April 29, 2002 Library of Congress Event on May 1 to Launch Historic Giveaway of Two Million Books to U.S. Troops and Veterans

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Former Senator Bob Dole, ABC News Correspondent Sam Donaldson, Senator Chuck Hagel, Vice Admiral Patricia A. Tracey, Rep. Charles B. Rangel and humorist Christopher

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A historic book giveaway will be launched at the Library of Congress on Wednesday, May 1 at 7 p.m. Washington Square Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, will begin distribution of the first "Armed Services Edition" (ASE) in 55 years -- a condensed paperbound edition of Andrew Carroll's New York Times bestseller, War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars (Scribner, 2001).

In partnership with Washington Square Press, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is underwriting the publication of more than 2,500,000 Armed Services Editions of War Letters, which will be distributed free of charge to veterans, active military personnel, and friends of the VFW.

The event will be held in the Montpelier Room, sixth floor, James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. It is free and open to the public. No reservations are required, but seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The doors will open at 6 p.m. The program is sponsored by the Center for the Book.

Reading excerpts from War Letters and other war-related books will be: Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William H. Rehnquist; World War II veteran and former senator Bob Dole; U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a Vietnam War veteran; ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson; Vice Admiral Patricia A. Tracey, the senior ranking woman officer in the U.S. military; Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), a Korean War veteran; and humorist and former Merchant Marine, Christopher Buckley.

"This will be one of the biggest book giveaways since the U.S. government and the publishing industry jointly organized and supported the Armed Services Editions project from 1943-1947," said Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole. In 1983, the Center for the Book hosted the 40th anniversary celebration of the Armed Services Editions. The next year the Library published Books in Action: The Armed Services Editions, edited by Cole, a volume of essays that included a list of the 1,322 titles published in the series. The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds an archival set of the Armed Services Editions, which was donated to the Library by the U.S. Army soon after the series ended.

The Armed Services Editions introduced hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women to the pleasures of reading. Between 1943 and 1947, nearly 123 million copies of the books were distributed. Best-sellers, classics, mysteries, history, westerns, adventure novels, and poetry anthologies were part of each shipment. For most of the U.S. troops overseas, ASEs were the only books that were easily available. Most of the books were flat and wide, cut in a distinct "cargo pocket" size that made for easy carrying. The new, 2002 ASE version of War Letters is formatted like the originals and has the same vintage appearance.

Andrew Carroll, who had the idea of reviving the Armed Services Editions, says about the May 1 reading: "Although the event will focus on War Letters, we are really celebrating the great tradition of ASEs. I hope other publishers will be inspired to publish their own titles as ASEs and give them out freely to our servicemen and women throughout the world."

The Center for the Book was established in 1977 to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy, and libraries. For information about the Center for the Book's program and publications and the activities of its state affiliates and national reading promotion partners, see its Web site: www.loc.gov/cfbook.


PR 02-065
ISSN 0731-3527