Recently, we looked at what Christmas was like on the home front. You can read about that here. I’ve also drawn names for the winners of two WWII Christmas-themed books! Announcing them a little later….
While there’s much about a home-front Christmas, it was a little more challenging to find war-front Christmas information in a way that was, shall we say, pleasant. There are many photos of soldiers receiving packages from home, celebrating tiny celebrations with makeshift trees, and greeting their loved ones on a furlough home.
A friend of mine, Russ Schaefer, who is in heaven now, served in Patton’s Third Army during Battle of the Bulge. He told me he remembers standing guard until his fingers and toes were purple; he suffered hypothermia. Yet, when he’d used to sit behind me in church and we’d shake hands in greeting, his hands were always so warm, so comforting.
But it was anything but warm or comforting during Battle of the Bulge in 1944. American soldiers were spread 75 miles down the Ardennes Forest, and there was really no hope in sight for setting aside the time for celebration. However, on Christmas Eve, the soldiers in Bastonge, Belgium had quite the experience. Upon opening a bottle of champagne, the blackened room the soldiers were in lit up with the affects of a screaming bomb as it dropped from an enemy plane. The unmarked hospital next door was in shambles, killing a total of 20 people, including Renee Lemaire, who had helped in the hospital. Below is a letter of commendation from the battalion surgeon:
SUBJECT: Commendation for Renee Bernadette Emilie Lemaire (deceased)
To: Commanding General 10th Armored Division.APO 260, US Army (Attn: Division Surgeon) Thru Channels:
As Battalion Surgeon, 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, I am commending a commendation for Renee Lemaire on the following evidence:
This girl, a registered nurse in the country of Belgium, volunteered her services at the aid station, 20th Armored Infantry Battalion in Bastogne, Belgium, 21 December, 1944. At this time the station was holding about 150 patients since the city was encircled by enemy forces and evacuation was impossible. Many of these patients were seriously injured and in great need of immediate nursing attention. This girl cheerfully accepted the herculean task and worked without adequate rest or food until the night of her untimely death on 24 December, 1944. She changed dressings, fed patients unable to feed themselves, gave out medications, bathed and made the patients more comfortable, and was of great assistance in the administration of plasma and other professional duties. Her very presence among those wounded men seemed to be an inspiration to those whose morale had declined from prolonged suffering. On the night of December 24 the building in which Renee Lemaire was working was scored with a direct hit by an enemy bomber. She, together with those whom she was caring for so diligently, were instantly killed.
It is on these grounds that I recommend the highest award possible to one, who though not a member of the armed forces of the United States, was of invaluable assistance to us.
JACK T. PRIOR
Renee Bernadette Emilie Lemaire
Place du Carre 30
Source: Battle of the Bulge Memories
Thanks for everyone who entered the giveaway! Now … Announcing the winners of two WWII Christmas-themed books:
- Lisa H. — wins Ace Collins’s novel
- Connie S. — wins Barb Warner Deane’s novel
- Winners have been notified by email.
Photos depicting wartime celebration on the war front, receiving packages at mail call, soldiers greeting their family and girlfriends on a furlough, a wartime wedding, and many postcards that were sent to the men on the front. Oh, and chocolate! Must have chocolate!