Bookmobiles in the E.T.O.

WW2Austria

An army bookmobile in Austria.

Germany’s surrender on May 7th, 1945, left the three million G.I.’s  scattered across Europe suddenly idle. Keeping the troops entertained was the role of the Special Services Department, which oversaw the Library Service Section headed by Lt. Irving Lieberman. While some of the larger camps had libraries, often housed in large tents or bombed-out buildings, there needed to be a way to bring reading material to the more isolated units. Lieberman managed to secure 37 2 1/2 K-60 trucks for bookmobile service. While these wouldn’t go into operation until after hostilities had ceased, being an Army bookmobile librarian was still strenuous. The roads were rough, the days began before sunrise and ended after sundown, and the trucks issued were not in the best of shape. Each bookmobile was staffed by two enlisted men and one civilian librarian, who was almost always a woman. They carried between 1,500 to 6,000 books, a collection of magazines, 50 sets of “V-discs” (phonographs of U.S. radio programs without commercials, recorded by the Music Branch of the Special Services Division), and cigarettes (“We always carry several cartons.” -Elvira Beltramo, bookmobile librarian for the 42nd Division, Austria). Often the roads were so primitive that the librarians used jeeps to bring the books from the trucks to the soldiers.  At the larger stops they left the cases of books behind, known as “L kits” or library kits, to be picked up and refreshed next time.

Books for the Army. John Jameison. Columbia University Press, 1950.

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