And so this is Christmas…

And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now

And so this is Christmas
John Lennon

The WWI Christmas Truce
December 17, 2019 by Jenny Ashcraft
On December 24-25, 1914, an impromptu cease-fire occurred along the Western Front during WWI.
Amid the battle, soldiers from both sides set aside their weapons and came together peacefully
in an event that has come to be known as the WWI Christmas Truce.
Here are a few first-hand accounts of that historic event.

British and German Officers Meet in (No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce Courtesy of Imperial War Museums)

British and German Officers Meet in No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce
Courtesy of Imperial War Museums
The Canadian Expeditionary Forces 24th Battalion recorded their experience.
“Early in the afternoon shelling and rifle fire ceased completely and soon
German soldiers were seen lifting heads and shoulders cautiously over the parapet
of their front line trench. Encouraged by the fact that no fire was opened by the men
of the 24th, a number of Germans climbed over the top, advanced in
No Man’s Land, and, making signs of friendship, invited the Canadians to join them
and celebrate the occasion. Regulations frowned on such action, but curiosity proved strong,
and a group of Canadians, including a number from the 24th Battalion, moved out
to see what the enemy looked like at close range. Conversation proved difficult at first,
but a number of the Germans spoke English fluently and others, having rehearsed
for the occasion, one must judge, endeavored to establish their benevolence by
constant repetition of the phrase, “Kaiser no damn good.” For nearly an hour the
unofficial peace was prolonged, the Canadians presenting the Germans with cigarettes
and foodstuffs and receiving in return buttons, badges, and several bottles of
most excellent beer.
By this time, news of the event had reached authority, and peremptory orders were issued
to the Canadians in No Man’s Land to return to their own line forthwith.
When all had reported back, a salvo of artillery fire,
aimed carefully to burst at a spot where no harm to friend or foe would result,
warned the Germans that the truce was over and that hostilities had been
resumed…For some days after Christmas comparative quiet prevailed in the front line,
but soon activity increased and the Battalion’s losses indicated that
normal trench warfare conditions again existed.”
Captain Hugh Taylor from the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards led his company in an attack
near Rouges Bancs on December 18-19, 1914. His troops succeeded in pushing back
German soldiers and occupying their trenches. While returning alone to the
British trenches to report, Taylor was caught in machine-gun fire and killed instantly.
For nearly a week, his body lay near the German line. During the informal Christmas Truce,
soldiers from both sides collected the dead and brought their bodies to the center
space between their respective lines. They dug two trenches and buried
British soldiers in one and German soldiers in the other.
An English Chaplain conducted a service. Afterward, the soldiers spent several hours
fraternizing with one another. Captain Taylor’s body was carried to a small military
graveyard at La Cardoniere Farm and buried.


(British and German troops bury soldiers during the WWI Christmas Truce – 1914
Courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

Three Americans serving in the Foreign Legion took part in the Christmas Truce.
Victor Chapman, Eugene Jacobs, and Phil Rader were in the trenches that day.
Rader, a former United Press correspondent, wrote a stirring account of his experience.
“For twenty days we had faced that strip of land, forty-five feet wide,
between our trench and that of the Germans, that terrible No-Man’s Land,
dotted with dead bodies, criss-crossed by tangled masses of barbed wire.”
Rader recounted cautiously raising his head. “Other men did the same.
We saw hundreds of German heads appearing. Shouts filled the air.
What miracle had happened? Men laughed and cheered.
There was Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine.
There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels.
The terror of No-Man’s Land fell away.
The sounds of happy voices filled the air.”
The Christmas Truce of 1914 eventually ended, and the goodwill shared between enemies
for a brief moment during WWI evaporated as fighting resumed.

(To learn more about WWI and the soldiers who fought in it, search Fold3 today!)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red one
Let’s stop all the fight
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
la, la, ah, ah
Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)

(John Lennon)

a reminder of an important time

“Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”
Samuel Johnson

American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium. January 4, 1945. Braun. (Army)

This time of year usually catches all of us living life in a whirlwind of extra busyness.

Throw into the regular regime of work, school, and fickle weather added by the demands
of a heavy dose of shopping, cooking, running all over town, traveling, wrapping, packing,
shipping yada, yada, yada…and we can very quickly forget what all of this is really about.

Or on the flip side, we could be watching those around us busy and merry while
our small world is quiet and lonely.
An extra blanket of suffocating heaviness has just covered an already aching heart.

Either way, this time of year can be extra taxing on us all.

We get so caught up in our own little holiday worlds while at the same time
we are currently living with a madness playing out before our eyes in our own government.
We find ourselves with a mixed sense of wonder, frustration, sorrow, joy, and confusion.

