Distribution of ASE books by direct mail was an improvement, but depended on the accuracy of the mailing list. Another difficulty was that distribution of the books was on a first-come, first-served basis in most units. These were minor problems, however, com- pared to the overall success of the distribution system and the over- whelming popularity of the books among the troops. Armed Services Editions naturally were less plentiful in combat than behind the front lines, but on some occasions combat troops were fairly well supplied. This was true, for example, of the troops that went from Hawaii into the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, and Okinawa. The most notable mass distribution to combat troops took place in the marshaling areas in southern England just before the Normandy invasion. One copy of an Armed Services Edition was issued to each soldier as he boarded the invasion barge.
The distinctive covers bore the description, "Armed Services Edition: This is the Complete Book—Not a Digest." Seventy-nine (79) of the titles printed were abridged, usually for length rather than content. These bore the slogan, "Condensed for wartime reading," or slight variations such as "Slightly condensed for rapid reading."
Cite as: Armed Services Editions Collection.
A Bear Pocket Book … and a genuine Armed Services Edition
First published in 1943, more than 123 million "Armed ServicesEditions" (ASEs) were handed out to U.S. troops overseas during WorldWar II. This giveaway represented the largest free distribution offiction and non-fiction books in the history of the world. More than1,300 titles were published, including mysteries, biographies, crimestories, adventure novels, and classic works of literature by authorssuch as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Herman Melville."Getting quality reading material to our troops on the front lines is agreat initiative, and one that all the armed services are eager tosupport," says the Pentagon's Chief of Naval Information, Rear AdmiralStephen R. Pietropaoli. "The Armed Services Editions were a big hitwith the Greatest Generation, and it is heartening to see thepublishing industry looking for ways to support the men and women inuniform who are defending America today." he outstanding achievement of the Army Library Service during World War II was the publication and distribution of the Armed Services Editions. Guided by an organization of publishers, booksellers, authors, and librarians known as the Council on Books in Wartime, this publishing effort produced, from 1943-1947, over 122 million paperbacks for free distribution to U. S. servicemen. The Armed Services Editions were designed to appeal to a variety of reading tastes and included works ranging from bestsellers to poetry. Only 99 of the 1,324 titles published had previously been reprinted. Between 1943 and 1951 the Library received a complete set of Armed Services Editions, largely as gifts from the Council on Books in Wartime. The collection consists of 1,319 titles. See: for details.Publishers interested in participating in this effort to revivethe "Armed Services Editions" are encouraged to contact the LegacyProject directly. (Publishers must be willing to change the covers andpossibly the format of the books selected to be ASEs so that theeditions are consistent with previous titles. The Legacy Project cannotaccept overstock or used books.)