The Truce of Christmas

Since the earliest days of Christendom there has been many a time when a truce would be called during wars.   The Christians felt it was appropriate to have the time off to celebrate one of their holy days and if the foe was non-Christian they usually were glad to have a respite in the fighting whatever the reason.   The Crusaders did it on several occasions during their campaigns throughout the Holy Land.  The Huns and Mongols were not too keen on the idea and I have found no evidence of a truce with them but I wouldn’t be suprised if they did occur but were not noted. 

There were many examples of this during WWI and there is a movie about one of the more famous episodes fairly early in the fighting when the Germans and British troops declared an informal truce in a local area and mixed and mingled and even exchanged small gifts and sang Christmas carols together.  When the season of peace was over the season for killing resumed.   It also happened during the Second World War in Europe.  There was not similar action in the Pacific where we were fighting the Japs.   There was no commonality of culture and the battles went right on–such as at Guadacanal in Dec. 1942.  

In North Africa where we fought the Afrika Corps there were some truces on a small scale between the opposing camps.  The Italian campaign had them in ’43 and ’44.  Once again these were local affairs and were never approved at a high command level.   It was feared that any interruption in the fighting would adversely affect the morale of the troops but there are not records of a local commander being punished for the informal stand down for Christmas. 

One notable exception to any truce came fairly late in the War at the Ardennes forest.  This was Dec. of ’44 when the Germans had launched their last offensive of the war on Dec. 16th.  It caught the Allies by complete surprise.  Only a couple of months earlier many in high command were predicting that the War would be over in Europe by Christmas of ’44.   Germany had lost so many men and so much materiale on the Western front as the Allies pushed rapidly across France that most believed they were capable of only fighting a defensive retreat for the rest of the war.   This campaign became known as the battle of the bulge because of the huge “bulge” in created in the Allied lines in Belgium.  The Germans were trying to retake Antwerp and that vital supply and port facility because they could use the supplies there and they would be denied to the Allies.   It was a very bitter winter.   Snow was on the ground everywhere and temperatures were cold.   We lost more men in this battle than any other in the entire European campaign and even had thousands that were taken prisoner by the Germans.     The most famous engagement was the battle for Bastogne.  It was an important cross roads town that was the prime gateway for the Germans on the way to Antwerp.   It was made famous in the TV show Band of Brothers.  

Even in those extreme condidtions there were Christmas services held for the men.   There were champlains there with them even under these circumstances.    We take for granted going to a Christmas eve service at Church but these fellows did not.   It meant something to them.   The sounds of battle were around them and the dead and wounded and the prospects for surviving and success were very uncertain at that point.  Victory in that battle was not assured. It would rage on for two more weeks with the outcome wavering back and forth.   As they heard the Christmas story many of them were overwhelmed.   They were comforted knowing their God was with them no matter their worth or privations.

I notice Biden is being assigned a classic “make work” job.  He is going to head up the research and development program for the middle class.   Now what exactly is that supposed to mean.  It gives him so sort of title and I suppose in theory something to do or be pretending to do.  He most important job will naturally be to stay out of the limelight so it won’t diminish his partner.


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Filed under Culture, history

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