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merry-xmas

 

It was 20 years ago this year that I started the web site B-29 Superfortress Then and Now. It was a one page dedication to my father-in-law James E. Reifenschneider. The page has grown from that one page to over 1500 pages. We started the Yahoo email list when it became available and we had over 900+ members when most of our B-29ers were alive. Over the years many of our guys and gals have taken their "last flights" but they will never be forgotten while their pages are on my web site are still up and running. I am very grateful that I have been given the opportunity to share parts of their lives with each of you. This web site has become a part of my life and I have met so many and have learned so much about life, war and friendship. I, my husband Jim, and our new pup, Rainer, wish you all a Happy Holidays from our home to yours.

 

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World War II is in the way we shop and decorate. It’s in our holiday soundtrack; remember "White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, I'll Be Home for Christmas, Baby, It's Cold Outside and Let It Snow" Preparation for Christmas started sooner during the war than it had ever been before. Americans wanted to send gifts to sons serving as WWII GIs overseas. In 1943, the post office declared October 31 the last day mail could be sent to the Pacific and be guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve.



Christmas in the Marianas


As most of your know, my "Uncle Billy" flew with the 504th Bomb Group from Tinian Island in the Marianas, during World War II. Here’s a cute story that I recently came across that I’d acquired decades before during the early days of my research, from Charles Harris, the 504th’s photographer...."The 24th of December 1944 should go down in history as the Night of the Great Pig and Goat Feast. For most of us, including your uncle, it was our first night on Tinian. We were told not to leave our area because there were hundreds of Japanese still at large on the island.

As night fell, each of us knew that we were in for a firefight sooner or later. The guards were posted, and those of us not on guard duty nervously went to bed in our tents with loaded carbines by our side. Suddenly a shot rang out, then another on the other side of my tent, and then a volley from all over, then silence. A short while later, our nervous guards started shooting again. It was pitch dark. No one could see anything but mussel flashes from the gun barrels and tracer rounds. I heard this god-awful cry as someone or something fell bleeding against my tent. The Marines camped about a quarter mile away, as it turned out, were most unhappy with us green Army Air Corp flyboys and started shooting like hell over our heads, just to see how worked up we could get.

This bizarre exchange of fire and weird sounding cries went on throughout the night, scarring the bejesus out of all of us! The next day, Christmas, we sat down together for dinner. On the menu was the result of the previous night’s firefight with the “enemy,” a dozen or more wild pigs and a large male goat with huge antlers, that fell beside my tent. The Marines were invited. There was plenty to go around. They came and offered their apologies, the Sea bees provided the beer, and the Marines left us with a special gift-a half dozen of their own who from then on, watched over the 504th at night until they were relieved. I for one, slept a lot better after that. Shots still rang out night after night all the time but I felt better knowing that it was none of us behind the trigger. “Christmas, 1944. That was the last time I ever ate wild goat and pig. It was the last time many of those Marines had a cold beer.”........- Don Farrell, Tinian

 

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December 25: Sunday schedule followed today. Just as well, too. Most everyone looked somewhat unhappy and hungover. Lunch on a slightly grander scale than usual with main course of varied forms of pork. One or two squadrons even manage ice cream. Grand opening of the new Group theater at night, on hillside next to old theater, is interrupted at about 2015 by air raid alarm.

The alert lasts until 2300, with Japs seeming to make about four runs on the field. Early glow in distance seems to indicate fire on line. And when returns are in develops we have one plane destroyed, T-Sq-30 [Witchita Witch, 42-24654] and five damaged, all planes from the 874th and 875th.

A plane guard and two officers are injured by shrapnel. Apparently the 498th was the only one to get it tonight. As near as can be seen, major damage appears to be done by rocket bomb. Thus passes Saipan’s first Christmas.

And so Christmas Day 1944 passed on Saipan. But the night wasn't over. Three planes and crews of the 881st Squadron were scheduled to carry out weather strike missions to Japan on this Christmas evening, but only one reached the primary target, which was the Atsuta Arsenal in Nagoya.

Far to the north, under the ocean, somewhere off Tokyo Bay, the survivors of the Bricker crew on the USS Spearfish did not miss out on Christmas dinner. They got to experience it submarine style. 2/Lt Clifford Smith remembered, “The cooks out did themselves. We had turkey, strawberry short cake and all the rest. Following the Christmas dinner they showed a movie in the galley, “Tarzan in New York”.

by Jim Bowman

 

burma

Christmas in Burma

"We begged to be hurried along so that we might be back into India for Christmas but as the holidays rapidly approached we went at a slower progress," said Sergeant Lisowski.

