Christmas during war (12-24-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 24, 1943)

Background of news –
Christmas during war

By Bertram Benedict, editorial research reports

This is the third Christmas during the participation of the United States in World War II. The odds are better than ever that the German phase of the war will be over by the time the fourth Christmas of American participation rolls around next year.

Our first Christmas in World War II came two and a half weeks after Pearl Harbor, and found our Armed Forces everywhere in retreat. The Japanese were advancing in the Philippines and in Borneo, and Manila was to be declared an open city to spare it further bombardment. Pearl Harbor wounded were landed in San Francisco. Hong Kong surrendered, after a 16-day siege, but the British was advancing in Northeast Africa, and the Russians had assumed their winter offensive.

Prime Minister Churchill was in Washington; he joined President Roosevelt in a Christmas Eve broadcast from the Christmas tree just outside the White House grounds.

The 1942 midterm elections were more than 10 months in the future, and the Democrats had more than twice as many seats in the Senate as the Republicans, in the House a majority of about 100. Tire sales had been stopped, prior to rationing, and golfers were buying up gold balls. Auto traffic accidents were higher than in 1940. There were about 1,650,000 in the Army.

By Christmas last year, U.S. forces were everywhere on the offensive. In North Africa, Adm. Darlan was assassinated on Christmas Eve. President Roosevelt, broadcasting from the Christmas tree in Washington, said he couldn’t conscientiously send out hope for a Merry Christmas, but at least it was a merrier one than Christmas of 1941.

On Christmas Day, the RAF bombed Germany heavily; the Nazi radio complained that this was no way to act on the day of peace on earth, goodwill toward men. The British in Africa were driving Rommel westward; the Americans were driving the Germans eastward. The Russian winter counteroffensive was rolling ahead.

In Washington, Congress was showing much interest in pay-as-you-go tax plans. The administration was reported to be opposed to subsidies to hold down food prices as too expensive; some newspapers which were to uphold the subsidy program on Christmas 1943 were denouncing it as folly on Christmas 1942. Mrs. Roosevelt paid Christmas morning visits in the slum districts of the Capital. Auto traffic accidents were only one-half those of the year before. There were about 5,350,000 in the Army.

In World War I, there was no Christmas of hostilities for the United States, for on Christmas 1917, only 165,000 American soldiers were overseas, and none was on the firing line; and by Christmas 1918, hostilities were over.

Christmas Day, 1917, fell on a “meatless Tuesday.” Two days before there had been a “lightless Sunday;” a day later there was to be a “wheatless Wednesday.” Coal for home heating was scarce. So was sugar. The cost of living was going up fast. Railroad transportation was in a tangle, and the government was preparing to take over the roads.

President Wilson, in his Christmas to the Armed Forces, said:

The nation reposes in you its full confidence that in God’s good time and with God’s blessing its troops… side by side with their gallant allies will bring victory and abiding faith to all the world.

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