As we are quickly approaching the week of Christmas, I thought it might be of interest to see what Christmastime was like during the Second World War.
The year was 1942. The United States had been at war for just over one year. Fighting was fierce in the Pacific, Africa, and Europe.
On Saturday, December 26, 1942, The Titusville Herald reproduced an Associated Press story about how Americans were keeping the Christmas spirit alive on the homefront. The article read:
“American fighting men on faraway fronts fought the enemy at Christmas with successful strokes while the rest of us, back home, made the day an old fashioned, traditional yuletide.
Factory wheels were stilled. Millions of families gathered about glittering Christmas trees, exchanged presents and then turned to the usual heavily laden dinner tables. But meanwhile: In New Guinea, American and Australian troops drove two spearheads into Japanese defense lines, thrusts which threatened to cut the Japanese into separated and isolated units.
From Guadalcanal, American fliers bombed and strafed Japanese installations at Munda on New Georgia island. They shot down 14 planes and destroyed ten more on the ground. In Tunisia, American troops repulsed two Axis counter-attacks and then drove on to capture a strategic point. But in England, and Ireland, American troops were observing Christmas in another way. They brought a wealth of holiday cheer to numerous gatherings or youngsters who can scarcely remember the days of peace.
British Entertain Americans
And thousands of Yanks were guests In British and Irish homes. Most British families tried to find places in the Christmas circles for at least four Americans.
King George VI delivered a radio address in which he said that despite ‘the dark shadow of war,’ Christmas meant ‘hope for the return to this earth of peace and good will.’ Referring to the Yanks, he added: ‘We welcome them in our homes and their sojourn here will not only be a happy memory for us but also, I hope the basis of enduring understanding between our two peoples.’
President and Mrs. Roosevelt worshiped at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. They heard Rev. Howard Stone say that ‘there will always be a Christmas.’ Before the church services an Army band and chorus played and sang Christmas carols on the south lawn of the White House. Mr. Roosevelt’s Christmas message was delivered by radio on Christmas Eve. In part, he said:
‘I can not say ‘Merry Christmas’ for I think constantly of those thousands of soldiers and sailors who are in actual combat throughout the world—but I can express to you my thought that this is a happier Christmas than last year in the sense that the forces of darkness stand against us with less confidence in the success of their evil ways.'”
Unfortunately, the war would rage for another three years. But, by Christmas 1945, the war was over and the world began to heal once again, assured that 1946 would be better and brighter.
Have a World War II story or Christmas memory you would like to share? Leave it in the comments below!