Posts Tagged ‘WWI’

046christmas-truce-centenary

On the 24 & 25th of December 1914 entered the first Christmas season while the world was at war. However in most parts of Europe in the trenches, there had been some sort of miracle during the Christmas holiday.

Both sides between the English and the German stopped fighting, came out of their trenches, and conducted themselves among each other in fellowship and celebration.

The Christmas Truce of World War I had begun.

Roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in the unofficial cessations of hostility along the Western Front. The first truce started on Christmas Eve 1914, when German troops decorated the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium and particularly in Saint-Yvon.

The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing 21hristmastruce2Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other.

Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats.

The artillery in the region fell silent. The truce also allowed a period of time where recently fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. In many places along the Front, the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year’s Day in others.

It is even reported that a game of football was played between the two sides. One game which ended when it was kicked and it landed into barbed wire, deflating it.

Needless to say that the higher-ups back at HQ on both sides were not thrilled that the fighting had stopped and they sent word of threats, demanding that the soldiers fight. And if they would not fight they would be pulled off the lines and disciplined. Again, this came both English and German commanders. 128

But nobody wanted to fight. So leaders and soldiers alike on both sides were replaced with new recruits in some places. Other places along the trenches saw that their situation was grave as they were not willing to disobey their commanding officers. One story is told how groups of soldiers reluctantly returned to their trenches and a leader raised his pistol into the air and fired it, signaling that the war would resume.

Had the truce held on for a little while longer, the war to end all wars would have ended itself in just a matter of months. However, the war would go on until 1918. And of course as we look back in history, it would not be the war to end all wars as World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945.

But what a sight that must have been in the trenches to hear and see the Germans decorating and celebrating Christmas and then just the fighting and shooting of weaponry falling silent and people were acting like colleagues rather than enemies.

Personally speaking when I had learned about this many years ago, I thought that it would make for either a good book or a film. And I began a long process of writing, researching, and digging to find answers and stories about this event. Naturally because it was so close to being 100 years ago as it is now… I knew that talking to anyone who had been there or witnessed it would not be possible. So for four long grueling years, I did the best that I could with books, documentaries, and other resources.

When I had finished, I began to take the composition and change it into a screenplay.

And then I found out that there was a film by the title of “Joyeux Noël” which was released in 2005 at the Cannes Film Festival. So all that I had done, was almost rendered worthless. I held on to the works until that computer crashed and I lost it all. But these things are truly fascinating and makes you ask the popular rhetorical question of “What if?” and has you think of what it could have been like had World War I ended shortly after the Christmas Truce of 1914.

 

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” ~ President Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson made that speech on the 11th of November, 1919 proclaiming the national American holiday of Armistice Day.

The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on 4th of June, 1926, requesting that the President Calvin Coolidge issue another proclamation to observe 11th of November with appropriate ceremonies.

An Act approved the 13th of May, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

In 1953, an Emporia, Kansas man named Alvin King the owner of a shoe repair shop, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. King had been actively involved with the American War Dads during World War II. He began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into “All” Veterans Day.

The Emporia Chamber of Commerce took up the cause after determining that 90% of Emporia merchants as well as the Board of Education supported closing their doors on the 11th of November to honor all veterans. With the help of U.S. Representative Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill for the holiday was pushed through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on 26th of May, 1954.

Congress amended this act on first of June, 1954, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans,” and it has been known as Veterans Day since.

Although originally scheduled for celebration on the 11th of November of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978, it was moved back to its original celebration on the 11th of November.

Today in 2011, I met not just one but TWO veterans of World War II. I was amazed and honored to have been able to talk with them. For as brief as it may have been.

Seventy years ago, the United States the second World War and with both cases of talking with these great men, I wondered how old they were. I did some looking and found out that in the United States, there are less than 2 million veterans alive today. The statistics were showing that almost 1,000 veterans of World War II die each day. In less than fifteen years, all American veterans of World War II will be gone.

Another fascinating fact was that the very last American veteran of World War I was Frank Buckles.

Frank Buckles had died only this past February at the age of 110 years, and 26 days. He enlisted and joined the war at the age of 16, driving motorcycles and other vehicles back and forth to the front lines of the war.

The two men that I spoke to had to have been at least 80 or 90 years old. It was incredible. I gave them a salute and shook their hands.

I am glad that we have the holiday of Veteran’s Day. I think that it really something that is needed. The only other holiday that possibly relates to our veterans and our troops in active duty, would be Independence Day.

But I personally believe that we should honor and remember with respect those who fought for our freedoms and liberty, and do so every day. Not just twice a year.

I have and I have had several members of family that served in the military. Including my very own younger brother who has been through conflict in southern Europe and the Middle East. I am proud of him, proud of my family, and proud of those who fought and died, and those who still live to fight another day so that I can appreciate and enjoy my life as it is today.

The rest of the world, especially in Europe still celebrates the end of World War I as Armistice Day. I think that is really awesome. It is a bit different than what is celebrated in the United States but from what I understand, not by much.

I hope for most of you who are reading this did give thanks to our nation’s veterans. Without them, our way of living could be different in so many ways. The comforts and grand opportunities that we enjoy, could possibly be non-existing without them. They’ve paid for it, we enjoy it.

Happy Veteran’s Day… or Armistice Day to everyone across the world!!!!