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The Greatest Celebration in American History – Christmas, 1945

June 22, 2012

While researching Al’s separation from the U.S. Army, I came across an interesting story about an author, Matthew Litt, who wrote a book entitled, Christmas, 1945: The Greatest Celebration in American History.  This was, of course, the first Christmas after the end of World War II, with the soldiers flooding home.  All branches of the U.S. military created and executed a program entitled “Operation Magic Carpet”  to try to move as many soldiers as possible back from Europe and Asia.  The Army and Navy launched “Operation Santa Claus”, an effort to process the discharge of as many G.I.s as possible. Christmas that year fell on a Tuesday so even President Harry Truman joined in, announcing a first-time  four-day federal holiday.  With Al arriving back in the States, he arrived very much a part of this. So, it was with great fascination, I read a piece about Mr. Litt’s book  describing the time:

 The newly-discharged veterans set out for home, clogging rail depots, bus stations and airports creating, at that time, the greatest traffic jam in the nation’s history. Some of the more fortunate were driven thousands of miles home by grateful citizens doing everything they could to show their gratitude and create a happy homecoming.  Across the nation, people reached out to wounded veterans, children who lost fathers,and neighbors who lost sons. Americans in big cities and small shared their renewal of spirit and prayers for peace.

Isn’t that beautiful?  Christmas in wartime had been a bleak occasion, with separation, fear and anxiety replacing the usual joy.  As Mr. Litt says in response to an interview question:
The domestic challenges facing this country at Christmas 1945 were unprecedented in scope, and nearly as great as the international challenges during the War. After four years of wartime selflessness, America had to deal with labor strife, issues of re-employment and unemployment, extreme housing shortages, clothing shortages and civil rights issues. At Christmas 1945, America was able to put these things aside, if just for four days, and come together as one for a curtain-call of sorts of wartime unity. I don’t want to minimize the domestic issues we face in this country in 2010, they are not insignificant, but they are nothing compared to what the nation faced at the end of 1945. If they could come together, then so can we.
I love it!  Thank you for letting me go a little off course with this post but this story touches me and gives me hope.  Merry Christmas!
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