Posted on 8 Comments

Christmas on the Home Front


i'll be home for christmas poster wartime 1940s tisha martin author editorIn 1943, the war was two years old; however, across the U.S., many homes were torn apart as fathers, brothers, uncles, and sweethearts and friends were drafted. For the duration, homes would be empty of loved ones during the holidays. To boost morale, Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” became the favorite Christmas song for the duration of the war. And for a handful of families who lived in Lincoln, Illinois, during World War Two, Bing’s song kept the home fires burning within the hearts of the small town of Lincoln’s wives and children.

Logan County Citizen Soldiers WWII newspaper photo tisha martin author editor

Logan County, Lincoln, Illinois, Citizen Soldiers in WWII.

In January 1944, a handful of men (“fathers and non-fathers,” Lincoln Illinois’ newspaper The Lincoln Courier put it) volunteered or were drafted. This group was the first citizen draft group to leave Lincoln and serve their country. Three men volunteered and seven fathers enlisted that bitter January, including Jim Adams, my main character Laurie’s father, from my WWII novel-in-progress.

wartime battle of bulge christmas 1944 tisha martin author editorSome of these men would experience landing on the beaches of Normandy in June 1944, or trudge through the harrowing Battle of the Bulge in Winter 1944.

While the men spent Christmas on the war front, the families celebrated a quiet Christmas on the home front, and even though there weren’t many presents under the tinsel tree, ration stamps had been saved up to purchase sweets and extra food for the holiday season.

santa_claus_christmas_overseas_gifts_poster-r59b50c844ae64cf3bc9ef70c0e7c1e07_aiqqc_8byvr_512Decorating for Christmas involved the idea of simplicity, mostly out of necessity because it gave families something to do together. Children would write Christmas cards to make Dad feel like part of the festivities. Mom and kids would send Dad large care packages, filled with cards, candies (M&Ms), cookies, pictures, and other treats.

Here are a few facts about the holidays on the home front during WWII:

  • Because all the men were off to war, there was no manpower to cut down the lush Christmas trees, and there was not room on the railroad cars to ship them to tree farms. Did that stop anyone from getting a tree? No. Americans rushed to buy American-made Visca artificial trees for seventy-five cents.
  • As if there wasn’t enough snow outside, Americans brought the snow inside. They mixed a box of Lux soap powder with two cups of water and brushed the concoction on the branches of their tree to give it a snow-covered appeal.
  • As soon as the war began, many Americans threw their German blown-glass ornaments and exotic Japanese ornaments in the trash. Soon, Corning Glass Company in New York produced Christmas tree balls using machines designed to produce light bulbs. Thus, came the Shiny Brite ornaments and other ornaments.
  • However, if Americans could not purchase new ornaments, the made do with what they had by making their own ornaments out of non-priority war items, such as paper, string, pine cones, or nuts. The shortage of materials—like aluminum and tin—used to produce ornaments led many people to make their own ornaments at home.
  • Electric bubble lights were created during the 1940s and are still popular.
  • July 1945, the film “Christmas in Connecticut” was released, and the song “Let It Snow” hit the charts.
Posted on 4 Comments

Christmas on the War Front

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.

Captain, M.C.

Renee Bernadette Emilie Lemaire
Place du Carre 30
Bastogne, Belgium

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!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.