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Christmas in WW2

Discussion in 'PsyWar' started by JJWilson, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Hello everyone, I know we have about 13 days left until Christmas, but I thought I would share what Millions of people experienced 70+ years ago during a holiday that professes "Peace on Earth, good will toward men" when that was far from reality. I wanted to take the time to post this so we could remember the sacrifices so many went through during the holidays. Most soldiers were thousands of miles away from their home and families in places they've never been before, fighting day in and day out against men just like them, men who often shared the same beliefs, had families, and homes. They witnessed death and pain so unimaginable that many simply shriveled up mentally out of fear and anguish. They saw their comrades and civilians die by the dozens, during a time of joy and peace. While looking at the suffering they endured, it's also important to remember the joy some did feel, and the comfort and peace Christmas brought to so many.

    Christmas 1939- WW2 had been going on for the space of 3 months when Christmas began. For the most part Europe was not yet fully engulfed by war, and in many ways the Christmas of 1939 was the last Christmas families in Europe spent together for years. However in Finland, this was not the case. On Christmas day, Finland was fighting for it's very survival against the temporarily Axis Soviet Union. The snow was 3 ft deep in parts, and Christmas Eve night it was well into the -30's in Celsius. Fighting in and around Suomussalmi ended in the afternoon with another failed Russian attack. Fighting and all shelling stopped in the night allowing both sides the ability to rest and celebrate, for most, the only reason to celebrate was the fact that they survived another day in the Winter War........fighting began again the next morning.
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    Christmas 1940- By Christmas 1940, Most of Europe had been invaded and occupied by Germany. The lone exception, the U.K. Now essentially fighting alone, The commonwealth had a particularly bad Christmas in the high seas of the Atlantic. "German Admiral Wilhelm Meisel aboard cruiser Admiral Hipper ordered an attack on Allied convoy WS.5 in the morning, taking advantage of mist and rain; the convoy had been detected on the previous day and the ship's crew had been shadowing it through the night, but failing to realize it was heavily escorted. At 0808 hours, Admiral Hipper fired on troopship Empire Trooper (16 soldiers killed) and freighter Arabistan, but she was soon chased off by a corvette and three cruisers. In retreat, Admiral Hipper fired at her pursuers, striking cruiser HMS Berwick at the rear gun turret, killing 4. Carriers HMS Argus and HMS Furious launched aircraft to hunt for Admiral Hipper as she retreated toward Brest, France for repairs, but the German cruiser would not be found. Later on the same day, 150 miles to the east, Admiral Hipper detected and sank British ship Jumna; 111 survivors in the water were left to drown"
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    Christmas 1941
    - Now a Year later, both the U.S and USSR, arguably the worlds biggest powers, were in the war against the Axis, and both were having awful times during Christmas. The U.S was being systematically kicked out of the Philippines, while the Soviets were suffering the awful cold, along with relentless German airstrikes in Moscow and Lenningrad. In Lenningrad things were especially bad, 3,000 citizens were dying a day from starvation, and another 1,000 form airstrikes and artillery. The U.K was also having a hard time in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Despite the Allies suffering, the Axis wasn't doing much better. Italy's military was beginning to suffer from low morale and crippling losses. Then there was this for Germany, "While flying over German positions in Libya in an attempt to boost morale on this religious holiday, German pilot Oberleutnant Ludwig Franzisket was wounded by friendly anti-aircraft fire. He departed later on this day for Athens, Greece for medical treatment."
    [​IMG]
    Christmas 1942- The U.S had been in the war for a year, and things were getting better, but not much better. The Germans and Soviets were duking it out in the streets of Stalingrad, Freezing temperatures, hellish conditions, and death everywhere. The Soviets, without much of any vodka, got a buzz of anti-freeze, resulting in hundreds of blind buzzed Soviet soldiers. As for the Germans, they slaughtered 12,000 of their horses to have one last meat meal before the end of the year, and the battle, where very few would survive captivity.
    [​IMG]
    Christmas 1943- Finally, things were beginning to look up for the Allies. The North African campaign came to a successful close, The Allies were making good progress in Italy, and the fight for the Atlantic was finally leaning towards the Allies. The Soviets were also beginning to push the Germans out of the country, but the Winter stopped all progress. The USAAF and RAAF launched a 65 aircraft assault on Rabaul, while Josef Stillwell enjoyed a nice c-ration Christmas meal in Burma.
    [​IMG]

    Christmas 1944- Christmas of 1944, would be the last Christmas of the War. The Italians had been out of the war for more than a year, Japan was losing ground rapidly in the CBI and Pacific theaters, and Germany was being pushed by the Western Allies and the Soviets simultaneously towards Berlin. However with a daring counter-offensive which began on the 16th, The German army made one last attempt to broker peace and potentially save the Reich. On Christmas day, the American's and British stopped the Germans 4 miles short of the Muse River. Despite the cold, and brutal fighting, the Americans and Germans at times, though rarely, stopped fighting to allow celebration of the birth of Christ, even together. The last Christmas of the war in many ways, was the best in years. The end of the war in Europe was in sight, and it wouldn't be long for Japan to follow suit.
    [​IMG]
     
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  2. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Sorry for leaving out Christmas 1945, when most soldiers went back home to their families. I'm sure it was great and unforgettable time for many....
     
  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

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    Wartime Xmas ?

    I remember once posting this little story...........................


    Not actually Xmas day, actually New Year's day but as my diaries for 1942 & 1943 eventually went missing you will have to settle for that !

    Can it really be 70 years ago ?

    It was, according to my diary.

    Saturday 1st. January 1944
    Spent in Carovilli in the Central sector. Snow, cold, damp but still had a very good Xmas.

    Sunday 2nd. January 1944
    Spent most evenings with Fioccas, very nice people. Troops are getting it rough at Vastgirade due to the cold

    The format for most of the troops in Italy on entering a village for the first time was to establish themselves with an Italian household. Instead of spending off-duty evenings in our uncomfortable billets, one could then relax in front of a roaring wood fire. Inevitably one brought spare rations for the mother of the family, which were thrown into the communal cooking pot. We then ate an evening meal with the rest of the family.

    In Carovilli I found myself in the household of the village priest, Signor Fiocca, and we spent many evenings discussing theological matters including how could a nice boy like me be Jewish!

    In my Album I still have a photograph of the Priest’s two younger sisters, Delya and Iola.
    One interesting aspect of the month or so we spent there was the time that one of the lads went down with pneumonia. We were completely cut off from other units by snowdrifts some 2O feet high and when we radioed for help were told to enlist the help of the local convent.

    We moved Peter, I have forgotten his second name, to the convent, and they took over completely and probably saved his life. We used to visit him occasionally to see how he was getting on and on the last occasion found him sleeping in a huge chapel with altar candles placed near his head and feet for all the world like a monarch lying in state. When he saw us he said: "For Christ's sake get me out of here!" Apparently he had woken out of his fever to find himself lying in that manner and thought that he must be dead!

    Another clear memory was coming out of our billets one morning to see ski tracks of a German Patrol who had calmly come through the village and made their escape without bothering us.

    Ron
     
  4. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Another great story Ron, thank you so much for sharing!
     
  5. Fas

    Fas New Member

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    Was very interesting to read this)
     
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