Christmas – day of misery, and of joy, for millions (12-24-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 24, 1943)

Christmas – day of misery, and of joy, for millions

What does it mean this year? Many are cynical, bitter; others filled with hope, faith
By Joseph L. Myler, United Press staff writer

Washington (UP) –
For millions, this Christmas will be another day of misery.

In many a once-tranquil land, suffering will be piled upon suffering, and death will be the only escape.

Thousands of young Americans who but lately believed in Santa Claus will not know Christmas this year because they are dead. For thousands more, this will be the last Christmas.

The casualty lists to date show 29,650 dead, 41,050 wounded, 32,072 missing, and 28,733 prisoners of the enemy.

This week, the nation’s war leaders somberly predicted nearly 400,000 new casualties in the next 90 days.

Against this background of continuing horror – compounded by economic, labor, and political discord at home – what meaning has Christmas 1943 for the people of the United States?

The question was put to scores of persons, distinguished and undistinguished, at dinner parties, on street corners, in office buildings, many whose sons, brothers or sweethearts are numbered among the 3,500,000 young Americans now on duty at sea or overseas – a total expected to reach nearly 6,250,000 by next Christmas.

The answers revealed some were cynical, disappointed, bitter. Many reflected the profound loneliness of solitary individuals separated from their families and friends. Many were filled with hope, faith, and the conviction that the world one day will be well.

The head of an important branch of an important war agency said:

We’re a lot closer to the end of the war than we were last year – that’s what this Christmas means to me. It’s another notch to cut in the stick that marks the days until final victory.

A university man serving the government on leave of absence pointed to “the obvious irony of celebrating in a world at war the birthday of the Prince of Peace.”

World sense hoped for

But a 20-year-old government girl though it would be “the most wonderful Christmas I ever had.” Her sailor brother will be home on leave from North Africa.

The truck driver father of a son born last week said:

I don’t know whether it has anything to do with Christmas, but I hope that by the time this kid grows up the world will have got some sense.

The opinion of one man that “only imbeciles and children can be happy this Christmas” was disputed by a newspaper editorial writer who quoted Ecclesiastes:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven: A time to… weep, and a time to laugh…

Golden rule, gold stars

A man waiting for a bus thought a while and said:

I’m still sentimental about Christmas. I think of the Star of Bethlehem – and of those blue stars, and the gold ones, you see in windows. If the Christmas spirit, and the Golden Rule, prevailed every day, everywhere, we’d never again have to hang out those blue stars, or the gold ones.

Said a soldier:

I wish it would be my last Christmas in the Army. I don’t think it will, though.

A sailor:

I’m going to see my folks. It will be the first time in two years. You know what Christmas means to a kid, don’t you? Well, I’m still a kid.

A Congressman intent on getting reservations home suggested that “this Christmas should be a time for fervent hope and prayer that things will be different next year.”

An Army officer, with service ribbons and combat stars on his chest, said: “I still stand by St. Luke.” He referred to this passage:

And the Angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.