Christmas Battles, Truces, And Bob Hope
Christmas Battles, Truces, And Bob Hope
War doesn’t stop for Christmas, except when it does. Our American and world history is replete with major battles fought during Christmas. Many such battles turned the tide for one side or the other.
For Americans, one battle truly stands out. It is one that, when the news traveled to all thirteen colonies, ensured those future Americans were going to prevail.
Just after dark on Christmas Day, an army of 2,400 Continentals under the command of George Washington crossed the frigid Delaware River to surprise a party of Hessian troops quartered downstream at Trenton, New Jersey.
After landing undetected on the hostile shore, the rebels marched all night in freezing rain to reach their objective. At daybreak, the soaked and shivering attackers quickly overpowered the German mercenaries, many of who were still nursing hangovers from the previous evening’s revelry. More than 1,000 enemy troops were captured in the brief skirmish.
The victory, although minor in military terms, served as a major morale boost to the flagging cause of independence.
Keep in mind that those soldiers had very little ammunition, were lacking the appropriate winter clothing for the time, and many were suffering from malnutrition. Yet 2,400 future Americans along with George Washington snuck across the frozen Delaware and overpowered one of the most highly trained military units the British had. Oh to have been watching and cheering them on!
From the American Revolution to World War I and World War II, many battles were fought during the Christmas season. Some turned the tide, some didn’t, and some sparked legends and very real accounts of Christmas Truces.
For nearly a century it was believed to be a one-off event. The Christmas truce of 1914, when British and German soldiers played football in no man’s land, sang carols and swapped food, was thought never to have been repeated because of the scale of the bloodshed that followed it.
Since German historian Thomas Weber debunked this notion more than 90 years later, he has been indundated with a deluge of letters showing that tens of thousands of soldiers took part in fraternisation at Christmas, Easter and other times on all fronts. Speaking to The Times, the historian revealed fresh details from an “avalanche” of accounts of informal parleys in soldiers’ letters, regimental diaries and military orders.
Weber highlights multiple instances of soldiers on both sides laying down their arms for a brief shining moment of peace in the midst of horrible war.
Is it inconceivable to think that men, longing for home, most especially during Christmas would tacitly agree to a brief truce in the midst of battle? It would seem so, yet there are many accounts of such things happening.
To shield crippled US bomber & its crew from German attacks, Stigler flies in formation with Ye Olde Pub, & guides enemy plane to safety of the North Sea. After saluting shocked US bomber crew, Stigler flies home, keeping his mercy mission secret. More: https://t.co/XDPPOOKkqz— Second World War tweets from 1943 (@RealTimeWWII) December 21, 2021
In Vietnam, what our troops did have was Bob Hope.
1964: As we flew in today, they gave us a 21-gun salute. Three of them were ours.
1965: . . . we’ve had all kinds of demonstrations back in the states: “Get out of Vietnam”, “Don’t get out of Vietnam”, “Why don’t you go back where you came from”, and “I came from Vietnam, that’s why.”
1966: You guys have a lot of competition on TV back home, so you better get on the ball. If you don’t get a better rating, this whole war may be cancelled.
1967: Miniskirts are bigger than ever. Even some of the fellas are wearing them. . . . Don’t laugh. If you had thought of it, you wouldn’t be here.
1968: At San Francisco State, the cops have spent so much time on campus, eight of them graduated.
1969: Now we’re in the midst of a 24 hour Christmas truce. Isn’t that beautiful? I like a war with a commercial break
And, his tour wasn’t a dog and pony show. Nope, Bob and his group of celebrities who included Phyllis Diller, Raquel Welch, and so many others traveled willingly into harms way over multiple Christmas seasons to entertain and lift up our soldiers.
Thus, while there may not be stories of a truce among the vicious battles of Vietnam, Christmas in the form of Bob Hope did arrive for many.
In the midst of battle, the soldiers on both sides can stop and realize that humanity trumps all.
We have troops near and far deployed this Christmas season. We pray for all. We pray for peace. And we give thanks that they are standing at the tip of the spear for us.
Feature Photo Credit: Bob Hope at USO Show in Vietnam by US Army public domain, cropped and modified