Even far from home, servicemen and women during World War II often tried to celebrate the holidays as best as they could. Check out the excerpts below from the World War II War Diaries for descriptions of some Christmas festivities during the war.
Some servicemen were able to enjoy a more traditional Christmas celebration:
“Christmas dinners were served with all the trimmings and carols were sung and the chaplain spoke over the public address system. In the wardroom, a Christmas Eve dinner had been planned. Decorations, designed from materials at hand, consisted of a water fillable bomb for a centerpiece with ‘Merry Christmas’ painted on it and streamers crisscrossing the ceiling made of red tow-sleeves. The occasion was a gala one including the orchestra and even a Santa Claus.” —VT-44, 1944
Other celebrations were simpler:
“Christmas was like other days. We had a Christmas Church Service. Not many came, it was hot and rainy, and we were working at getting those vital supplies aboard. Our Christmas celebration consisted of a huge meal and a good one, followed by candy, cigars, and cigarettes. It was all that we could expect and we were, if not satisfied, at least content.” —USS Amycus, 1944
Some men tried to decorate for the holiday as best as they could:
“One of the radiomen had picked up a sprouting coconut at Guam. This was our Christmas tree. The electricians rigged up a string of lights, and the mess cook tied small boxes of breakfast food to the tree and a signalman painted a Santa Claus.” —USS Tombigee, 1944
For some, Christmas was business as usual:
“Even on Christmas, we did not enjoy a ‘Silent Night,’ however. Manned air defense stations from 1908 to 1945 and from 2135 to 2201; during the last period, bogies closed to 10 miles and a good deal of AA fire was observed from the beach.” —USS Phoenix, 1944
“Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were two of the worst days I ever hope to spend in my life. […] On Christmas Eve they [Japanese bombers] put five bombs within 20 feet of the building which we were hiding under. Christmas Day they came back and hit four of those five craters.” —Manila, 1941
Homesickness was common for many during the holidays:
“Everybody tried to be cheerful. But every man knew that he wasn’t fooling anybody, not even himself. For after all, what is Christmas when one is hundreds, or perhaps several thousands of miles from home and loved ones?” —USS Montrose, 1944
But mail from home often cheered them up:
“On arrival, we received our only Christmas presents—mail. What actual Christmas presents we were to receive did not arrive until almost Easter. But the letters from home were a good substitute.” —USS Newman, 1944
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