Christmas found their journey only about half completed and plans for a special holiday celebration were put into progress. An extravaganza party materialized and was put in at a cost of 300,000 Chinese dollars and an enormous meal of duck, chicken, rice and wine was provided. In true American style, a Christmas tree and Santa Claus were present. a Chinese opera was followed by a play and several beautiful girls were provided as dance partners for the 'International Heroes.' Climaxing the evenings entertainment several Chinese solos were heard, and Lisowski, Sommer and McMahan answered the many requests of the audience by complying with a solo apiece, namely: "Yankee Doodle," "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and "My Wild Irish Rose." They received a great ovation of 'Ding How's'---a Chinese expression for something really great. A large fireworks display provided a finish to the Christmas celebration. - The Global 20th by Stan Muckler, Public Relations Officer 462nd Bomb Group

 

 

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Germany

Christmas in Germany

Attempting to account for the infinite number of German Christmas experiences during the time of WWII is impossible, but we can bring together those common themes that were experienced by a great deal of people, in this case, by many of the men who served in the German military during the period between 1939 and 1945. It was during this time that Christmas would be an equally joyous and horrific holiday.

The first German Christmas of WWII was celebrated in December of 1939 while the front was for the most part silent; the Western Allies and Germany were in the midst of the so-called "phoney war" between the period after the Invasion of Poland in September of 1939, and the Invasion in Norway later in April of 1940. In bunkers and trenches, pillboxes and depots, private homes and unit bases, all along the border, across Germany, and in occupied Poland, those German soldiers unlucky enough to not be with family and loved ones, spent time together amongst their comrades and exchanged simple gifts of fruit and drink, laughed and played, and sang traditional German Christmas songs such as "O Tannenbaum" - a timeless song of Christmas

The final Christmas of WWII in Europe, Christmas 1944, was nothing to celebrate for most Germans. The Eastern and Western Fronts were quickly crumbling, millions of German men and woman had been thus far killed, hundreds of thousands of Germans were without homes and loved ones, the air campaign against the homeland had left many cities devastated and crippled - to say nothing about the unfortunate German troops awaiting the next Soviet onslaught along the Eastern Front, or those troops sent forward into the Ardennes region in the last-ditch "Battle of the Bulge" which saw American and German troops fighting bitterly without rest on Christmas day. The War virtually lost, Christmas came and went, leaving behind 6 long years of bitter warfare and conquest

 

est.V-mail

V-mail lent to us by Tex Knowles

 

 

Christmas is a time to reflect and I have enjoyed many of them. This is about my most memorable Christmas. It was1944 and there were no signs of Christmas around. There were no crowds in the stores There were no stores. There weren't any towns. There were no pretty lights, no Christmas carols nor Christmas trees. How did we know that it was Christmas? We had orders, on December 24th. We were returning to Iwo Jima to try and stop those vicious Japanese planes. On December 24th we made the short hop to Iwo Jima. Only about 1200 miles round trip. We looked down on the island which looked like a pork chop from our bird's eye view, and thought, this would be easy. We made our run right down the coast and dropped our gifts to the Islanders. From my "office" I was the first to watch the hits. The intercom was alive with questions and it didn't take long to find out the answers. Our bombs stitched a seam right along the beach. We furnished fresh fish for the entire island over the Holidays. It is better to give than to receive. Having our holiday travels finished, we took the next day off. Looked like an uneventful day, but the Japs had other plans. Twenty or more planes swept down on us and delivered tons of "Christmas Fear". I ran for my fox hole, but it housed a stranger. I thought I would throw him out..but I remembered it was Christmas so I let him stay. Besides he was bigger than I. We lost 3 B-29's from that Christmas raid. So there you have it, Christmas 1944 on Saipan. Merry Christmas to all. by Bill Royster

 

November 14, 1944

Today on Saipan the Fitzgerald crew of the 881st Squadron cleaned their plane Z-8 again, including the guns. Copilot Bob Copeland wrote that "the guns are a little screwed up," but it's unclear what he meant by that. Possibly they were not harmonized with the central fire control system. More importantly, Copeland learned today of "a big mission coming up in the next few days with the choicest target of all as our destination, TOKYO." He was very much looking forward to this. They would carry 10 x 500 lb bombs, 500 rounds of ammo per gun and 8,000 gallons of gasoline. Also in the 881st, airplane mechanic George Hughes wrote home today to let his parents know that he had already received three Christmas packages. "We have been polishing off lots of fruit cake around here the last few days. It seems funny to be thinking of the winter holidays over here. One day is just like another and I'm sure this will be the greenest Christmas I have ever seen. The sun is really bright all the day long." Hughes also noted that the rains had slackened off recently. As for work, all he could say was that he was working days, which was good, and that they had been "quite busy" lately. - by Jim Bowman

 

 

Santa

 

May all of you have a very happy holiday season surrounded by those you love. I think this small poem says it all. I do not know the author to give tribute to.

 

'Twas the night before Christmas at the base overseas,
the sentry was lonely in snow to his knees.
The plane over Greenland just circling around,
the sweep of the radar not making a sound.
The cooks in Alaska, the baker in Guam,
preparing Christmas dinner for those far from home.
All over the world, airmen, soldiers, and sailors en masse,
protecting our future, our present and past.
Some sit in a movie they've seen twice before,
thinking of loved ones and Christmas and more.
Because of these women, and men so far from home,
our Christmas is peaceful with no combat zones.
At dinner this Christmas, remember in prayer,
the reason we're free is because they were there.

 

The last line of this poem says it all. Thank you all for your service and have a Happy Holiday.

-Sallyann