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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A CHRISTMAS TRUCE


Ref:
GyG'sMailbag: From Marine Raider Al Careaga, 1st Marine Raider Bn-WW II
Dick Gaines
~~~~~~~

Gunny....I don't know if this Christmas Truce has come to your attention before but I think it is worh sharing with your recipients.

As is shown I have sent this to my 3 Sons.
Also a firefighter friend here in my neighborhood who is very interested in everything Marine.

Semper Fi....Raider Gunny WW2.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE
Thursday, March 18, 2004

Hi Guys....I don't remember if I have earlier forwarded this to you....Memory loss of course.
If I have,you can just discard it....

This event actually occured in World War 1 and I think it was chronicled in Erich Maria Remarques novel...All Quiet on the Western Front, which I would wager each of you has read.

I think it is quite a commentary on the futility and
stupidity of war.

In 1943 we had a similiar experience with the Japanese.....On a much smaller scale. However, our exchanges of insults such as "Screw Roosevelt"
which we answered with a resounding "Screw Tojo" each exchange followed with raucous laughter and then bursts of automatic rifle and machine gun fire.

The next exchange would be "Screw Eleanore" We answered
"No...You screw her" and this resulted in the biggest laughter of the night...both from them and us.

All this occuring around 2-3 A.M. Needless to say we didn't get much sleep that night, but then we hardly ever got any sleep as the little nip plane we called "Washing Machine Charlie" would come over around 2-3 every morning and drop his one bomb which did little more than wake us up.

Even though this occurred some 61 years ago this July....I remember it as vividly as if it happened last night.

Guys....I am including a friend who just returned from a visit to D.C. where upon my urging he visited the Marine Corps Museum at the Washington Navy yard. I visited with Skip this morning at the dog park to hear about his visit.

At any rate...Semper Fi.........Dad.
P.S. Of course I cleaned this up....they and we also used then F
word.
~~~~~~~~~~~
Monday, December 22, 2003
THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE

By Aaron Shepard

Copyright (c) 2001, 2003 by Aaron Shepard. May
be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial
purpose, but please do not omit any text,
including this notice.

ABOUT THE STORY: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is
one of the most remarkable incidents of World War
I and perhaps of all military history. Starting
in some places on Christmas Eve and in others on
Christmas Day, the truce covered as much as two-
thirds of the British-German front, with thousands
of soldiers taking part. Perhaps most remarkably,
it grew out of no single initiative but sprang up
in each place spontaneously and independently.

Nearly everything described here is drawn from
first-hand accounts in letters and diaries of the
time. Britishisms include using "Nowell" instead
of "Noel," and "football" instead of "soccer."
Visit my home page at http://www.aaronshep.com
to learn more about the story, get a copy in Web
format, find a reader's theater script version,
read more stories, or contact the author.

-- Aaron
_________________________________________________

Christmas Day, 1914

My dear sister Janet,

It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are
asleep in their dugouts -- yet I could not sleep
myself before writing to you of the wonderful
events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened
seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn't
been through it myself, I would scarce believe it.
Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols
before the fire there in London, I did the same
with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of
France!

As I wrote before, there has been little serious
fighting of late. The first battles of the war
left so many dead that both sides have held back
until replacements could come from home. So we
have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.

But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing
that any moment an artillery shell might land
and explode beside us in the trench, killing or
maiming several men. And in daylight not daring
to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a
sniper's bullet.

And the rain -- it has fallen almost daily. Of
course, it collects right in our trenches, where
we must bail it out with pots and pans. And with
the rain has come mud -- a good foot or more deep.
It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly
sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet
stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried
to get out -- just like in that American story of
the tar baby!

Through all this, we couldn't help feeling curious
about the German soldiers across the way. After
all, they faced the same dangers we did, and
slogged about in the same muck. What's more, their
first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between
us lay No Man's Land, bordered on both sides by
barbed wire -- yet they were close enough we
sometimes heard their voices.

Of course, we hated them when they killed our
friends. But other times, we joked about them and
almost felt we had something in common. And now it
seems they felt the same.

Just yesterday morning -- Christmas Eve Day --
we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we
welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid.
Everything was tinged white with frost, while a
bright sun shone over all. Perfect Christmas
weather.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle
fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our
Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our
first complete silence in months! We hoped it
might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn't
count on it. We'd been told the Germans might
attack and try to catch us off guard.

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot,
I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend
John was shaking me awake, saying, "Come and see!
See what the Germans are doing!" I grabbed my
rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck
my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely
sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all
along the German line, left and right as far as
the eye could see.

