Life in the trenches involved long periods of monotony broken by moments of sheer terror. The threat from artillery, gas, and guns mixed with sleep deprivation, unsanitary conditions, and the prevalence of disease-carrying vermin led to widespread stress and disease. A soldier’s time in the frontline trenches, though brief, was particularly harsh. Soldiers rotating out of the front trenches found comfort where they could—by shaving, bathing, playing cards, smoking cigarettes, and reading and writing letters.
The American Library Association established the Library War Service program to provide reading materials to United States soldiers both in training and overseas. Soldiers of faith could read religious texts printed in small, pocket-size editions. Many of the soldiers’ small comforts were sent overseas by loved ones or acquired through the YMCA.