World War II challenged RR Donnelley's resources and its ability to remain North America's leading printing establishment. Because printing was not related to defense, RR Donnelley employees were drafted in great numbers, and raw materials were often hard to procure. The war also had an impact on the company's management. T. E. Donnelley watched as his youngest son, Gaylord, left to serve in the United States Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1945. His son-in-law Charles C. Haffner, Jr. was also called to active duty in the Illinois National Guard.
Despite wartime shortages, especially in paper, RR Donnelley was able to produce books, catalogs, directories, and a full schedule of magazines. Among them were Life and Time (including special wartime issues), which were crucial to home-front morale at a moment when print media were the nation's most important source of news. Fortunately, T. E. had excellent contacts both in Washington, D.C., and with suppliers, and he spent much of his time writing eloquent, convincing letters to whoever might expedite shipments to Chicago.
RR Donnelley encouraged its employees to keep in touch with their colleagues overseas, to track their movement, and to publish wartime newsletters. Eleven such newsletters were mailed to the front at company cost. Among them was Service News, for the "Men of Department D"; Roto, which kept absent printers apprised of changes on the factory floor; The Arbalest, for the staff of Department A; and Apprentice to Rookie and Apprentice(d) to Uncle Sam, for apprentices.
After the war, the reintegration of returning servicemen represented yet another challenge. By 1946 RR Donnelley had grown to 4,440 employees, as compared to 2,300 employees in 1934. The war had also affected the reading habits of the North American public. The United States was already the world's leading magazine-reading nation. An awareness of the larger world fostered by the war prompted its citizens to buy books of all types in unprecedented numbers.