Guide to the Research Collections

- WORLD WAR II, 1939-1945

WORLD WAR II, 1939-1945

Acquisition problems considerably affected the building of resources for the study of World War II. During the war period, no country, with the exception of those of the British Common-wealth and Central and South America, was able to send its publications regularly. Access to works from the USSR improved after 1957; by this date, however, Soviet wartime publications were no longer readily available.

Although during the war period special attention was directed toward gathering ephemeral material, with the exception of pamphlets, press releases, periodicals, and newspapers of underground movements and governments in exile, few forms of ephemera were available through established channels; the generosity of interested friends brought much material of this kind into the collections.

After the war the library, through a cooperative acquisition program with the Library of Congress, received a vast number of German publications for the war period in all disciplines.4 The Army Map Service during the period from 1945 to 1949 sent to the Map Division thousands of items, including sets of captured war maps from Germany and other countries.

The strong collection of materials relating to World War II is composed of approximately 21,600 volumes. The Public Catalog has some 37,000 entries under "The World War, 1939-45," representing materials in the Roman alphabet; there is a wider range of material on the European theatre of the war. The entries are arranged under some 250 main headings, from "Abrasive Industry" and "Addresses, Sermons, etc." to "Women's Work." Some of the larger groups of materials are found under "Campaigns" with geographical subdivisions (2,800 entries), "Free and Resistance Movements" (1,400 entries),

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"Personal Narratives" (3,400 entries), and "Regimental Histories" (more than 2,000 entries). Under the literary form headings, fictional treatment of the war is covered by some 1,300; entries; poetry by 500 entries; and drama by 300; materials include typescripts, radio, and movie scripts. Index entries for periodical articles on World War II are less thorough than those for World War I because of the increased number of periodical indexes containing this information.

The Slavonic Division catalog has approximately 5,500 entries for items in the Cyrillic alphabet. Strong subjects in this collection are "Free and Resistance Movements," "Personal Narratives," and "Campaigns." Fictional treatment of the war is represented by 400 entries. There are approximately 1,600 entries relating to World War II in the Jewish Division catalog for materials in Hebrew, Yiddish, and other languages, relating to the Jewish people. Significant aspects are covered by approximately 250 card entries under "Atrocities" and a like number for "Personal Narratives"; war poetry in Hebrew and Yiddish is represented by some 100 entries.

Certain significant features of the holdings of World War II literature may be mentioned. Although the library has the official records and reports of the war crimes trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo, the major collection of documents, records, and exhibits is available at the Columbia University International Law Library; there is another fine collection at the New York State Library at Albany. Materials for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East are housed at the Columbia University East Asian Library. The great preponderance of materials listed in the Public Catalog under the heading "Prisoners and Prisons" is related to Germany and German concentration camps. Propaganda and psychological warfare are reflected in a small group of leaflets distributed from planes over Greece, the Philippines, and other countries, some of which are kept in the Rare Book Division. Another section of materials relates to prophecies connected with the war, including those of Nostradamus.

Although the Science and Technology Research Center does not generally collect material on the practical application of scientific principles to war, it does house certain items of significance, for example the National Nuclear Energy Series published by the Manhattan Project Technical Section. In the reference collection of the General Research and Humanities Division and in the general collections the reader will find adequate documentation of those aspects of World War II which represent the newer aspects of warfare, such as radar, submarine warfare, amphibious operations, and the like.

Extensive holdings of the Theatre Collection bear on World War II. A continuing gift from the USO documents wartime activities, as does a similar donation from the American Theatre Wing, War Service, Inc. In addition, the Theatre Collection has files of clippings, photographs, contemporary newspapers, and other materials which show both the service rendered by the theatre during the war and the war as it was reflected in the theatre, radio, cinema, vaudeville, and other forms of entertainment. Volumes of popular songs of World War II are in the Americana Collection of the Music Division.

Manuscripts, maps, music, and prints related to the war are found through the appropriate division catalogs. The Berg Collection holds first and significant editions, letters, and manuscripts of American and English literary figures active during wartime.

Periodicals and Newspapers

Some 200 periodical holdings relate specifically to World War II. These fall into a great variety of categories; there is an outstanding group of periodicals published by free and resistance movements. The library lacks only a few of the 20 most significant German anti-Nazi periodicals for the period 1933 to 1945; the files include titles as notable as Das Wort edited in Moscow by Bertolt Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Willi Bredel, Die Deutsche Revolution edited by Otto Strasser in Berlin and Prague, and Mass und Wert edited by Thomas Mann and Konrad Falke in Zurich. Periodicals of the French resistance movement are a strong feature.

In addition to collaborationist periodicals, such as the official gazette of the Vichy government, the publications of governments in exile are held in strength. Those issued by the Comité Français de la Libération Nationale (Free French) include not only its London edition, France: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, but also publications of various associated groups in Mexico, New Delhi, Algiers, and elsewhere. The library also has a complete file of the Free French Journal officiel.

A substantial group of periodical publications is made up of the press releases of various government information services. Perhaps the largest holdings are the foreign broadcasts of the U.S. Central Intelligence Group during the period 1942 to 1947; there are also many publications of the British Information Services and other countries. Other types of publications include those of veteran's organizations; general historical journals, such as The Second Great War edited by Sir Charles Gwynn and Sir John Hammerton; and prisoner-of-war magazines. Conscientious objectors' magazines include The Reporter, the journal of the National Service Board for Religious Objectors. Outstanding among the library's holdings of newspapers for World War II are files of editions of the two United States armed forces newspapers Stars and Stripes and Yank.5 5 The almost complete holdings of Stars and Stripes, comprising 30 editions published during World War II (along with the World War I edition), as well as many editions of Yank, are now on microfilm.

