Dec 24, 2004


from Mr. Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac."

It was on this day in 1914 that the last known Christmas truce occurred, during World War I. German troops fighting in Belgium began decorating their trenches and singing Christmas carols. Their enemy, the British, soon joined in the caroling. The war was put on hold, and these soldiers greeted each other in "No Man's Land," exchanging gifts of whiskey and cigars. Recently killed soldiers were returned behind their own lines and given proper burials, and soldiers from both sides attended ceremonies. In many areas, the truce held until Christmas night, while in other places the truce did not end until New Year's Day. One story has it that the opposing sides played a soccer match together. The game ended when the ball deflated on a strand of barbed wire.

British commanders Sir John French and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien disapproved of the truce, and they ordered artillery bombardments on Christmas Eve in the remaining years of the war. Troops were also rotated with regularity to keep them from growing too familiar with the enemy troops in the close quarters of trench warfare. The Christmas truce was a war tradition of the 19th century, and its disappearance marked the end of wartime protocols of that time.

Gawd Above, we can't have the troops being all friendly with each other, especially not the bloody ENEMY, now can we? I mean, good will, an open and giving nature, thoughtfulness, exchanging GIFTS? Honestly, where would it all END?

Makes me think of the grand old days of aviation, when military pilots were not stuck up snobbish prigs with delusions of grandeur but were gentlemen fliers, men with a smattering of knowledge and a lot of guts, and were all part of a small brotherhood that respected each other, even tho each other might be the enemy. I know, politeness has no place in war, but if there was more politeness, mightn't there be a little less of what we have now?

Merry Xmas, everyone.

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