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12th Armored Division >> General Discussion >> Honey Ruth, the 12th Armored Division's Combat Bookmobile
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Author Topic:  Honey Ruth, the 12th Armored Division's Combat Bookmobile
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From: Aurora, Illinois
Registered: 11/30/2017
posted 5/23/2018 3:24:36 PM    Click here to view the profile for beamjockey  Click here to email beamjockey  edit/delete post  Reply w/Quote
While reading the very interesting *Bookmobiles in America: An Illustrated History* by Orty Ortwein, a footnote an Army bookmobile caught my attention. I wanted more; perhaps Mr. Ortwein was unable to find a picture, so limited himself to a brief mention.

Research turned up an article by Eugene B. Jackson in *Library Journal* for September 15, 1947 (volume 72, pages 1258-1260): "She Was a Different Kind of Bookmobile." Jackson was the 12th Armored's libarian, charged with managing technical manuals, repair guides, parts catalogues, and other information needed to operate and maintain the division's diverse vehicles and weapons.

"Honey Ruth" was a 6x6 truck equipped as a rolling library. I googled up this forum, thinking that people here might be interested in Jackson's article.

Bill Higgins

She was a different kind of bookmobile
Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio

It landed from its LST at a ruined dock in the harbor of Rouen, France; it entered the combat zone at Luneville (near Nancy); was snowbound in the Vosges Mountains; crossed the Rhine on pontoons at Worms; passed hurriedly through the Palatinate, Wurtemberg, and Bavaria; on May Day 1945, it found itself in the Austrian village of Kufstein; it mounted a cal. .50 machine gun on its cab; it went sevenmonths without a blowout! What was it? It was the 12th Armored Division's bookmobile, Honey Ruth.

The story of the bookmobile's beginning goes back to a snowy day in March 1944. The writer and 1,500 fellow ASTP trainees arrived at Camp Barkeley, Tex., for assignment as armored infantry riflemen or as tank crewmen.

For once, Lady Luck intervened; the classification officer discovered a requisition for a librarian for the Division Ordnance Office and Armored Ordnance Maintenance Battalion. Without further ado, the ex-civilian librarian was transformed into an army librarian. An interview with the commanding officer established the following facts: (1) The office was responsible for the issue and the battalion was responsible for the maintenance of all the division's weapons and vehicles. Included in the 15,000 weapons were everything from pistols to 105 mm. howitzers; in the over 2,500 vehicles were types ranging from the "peep" (armored term for the famous "jeep") to medium tanks and huge tank transporters. (2) The battalion had been looking for a librarian for over six months because (3) it had a serious publication distribution problem on its hands.

From the War Department in Washington, from the Ordnance School and Proving Grounds atAberdeen, and from the Armored Force Headquarters at Fort Knox came many different publications on each item of materiel of the division. Included were such things as Technical Manuals on maintenance of materiel Standard Parts Catalogs, Standard Nomenclature Lists, Organizational Spare Parts and Equipment Lists (to establish allowances, e.g., each "peep" driver was assigned a submachine gun, except medical "peep" drivers).

The above publications and others were being received in such quantities and were being revised so frequently that the battalion had not been able to keep up with them. No one knew exactly how much of each item of materiel the divisionwas allowed, due to the rapid changes. Worse still, Modification Work Orders were not receiving proper distribution to all battalions. These orders noted changes on division materiel that had to be made before the materiel would be suitable for combat and should have gone to all mechanics promptly.


After efficient filing and systematic distributionschemes were established, the tremendous backlog of publications disappeared and it was possible to keep up to date. Upon being queried, the commanding officer stated that this service would have to be continued through all the combat operations of the division.

Accordingly, there was no surprise when in "dewy" England in October 1944, a new 2K ton 6'x6' truck was assigned tothe writer for a bookmobile. This truck had a machine-gun mount, a canvas top and a one-ton trailer. First, the canvas top and wooden bows were raised so that one could stand upright. Then plywood bookcases (with removable screw-in plugs) were wired along the inside of the two sides and the front of the body. For general illumination, a sealed-beam headlight was mounted in the middle of the center bow. Later on it was found that for close work, such as filing in loose-leaf binders, an electric lantern was also needed. As both the top and ends were loose canvas, it was impossible to heat the bookmobile.