We want to be happy…but.
We want to be mad…but.
We want things to be right…but.
We want to be jolly and bright…but

So when I received my periodic email from Fold3, which is an arm of Ancestry.com
which is the military record archives that Ancestry pulls from,
I was reminded of another Christmas that was also a duality of both joy and anguish.

And here’s the thing…
If it was not for the duality of emotions during that Christmas time in 1944,
then you and I may not even find ourselves living out our own Christmas today in 2019.

We owe the people of that winter of 1944 more than we can ever repay.
For you see the infamous Battle of the Ardennes, better known as the Battle of the Bulge,
was a turning point for the allies during WWII.

Yet it came at a tremendous cost and sacrifice on both sides of the proverbial pond.
Soldiers doing their duty as families were home doing theirs.
Waiting, hoping, praying.

Yet sadly we have an entire swath of this nation that has never heard of such a battle
and frankly does not care.
All because that was then and this is now.

‘And so what does then have to do with now’ they smugly ask.

Everything my friend, absolutely everything.

And so this afternoon as I sat in a doctor’s waiting room reading this article on my phone,
a man was also sitting in the waiting room, began listening to Silent Night playing softly
over his phone.
I wasn’t upset that this man had allowed a song to play out in this small
quiet space as I found the song a very appropriate song for this particular story…

Here is one story from that Christmas of 1944:

from Fold3.com

Christmas During the Battle of the Bulge

December 1, 2019 by Jenny Ashcraft

On December 16, 1944, German forces surprised American soldiers in the densely forested
Ardennes region of Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, with a massive offensive also known
as the Battle of the Bulge, or the Ardennes Counteroffensive.
Germany pushed through an Allied line, creating a bulge in the Allied defensive lines.
The deadly battle, which lasted until January 25, 1945, was the largest on the European
western front during WWII and resulted in an estimated 1 in 10 American combat casualties
during the entire war. It also meant that thousands of soldiers spent Christmas 1944
in temperatures that hovered around zero, in knee-deep snow, and with limited rations
for Christmas dinner.
On the home front, their families spent a nervous holiday season,
waiting for word of their loved ones.

Cpl. Frank D. Vari spent Christmas Eve huddled in a foxhole as shells exploded
around him all night long.
“We could hear their guns going off and the shells landing at the same time.
They were close.
They almost surrounded the whole place.
I remember Christmas Day.
I got up, and we had a real bad night, with artillery and everything.
The first thing I saw was the steeple of a church down in the valley.
It was a beautiful day, the sun was just coming up over a little village at the bottom.”
The clear skies allowed US planes to reinforce soldiers along the front.
The break in the weather saved Vari’s unit.

Sgt. Metro Sikorsky woke up Christmas Day 1944 in a bombed-out building.
He was 25-years-old and serving in Company B, 17th Tank Battalion of the
7th Armored Division.
It was his first time away from home in Pennsylvania.
All around were the bodies of the frozen and his job included picking up the dead.
He said it was so cold that when a soldier died, in a short time the body
froze where it lay.
There were no presents and no Christmas dinner, but Sikorsky felt lucky to be alive.
It was so cold that soldiers cut blankets into strips and wound
them around their frozen feet.

Tech Sgt. Maurice Glenn Hughs remembered the terrible winter conditions during the battle.
“Hundreds of people lost their feet because they were frozen,” he said.
Hughs was hospitalized after the battle and doctors in Paris told him that his feet
would need to be amputated.
“My legs were painted up to my knees to be amputated.
And then the doctors checked and said they wouldn’t have to be,” said Hughs.

Mattie Dickenson of Georgetown, Louisiana, remembered Christmas 1944 as a difficult one.
She anxiously waited for news from her husband Benjamin F. Dickenson.
Benjamin was drafted when he was 38-years-old and found himself fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
“I do remember that was the saddest Christmas I ever spent.
For 21 days I didn’t know if he was dead or alive,” said Mattie.
Though Benjamin was wounded, he made it home alive.
Mattie kept a piece of the parachute that dropped supplies to her husband
at Bastogne.

Soldiers from the Third United States Army carried a printed copy of
Gen. George Patton’s Christmas Prayer of 1944.
Patton had a copy distributed to each soldier before the battle.
It petitioned the heavens for good weather and concluded with a Christmas greeting
from the General.
It read,
“To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas.
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.
We march in our might to complete the victory.
May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.”

The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s last major offensive along the Western Front.
Within a month Allied forces pushed the Germans back and closed the bulge.
The battle was called “the greatest American battle of the war” by Winston Churchill
and it crushed Germany’s hopes for ultimate success in the war.
To learn more about the Battle of the Bulge and soldiers who fought in it,
search Fold3 today!

Christmas During the Battle of the Bulge

(***Off to see the Mayor and Sheriff this weekend so posts may wait until Monday)