Armed Services Edition Books

The Armed Services Edition of books is an online collection of texts, which includes the educational and recreational materials needed for soldiers in training. The series contains a diverse range of topics from history to theology, science fiction to military tactics.

The “armed services edition books for sale” is a type of book that was used by the military and government. The books are now being sold on

Vinatge man reading a book.

A Civil War soldier wrote to his wife, “Soldiering is 99 percent boredom, 1 percent absolute horror.” And the nature of battle has basically stayed same since then—a lot of hurry up and wait.

It has long been a dilemma for guys on the frontlines, who are far from any type of creature comforts or amusement, what to do in those moments between combat. Some of the limited alternatives available were writing a letter home, playing cards, and shooting the shiz. But a guy can only clean his rifle so many times before seeking for something else to do with his time.

During World War II, a unique combination between government and private sector initiated an endeavor to deliver almost 1.3 million books to American GIs to offset the morale-sapping effects of boredom. The Armed Services Editions were enthusiastically read by troops in submarines, battleships, foxholes, and hospital beds, and they not only provided fun and consolation during the war, but they also transformed many men into lifelong readers when they came home.

The Fighting Man’s Library

Civilians were encouraged to give books to the troops serving abroad at the outset of the war, but it quickly became evident that this initiative was useless for a variety of reasons. People tended to contribute their less attractive titles, such as “Personal Hygiene: The Rules for Right Living,” in the same manner that they might grab for the corned beef hash at a canned food drive. Even the most enticing literature were unsuitable for the GI on the go. Large, hardback novels were impossible for troops to carry about, and paperback copies had not yet become popular and prevalent.

Books that were tiny, compact, and could fit in a soldier’s baggage pocket were required. Cheap, lightweight books that could be produced in large numbers, read, and then discarded.

The Council on Books in Wartime took on the task of bringing this concept to life. The council, whose slogan was “books are weapons in the fight of ideas,” was a non-profit organization created by librarians, writers, booksellers, and publishers to use books in the war effort.

A poster about books are weapons in the war of ideas.

Armed Services Editions Inc. was founded by the council to lead the charge in getting as many pocket-sized paperback books into the hands of America’s fighting warriors as feasible. The military, the government, book publishers, printers, composition businesses, and paper suppliers all worked together via ASE Inc.

How were the ASEs printed?

The books have to be tiny enough to fit in a cargo pocket and inexpensive enough to be produced in millions.

The solution was to utilize pulp paper and rotary presses, which are often used to make digest magazines. Because the digests generated by these printers were too lengthy to be readily portable, they were printed “two-up,” which meant that two volumes were created as one and then split in half to form two distinct booklets. As a result, the volumes were longer horizontally than vertically, which was the polar opposite of a traditional paperback.


The booklets cost an average of 6 cents apiece to create and were given out for free to soldiers serving abroad and in veterans’ hospitals on American soil. Publishers decided to share the one cent royalties between themselves and the writers, reducing their typical earnings.

Book cover of country lawyer by Huckleberry Finn and Mark Twain.

The ASEs were printed “two-up” and then sliced apart to create two booklets. This very rare copy has been preserved in its entirety. The pages have also not been cut. The size of ASE volumes varied from 512″ to 612″ in length and 378″ to 412″ in height.

Collections of Books.

The volumes were produced “four-up” by certain presses. Then three incisions were done to split the books into four different books.

Prologue page of book.

The book’s text was printed in two columns to make it simpler to read.

Titles from the Armed Forces Editions

During the conflict, 1,322 titles were produced. Censorship issues were unusual, and the works chosen to become ASEs ranged from ancient classics to modern blockbusters, from fiction to non-fiction, and from short story collections to poetry collections. The fiction volumes included a wide range of topics, including Westerns, adventure, mystery, fantasy, and more. Science, biography, history, and current affairs were among the nonfiction titles. The council picked a mix of lighter, more approachable meals and meatier, more serious options. Only 70 of the 1,322 novels were had to be reduced due to their length; the remainder were printed in their entirety. The majority of writers were ecstatic to learn that their work had been chosen as an ASE, and several got hundreds of messages from troops expressing their gratitude.

Book cover of Battle Report by Walter Kario.

Several novels on the battle were published, both fiction and non-fiction. This one detailed the assault on Pearl Harbor in minute detail.

Book cover of Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

The Navy received a quarter of the ASEs, while the Army received the remainder. Seafaring stories were especially popular among sailors.

Book cover of Danger Trail by Max Brand.

The most popular literature among males were westerns, mysteries, and adventure fiction. The huge staple enhanced the glue in the binding, ensuring that the volumes stayed together even through the rigors of battle.