"What is it?" I asked in bewilderment, and John
answered, "Christmas trees!"

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas
trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle
or lantern like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices raised in song.

"Stille nacht, heilige nacht...."

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in
Britain, but John knew it and translated: "Silent
night, holy night." I've never heard one lovelier
-- or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night,
its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches
applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding
Germans! Then one of our own men started singing,
and we all joined in.

"The first Nowell, the angel did say...."

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the
Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they
responded with enthusiastic applause of their
own and then began another.

"O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum...."

Then we replied.

"O come all ye faithful...."

But this time they joined in, singing the same
words in Latin.

"Adeste fideles...."

British and German harmonizing across No Man's
Land! I would have thought nothing could be more
amazing -- but what came next was more so.

"English, come over!" we heard one of them shout.
"You no shoot, we no shoot."

There in the trenches, we looked at each other
in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly,
"You come over here."

To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from
the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and
advance unprotected across No Man's Land. One
of them called, "Send officer to talk."

I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready,
and no doubt others did the same -- but our
captain called out, "Hold your fire." Then he
climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway.
We heard them talking, and a few minutes later,
the captain came back with a German cigar in
his mouth!

"We've agreed there will be no shooting before
midnight tomorrow," he announced. "But sentries
are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay
alert."

Across the way, we could make out groups of two
or three men starting out of trenches and coming
toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too,
and in minutes more, there we were in No Man's
Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each
side, shaking hands with men we'd been trying to
kill just hours earlier!

Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we
mingled -- British khaki and German grey. I must
say, the Germans were the better dressed, with
fresh uniforms for the holiday.

Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of
the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why
that was.

"Because many have worked in England!" he said.
"Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel
Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!"

"Perhaps you did!" I said, laughing.

He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that
the war had interrupted their plans for marriage.
I told him, "Don't worry. We'll have you beat by
Easter, then you can come back and marry the
girl."

He laughed at that. Then he asked if I'd send her
a postcard he'd give me later, and I promised I
would.

Another German had been a porter at Victoria
Station. He showed me a picture of his family back
in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said
I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and
said he would like that very much and gave me his
family's address.

Even those who could not converse could still
exchange gifts -- our cigarettes for their cigars,
our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for
their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms
changed owners, and one of our lads walked off
with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded
a jackknife for a leather equipment belt -- a fine
souvenir to show when I get home.

Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans
howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that
France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too.
We told them that was nonsense, and one of them
said, "Well, you believe your newspapers and we'll
believe ours."

Clearly they are lied to -- yet after meeting
these men, I wonder how truthful our own
newspapers have been. These are not the "savage
barbarians" we've read so much about. They are
men with homes and families, hopes and fears,
principles and, yes, love of country. In other
words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to
believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded
around the fire, and then all joined in for --
I am not lying to you -- "Auld Lang Syne." Then
we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow,
and even some talk of a football match.

I was just starting back to the trenches when an
older German clutched my arm. "My God," he said,
"why cannot we have peace and all go home?"

I told him gently, "That you must ask your
emperor."

He looked at me then, searchingly. "Perhaps, my
friend. But also we must ask our hearts."

And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been
such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does
it all mean, this impossible befriending of
enemies?

For the fighting here, of course, it means
regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers
may be, but they follow orders and we do the same.
Besides, we are here to stop their army and send
it home, and never could we shirk that duty.

Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen
if the spirit shown here were caught by the
nations of the world. Of course, disputes must
always arise. But what if our leaders were to
offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in
place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals?
Would not all war end at once?

All nations say they want peace. Yet on this
Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite
enough.

Your loving brother,
Tom

~~~~~~~~~~
Note:
3/22/04
The following note is from my friend, George Clark, Marine, historian, author, publisher and bookseller, etc.
Thank you, George
DickG
~~~~~
Dick
you might want to mention to anyone with
interest, that in 1914, post-action
mentioned, the British demanded that their
officers stop any Christmas good
neighborlyness in the future. They were concerned
that if the troops and the
enemy were friendly the continued killing might
end. That would have been a
shame.
German officers participated in the gift
exchange. They, both sides, even
played some soccer during the interval.
I'm not sure that the Christmas interchange
happened between the Frech and
Germans.
Just thot someone might be interested.
George Clark
~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~
This is...
Gunny G's...
GLOBE and ANCHOR
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
Semper Fidelis
~~~~~~~~~~
Note:
GyG's G&A Sites & Forums is an informational site and not for profit. Copyrighted material provided soley for education, study, research, and discussion, etc. Full credit to source shown when available.
~~~~~