December 16, 2016

A History Buff's Christmas Tidbits

Christmas has always been one of the most special holidays for Americans. But, during World War II, the Marine Corps was deployed to the furthest corners of the world fighting for freedom. Many Marines who had never been far from home before found themselves thousands of miles from their loved ones and the joys of the season.

The Marine Corps did what it could to honor the season, but the realities of war often took precedence over holiday traditions. Still, the Corps tried to to make Christmas special. Especially in garrison, units decorated Christmas trees, distributed gifts to enlisted men and practiced various traditions to bring some holiday cheer.


Marines did their best to celebrate the season, but it was hard with a war on. Every mile they advanced in the war took them further away from home and loved ones. The mental distance could seem enormous. On far-flung islands in the Pacific, or assigned to posts and stations scattered across the face of the globe, most wartime Marines spent the holidays separated from friemds and families.


Each year, the Commandant issued a special Christmas message to be read to Marines all over the globe. Below is the Commandant's message from 1944.



The Commandant's Christmas 1944 Message
Among the many important things which men sacrifice in the armed forces is Christmas at home. It is one of the most difficult to give up. The American family Christmas is one of the great joys of life.

At the same time, it is one of the real, tangible things for which we fight. Its preservation is one of the essential reasons for our being at war. Every Marine who spends Christmas in service away from home is actually keeping Christmas in his home. He is making sure that the forces which have gravely threatened it are thoroughly defeated. He is making certain that, when he returns, he and his loved ones will be able to enjoy Christmases for the remainder of their lives in an era of peace which he himself will have nobly won.

On this fourth wartime Christmas he has gone far toward that end. The enemy forces in the Pacific have been driven back to their innermost ring of defenses. And, while they may be expected to put up savage resistance there, they cannot escape the closing circle of Allied might. The final, decisive actions are shaping up. 

To all Marine Corps officers and enlisted personnel, men and women, I extend cordial greetings and best wishes for the Christmas season.
Alexander A. Vandegrift
Lt Gen, USMC
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Santa Claus visits Guadalcanal on Christmas day, 1942Life Magazine

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