Book cover of the Republic of Plato by Richards.

The ASEs covered a wide range of topics, from lighthearted tales to serious literature and even Greek philosophy.

Book cover of a Wartime Whitman by William Aiken.

Short story and poetry collections were popular because they could be read in the gaps between tasks. Some of these sets were only available as ASEs.

Book cover of US Foreign Policy by Walter Lippmann.

Soldiers showed an unusually strong desire to learn more about the war’s backdrop. “Observers are divided as to whether the demand overseas for Walter Lippmann’s thoughtful and illuminating U.S. Foreign Policy is merely a reflection of the fact that it was a best-seller here or an indication that soldiers are anxious to know what the hell they’re fighting for and where do we go from here,” according to a 1945 article in the Saturday Evening Post. In the shadow of a bomber in India, Maj. Gen Joseph W. Byron, chief of the Army Special Services Division, observed a soldier engaged in the Lippmann book. He was asked what he thought of our foreign strategy by the general. He said, “I’m not sure yet sir.” “However, I’m curious as to what it’s about, which is why I’m reading this.”


Book cover of The Mind in the Making by James Harvey Robinson.

The men’s other surprise interest, according to the same article, is the mind’s workings.

Book cover of Danger in the Cards by Michael Macdougall.

A handy guide to detecting a jerk during amicable card games with friends!

Almost 1.3 million books were sent to the country’s combat troops between 1943 and 1947. While it was simpler to deliver the books to the guys behind the lines, they also ended up in the hands and pockets of soldiers fighting in the field. The most books were distributed in the days leading up to D-Day. Each guy was handed a book when they boarded the ships bound for the French coast as the forces prepared to attack Normandy.

The Men’s Reaction to the Armed Services Editions

Man reading book in bunk.

The distribution of ASEs to America’s GIs during WWII was the world’s biggest book giveaway at the time. When the guys came home, it irrevocably transformed the publishing business by initiating the popularity of paperback books. The impact of the ASEs on the males, however, was much more profound. The literature served to pass the time and divert the men’s attention away from their homesickness and dread. Books were greedily consumed, handed about until they were shattered, and even ripped in half so that two guys could read at the same time. With nothing else to do, the GIs were a captive audience, and many of the guys found themselves reading a book cover to cover for the first time in their lives.

They became addicted. Soldiers sent emails to the authors of ASE novels expressing their thanks for how much the books meant to them during lonely evenings in the barracks or anxious days in the foxholes. While We Still Live, which was transformed into an ASE, was written by Helen MacInnes, who remembers one letter in particular. “He had read little before [the ASE edition] got him liking literature,” a former soldier had wrote. He continued to study after that and proceeded to college following his duty. He finished with a Ph.D. and sent a copy to me. It was dedicated to me, the author of the work from which he began to read.”

Armed Services Edition Books Collecting

For individuals interested in the unusual history of these books, collecting ASEs is a popular hobby. Because of the enormous quantity created, they are simple to come by and often inexpensive to buy, with prices ranging from $2 to $10. There are usually a few on ebay, but many sellers overprice them; your best chance is to hunt for them at used book and antique shops.

However, certain titles may be tough to come by. The books were made to be “disposable” and used up in other countries. Many of them were, with their well-worn pages abandoned in fields throughout Europe and jungles across the Pacific. This is particularly true of more popular books, which were handed about and read until they were completely worn out.

Book cover of The Adventures of Superman by George Lowther.

Due to its prominent topic and rarity, this novel, the first to be published based on the comic book hero, is the most valuable ASE.


Book cover of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Tarzan novels are especially noteworthy since they were so popular during the war that few people survived.

Book cover of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Because of their enticing subject matter, science fiction and fantasy literature such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and War of the Worlds are more valued.

Today’s Armed Services Editions

In 1947, ASE manufacture came to an end. Andrew Carroll, author of excellent novels such as War Letters, has been working to resurrect this vital resource for our soldiers since 2002. He founded the Legacy Project and enlisted the help of a few publishers to provide fresh ASEs to the military. The new ASEs feature the same pocket-sized format as the previous ones, as well as a vintage style. The initiative is self-funded, and only a small number of copies will be produced. What makes me the happiest about this valiant effort? The following is one of the few titles in the new ASE collection:

Book cover of The Man in the Arena by TR.Nice! It’s even accessible for civilians on Amazon.

Nice! It’s even accessible for civilians on Amazon.


Books Go to War: World War II Armed Services Editions

The Armed Services Editions: Books in Action




The “antiquarian book” is a term that refers to old or rare books. The “Armed Services Edition Books” are books for the armed forces.

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