployed soldier in Iraq circa 2004, we had lots of books provided in care packages. Standard pop culture fare, however. And chaplains are great at having lots of free Bibles and various devotionals and study guides to hand out.

    However, our operational tempo was such that we really didn’t have a lot of time to read.

  3. Sig says:

    The Morale-Welfare-Recreation facilities could usually be counted on for random collections of popular fiction, and occasionally more weighty tomes. I found, among other treasures, a work on the Stalinist purges (The Great Terror: A Reassessment by Robert Conquest) just hiding there among the Dean Koontz novels. These are largely contributions from the service members themselves, however; I don’t know whether there’s any official program to replenish them.

    My mother would buy multiple boxes of science fiction (from estate sales and the like) on eBay for a few dollars and then ship them to me. I would triage them, keep maybe 1/3 to read myself, and donate the rest to various MWR tables around Bagram. I’d recognize individual books wander all over the base over time.

    There was a project called Subs4Soldiers that allowed people back home to buy discounted gift subscriptions of magazines for soldiers who would make requests from a list. I had Guns & Ammo for most of a year; those got passed around the barracks until tattered.

    In 2006 (when I was over there), e-readers were not yet common. I had an old PDA that I used for the purpose; I kept 30-40 books on it, predominantly science fiction from Baen Books, which has been very active in ebooks with their Baen Free Library. When you’re living out of a backpack for weeks on end, it’s much easier to carry a PDA than even a few paperbacks. Alas, it was not “military hardened” and got crushed underneath a pile of gear while I was out on a mission. When/if I go back, I’ll probably look for one of the smaller e-ink display readers, something I could put in a solid case and still stuff in my cargo pocket. When you’re busy, you’re very busy. But when you’re bored… Oh man.

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