Thank you for visiting my website.

This site is about my new book, Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II, which Cornell University published in the late spring of 2010.  

Books as Weapons was awarded the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing’s George A. and Jean S. DeLong Book Prize for “the best book on any aspect of the creation, dissemination, or uses of script or print published in the previous year in the English language.”  The award was made during the annual general meeting of SHARP, held in Washington, DC, on July 17, 2011.  For excerpts from the award citation, see the “Reviews” page on this website.

I’m always amazed at the hold that the Second World War continues to have over people.  In June 2009, my wife and I attended a conference and the anniversary ceremonies at the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia.  Many veterans of the Normandy invasion were present—in remembrance and to pass their own memories down to the generations that follow them.  Their commitment, bravery, and sacrifice is as praiseworthy now as it was sixty-six years ago.   

So why, when thousands and thousands of books have been written about the war, have I written another? My book looks at the war from an uncommon angle.  It examines a little-known wartime program that could not have taken place had the Allies not succeeded at Normandy. In this story, civilians in the private sector and in the employ of the federal government, along with high-ranking military officials within SHAEF, conceive a program in which American books, carefully selected for their propaganda value, would be put in the hands of civilians as soon after liberation as possible. 

These books were to serve, as President Roosevelt wished, as weapons in the war of ideas.  They were intended not only to counteract years of soul-numbing fascist propaganda and censorship, but also to portray a victorious America, now ready and willing to lead a newly freed world.  The first American books, along with others selected under a parallel British program, were landed on the Normandy beaches within weeks after the initial assault on D-Day itself.  That troop reinforcements, more tanks, bazookas, medicine, and food took priority over books is hardly surprising.  That books were landed at all—and so relatively soon after June 6—is astonishing.   Like the troops, books invaded the heart of Nazi-controlled Europe for the purpose of liberation—in this case, the liberation of people’s hearts and minds.  Later phases of the program took American books to all theaters of the war.

Now, I invite you to read more on this website about the book and how I came to write it.  I welcome your comments.

With thanks,

John B. Hench 



A Warm Welcome to


To see a video of author John Hench discussing the book on C-SPAN2, click http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/222522

Thanks to Jeff Adams for much of the photography in the book and on this website, and for hosting the website.

Cornell University Press