Simple words of greeting that have been shared all over the world in so many languages. But often the greeting is sent from far away from home. In December 1945, my Dad was working as part of the post war draw down in Manila. He had entered the war on March 8th, 1945 and after a series of delays found himself in the Philippines at the close of the war. I wrote a family book years ago that contained all of his letters home from that time period. His reactions to his circumstances painted a very colorful picture of a man I thought I knew pretty well.
After the war ended, the country had soldiers and sailors scattered across the globe. There was a tremendous amount of pressure both at home and overseas to “bring the boys home”. But there was still work to be done. Supplies were scattered all around the Pacific and bases needed to be shut down as well. Plus, the sheer magnitude of men and women in theater was an obstacle. So a points system was developed to prioritize who got home first. Then ships had to be repurposed from warships to troop ships.
The points assigned came from length of service as well as types of service. Dad was an E3 and had come into the Philippines as part of the group that would be part of the invasion of Japan that never came. The bomb ended the need for an invasion. So his point count was non-existent. In short, he would spend close to a year in the Manila doing hard work moving the supplies from shore back to ship and distributing much of it to the newly freed people of the Philippines.
He had never been much further than his home town growing up so finding himself on the opposite side of the world on Christmas day had to have been hard. Leading up to it, he wrote this letter to his Mom:
Dec 20, 45
Dear Mom – Pop
Well, here it is only five more days till Christmas and I don’t have any spirit at all. I’ve started to write you about six times now but we’ve been so busy the last week it isn’t even funny. We got greens in and shoes and we had a line out front of the warehouse for three days. Not only that, we’re counting all excess gear and putting process on it as the base is folding up. We’re supposed to be off here March 1st. I talked to a guy last night about it and he said we might go to China or Japan. We don’t know for sure yet. Well, by the time you get this letter Christmas will be over. I sure hope you had a good time. They have a pretty nice day planned for us. There is a guy from Wilkinsburg going home tomorrow and he is gonna come up to see you sometime. He’s alright but I didn’t care too much for him. Well, its almost one oclock and back to the old grind. I’ll write later.
Lots of love
Then on Christmas Day, he followed up with another letter:
Dec 25, 45
Dear Mom – Pop
Well “Merry Christmas”. Here it is Christmas day. Its kinda gloomy out. It rained all night. I went to church last night and this morning. I took communion this morning. I’m supposed to be working but, I’m not going to do anything, just sit around. The Catholic service is being held in the theater right now. They are broadcasting over WVTM. We are having a big dance tonight. You know today I’ve missed being home more than any day yet. I just feel like staring at things. I got a cute card from Bud the other day, it was very nice. I wrote to you yesterday but haven’t even mailed the letter yesterday. Our Chaplain is going home the day after tomorrow. We already have a new one, Mr. Whitehead. I’m not even in the mood to write today. Well, I guess I’ll write to Ixxy , Jack and Nancy
Well, here I am again, I am wishing you a very “Merry Christmas”
Dad would make it home in August of 1946. He married Mom in 1950 and every year until the day he died celebrated Christmas with an amount of energy and joy that I never really understood until I found his letters after his death. Our house always got decorated and we always had a live tree.
For all of the men and women who have ever been away at this time of year serving their country, the words Merry Christmas have a special meaning. For all of those who are missing a lived one who is in that category this year, I hope you get a chance to speak with them. Thanks to all who have protected and served. A very Special Merry Christmas to you