An edict was issued that all vehicles in the division had to be named. The battalion further ruled that each name had to start with the initial letter of the company to which it was assigned.
Accordingly, the bookmobile, as part of headquarters company, was named "Honey Ruth" after the other librarian in the family. (The two ambulances in the company were named "Hemorrhage" and "Hemoglobin," respectively.) In the combat zone, "Honey Ruth" moved up in convoy with the battalion as the division advanced. Stops were rarely made for longer than two or three days. On the move, the center of the truck was filled with the boxed typewriters, folded desks, requisition files, etc., of the Division Ordnance Office, with personal equipment riding in the trailer.


As time went on, the work of the librarian began to divide equally between requisitioning new ordnance materiel to replace the battle losses and the filing of, distribution of, and reference work with publications in the bookmobile. During cold weather the first-mentioned work was preferred as it could be done in the relative warmth of whatever damaged building was nearby. However, when filing had to be done in the heatless truck at 20 below zero (as in the mountains), only constant blowing on the hands made it possible to file at all. So many different series and parts had to be kept up to date that it was impractical to remove the binders to a warmer place to work. (Naturally, the most publications and the greatest number of patrons came during the coldest weather.) Most of the patrons came for definite detailed information. They were mainly skilled mechanics from the Ordnance Battalion and the maintenance units of all the other battalions. They needed such information as how to repair the breech ring on a 75 mm. tank gun or the lenses in a periscope or one of the division's "Grasshopper" liaison airplanes. Possibly some part of the materiel was damaged and a replacement part could not be obtained. In this case the part would be made in the portable machine-shop trucks, after determination of exact dimensions and alloy to be used. Supply personnel who wished to requisition parts but lacked the necessary stock numbers and correct nomenclature would either radio the bookmobile or send a messenger for the information. Occasionally a patron would have anticipated the stopping-place of the convoy, and would be patiently awaiting the arrival of "Honey Ruth." The other extreme occurred when a patron would arrive just before the convoy moved out, and one had to crawl over the top of the load to find the desired document in a hurry in the already closed bookcases. New units were added to the division from time to time on "attachment." These included tank destroyer battalions, self-propelled 155 mm. howitzer battalions, truck companies, self-propelled anti-aircraft battalions and additionalreconnaissance squadrons. The division's mechanics had to go to the bookmobile to find detailed instructions on the repair of all this new equipment. This meant that the librarian not only had to have all available information on the division's materiel, but also that on any units that could possibly be attached to it during combat.


Further, "Honey Ruth" had to have detailed information on all German ordnance materiel, as the librarian was called on to identify captured German weapons and vehicles. If the item to be identified was small, it was brought to the bookmobile; if it was large, the truck was driven to it. It was soon found necessary to compile a list of German ordnance terms and abbreviations. In addition, the order was received tocompile a complete card file on all known enemy materiel. Cards contained correct nomenclature, dimensions, performance data, and sources of illustrations. This card file was extensively used while being compiled, but was destroyed the day following its completion when fire swept the building in which the Division Ordnance Office was billeted at the time. V-E Day arrived before a second card file was completed. As with all military activities in Europe, V-E Day marked a turning point in "Honey Ruth's" life; patronage fell off with the assumption of mere occupation duties by the division. The urgency of the need for the services it had rendered alsoslackened. No additional new equipment was received. All personnel were wondering whether their fate was to be sent to the Pacific or to the States.

Just what did the bookmobile indicate by its seven months of combat service to a combat division? It showed that a group of 15,000 combat men have as great a need for library service of one type as a town of 15,000 inhabitants has need forlibrary service of another type. It also indicates one more of the needs of the armed forces not apparent in the old concept of warfare. Modern warfare has become such a complicated matter that its successful prosecution involves the skills of all kinds of specialists-- even librarians.

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From: University at Buffalo (NY)
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posted 5/25/2018 5:56:08 PM    Click here to view the profile for MikeWoldenberg  Click here to email MikeWoldenberg  edit/delete post  Reply w/Quote
Bill, Eugene B. Jackson was probably THE librarian.
He was in Headquarters Co. of the 134th
Ordnance Maintence Battalion.

This is a terrific find! Thank you so much. I will
look for other information in our old Hellcat News
and in our scrapbooks.