The war in the Pacific is well represented by Western materials. Perhaps most useful of the general studies are governmental publications such as Radio Report on the Far East (1942-45) published by the U.S. Central Intelligence Group's Foreign Broadcast Information Branch; or the U.S. War Department Pamphlets (1944).

The extensive holdings of the publications of free and resistance movements and clandestine publications include newspapers. Another very extensive collection on microfilm is that of German post-World War II papers, papers published in German-occupied countries, and papers published

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by the Allied occupational forces. 600 separate titles cover the period 1945 to 1949 and include such an item as Le Canard enchainé from Paris, as well as titles from Italy, Guatemala, and Japan.


Official histories form an extensive group which ranges from those published during the war by the German War Office to the records of the Allied forces published after the war, such as the American Forces in Action series published by the Historical Division of the Department of the Army, and similar publications of the Netherlands, India, Norway, England, New Zealand, and other nations. There are published works of scholarship such as Samuel Eliot Morison's History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II (1947-62) and primary source material such as the hearings before the Joint Committee of Congress on the Pearl Harbor attack. The public documents collections of the library provide access to numerous other materials of a similar nature. Under the heading "Business Histories," for example, are found the accounts of surveys made by the Strategic Bombing Survey to provide surveys of targets to determine the effects of bombing, etc. Another category relates to the official state histories of the conflict such as New York's Empire State at War, by Karl Drew Hartzell. An interesting feature of the holdings are contemporary German accounts, both official and unofficial.

Shortly after the war a decision was made to collect records of the conflict as written and illustrated by men who were in combat and close to service operations. By 1950 more than 1,000 titles had been acquired from all branches of the services of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, consisting of regimental and unit histories, pictorial logs, yearbooks, and the like. Additional collecting was undertaken for other countries, primarily England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Included are many scarce items published in the field and usually issued for the members of the service unit only. Over 2,000 entries in the Public Catalog cover the subject; Australia receives 50, Canada 100, France 70, Germany 100, England (including India) 300, New Zealand 24, and the United States 1,300. Regimental histories for the USSR are almost nonexistent in the holdings, although there are some for Polish, Czechoslovakian, and other national regiments from Eastern Europe. The American histories have been listed in bibliographies based on the library's holdings.6

Personal narratives of the war are unusually extensive. There are approximately 3,300 entries in the Public Catalog under this heading, of which 400 to 500 each pertain to American, French, and German accounts; there are 660 English, accounts, and about 200 Polish personal narratives. The range is extensive, from descriptions by such high commanders as Churchill, Eisenhower, and Guderian to the "G.I. Joes."

Casualty lists are also represented, such as the records of the Imperial War Graves Commission of Great Britain and the Honor List of Dead and Missing issued by the U.S. War Department. Town and county histories are important sources for more specific lists of local inhabitants engaged in the war; in some cases separate lists covering a United States community have been published. These are usually located in the American History Division or the Local History and Genealogy Division. Additional sources of service lists and obituaries are the memorial volumes of colleges and other institutions.

In the official histories of the war published by the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, all of which are in the holdings, there is additional material related to the Pacific Theatre. The China Handbook (1937-43) published by the Chinese Ministry of Information gives a comprehensive survey of the major developments in China during six years of war. To cite a few other examples, the regimental histories of most European countries, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, the United States, and other countries are an excellent source of information. There are, however, few regimental histories from Asian countries, except for those of a few Indian regiments. Personal narratives of the war, again, are mostly those of Westerners, although there are some post-war accounts in the Asian languages, as in Haruka naru sanga ni ("In distant climes"; Tokyo, 1948), which contains the diaries of Tokyo University students who fell in battle.

Under the heading "China--History--Invasion of, 1937-1945" are found some 400 entries covering all aspects of that conflict including aerial operations, most of these materials in Western languages. Among the standard accounts by Edgar Snow, Theodore H. White, General Joseph Stilwell, Freda Utley, Chiang Kai-shek, and others in English or in translation, are a few studies in the Chinese language such as Chang Sha Kai's True Account of the Changsha Campaign (Kweilin, 1940).

Pictorial Materials

The library's collection of materials for World War II is not so strong as that for World War I. Books of views and scenes of the war are well represented in the holdings, but there are no major collections of bound photographs; only a limited amount of poster material is available in the Picture Collection, which is a unit of the Branch Libraries. In the Prints Division the proofs of political cartoons of Rollin Kirby for the New York Post cover the early years of the war, and those of Daniel R. Fitzpatrick for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch document the entire conflict. There are original caricatures by Harry Hopkins, a key political figure for many years. Other pictorial

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materials in the division may be located under the name of artist or print maker.


At one time, letters from American servicemen were a collecting interest of the library.7 Other items include typescripts of wartime reminiscences of Benedetto Croce, and a holograph manuscript describing the flight from his home in Sorrento in 1943 to escape seizure by the German soldiers. Material related to World War II is found in the papers of Norman Thomas, Elizabeth H. Bennett, Ward Morehouse, Alexander N. Sack, Carl Van Vechten, and the Gaffney-Ahearn family, held in the Manuscripts and Archives Division.