MORNING of 16 December 1944, the American lines in the Ardennes sector were smashed by 200,000 German troops, creating a salient (thus, the Battle of the Bulge), prompting Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels to crow: “What German heart is not beating more strongly with pride and emotion when I speak of our soldiers who have been on the offensive once again in the West for over a week!” [“Fest der starken Herzen,” Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 27 December 1944]
Hitler’s brainchild may have been a surprise, but it failed. The Americans held firm: “We’re fighting — it’s cold, we aren’t home. All true but what has the proud Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and all the rest? Just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South and West…Their Commander demanded our surrender…The German Commander received the following reply: ‘Nuts!’ … Allied Troops are counterattacking in force. We continue to hold Bastogne.” [U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, Christmas letter to the U.S. 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, 24 December 1944]
The Germans, as part of their campaign, sent their Seasons Greetings to the Americans: “Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Tank, 101st Parachute and 28th Infantry Divisions, did your officers tell you that you are surrounded and outnumbered here? Well, here you are just before Christmas far away from home and stuck in the worst imaginable military situation. Will you come back, are you sure to see your loved ones again?” [Christmas Sudstern (Southern Cross) leaflet coded 378-12-44/12, quoted in Herbert A. Friedman, Counterfeit Christmas Cards]
Ho, ho, ho. Such Christians. That Yuletide, one of the Allied officers (Lieutenant General G. S. Patton, Jr., Commanding, Third United States Army) sent his men a standard cheer (“I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. May God’s blessing rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.”) and had a prayer composed (14 December 1944) and disseminated (22 December 1944): “Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.” [War As I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of “Blood ‘N Guts”]
Sixth Christmas of World War Two. In Italy (16 December 1944), Benito Mussolini told the Fascists gathered in Milan’s Teatro Lirico: “There was a period when the conquest of Paris and Brussels, coupled with the unconditional surrender of Romania, Finland and Bulgaria, gave rise to a movement of such euphoria that—according to the media—it was believed that the war would be practically over by this Christmas, with the triumphal entry of the Allies into Berlin…Meanwhile the German resistance is getting stronger and many illusions cultivated by enemy propaganda have disappeared.”
[https://bibliotecafascista.blogspot.com/2012/03/speech-at-teatro-lirico-in-milan.html] In Belgium (17 December 1944), Battle Group Pieper (commanded by SS Colonel Joachim Pieper) murdered 84 American prisoners of war at a road intersection near Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. [https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/Malmedy_trial.html] In the Philippines (16 December 1944), confident and constant guerrilla pressure continued to explode Tokyo’s mythology (Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere).
“On Mindanao, under the command of Colonel Wendell W. Fertig, Engineer Corps, they have invested numerous important coastal points and enemy-held airfields and have liberated the entire provinces of Lanao and Misamis Occidental. On Panay, under command of Colonel Macario Peralta, Jr., Infantry, they have captured the towns of Zarraga, Palnongon, San Miguel and Enstancia, seized several vital enemy airfields and are now maintaining heavy pressure on remaining scattered enemy positions on the Island. On Negros, under command of Lt. Colonel Salvador Abcede, Infantry, in a general offensive movement against enemy-occupied areas they have cleared the southern half of the island with the exception of the Dumaguete area where the enemy has been driven into a pocket and is now under close siege. On the east coast, Sibulan, San Carlos, Bais, Isabella and Luzriga, together with several airfields have been captured. On Cebu, under command of Lt. Colonel Charles Gushing, Engineer Corps, in a series of direct attacks and violent harassing movement, they have cleared the enemy from the major part of southern CEBU, leaving him confined for the most part to central CEBU where his lines of communication are under constant pressure. In the Sulu archipelago, under command of Lt. Colonel Alejandro Suarez, Infantry, they have pinned down the enemy’s forces into small restricted areas. On Bohol, under command of Major Ismael Inginiero, Infantry, they have freed the entire island except in the Tagbilaran area where the enemy’s forces are now concentrated.” [G. H. Q. Southwest Pacific Area Communique No. 983, December 16, 1944]
In Eastern Europe, the Soviet Red Army rolled over the opposition. “Troops of the Third Ukrainian Front, breaking through the strongly fortified enemy defenses south-west of Budapest, in three days offensive operations have advanced up to 40 kilometres. During the offensive, the troops of the front captured by storm the towns of Szekesfejer-var and Bicske – large centers of communications and important strongpoints in the enemy defenses – thus cutting the main paths of retreat to the west for the Budapest grouping of German and Hungarian troops…Today, December 24, at 20.00 hours (Moscow time), the capital of our Motherland, Moscow, in the name of the Motherland, will salute with 20 artillery salvoes from 224 guns the gallant troops of the Third Ukrainian Front…Death to the German invaders!” [J. STALIN, Marshal of the Soviet Union, Order of the Day, 24 December 1944]
In the United States, the film “Meet Me in St. Louis” featured Judy Garland singing “Someday soon we all will be together, If the fates allow, Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow, So have yourself a merry little christmas now.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CreWsnhQwzY]
For Christmas 1944, Aldous Leonard Huxley wrote “The Crows of Pearblossom” for his niece. In East Asia, the prisoners of the Japanese struggled for their children. “Christmas celebrations were equally problematical. ‘Stanley parents were faced with the problem of acting Santa Claus to their skeptical offspring who did not have to examine their toys very closely in order to realise that Father Christmas too must [have been] an internee’.
Nonetheless, the observance of this Western cultural tradition was important for overall morale and individual peace of mind.” [Bernice Archer and Fedorowich Kent (1996) The women of Stanley: internment in Hong Kong 1942–45, Women’s History Review, 5:3, 373-399]
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”