Posted by: philipmartin | December 20, 2010

A Simple Christmas Tree in World War II

[a blog post from Nancy Martin]

During the Christmas season, an evergreen tree evokes fond memories of special Christmas ornaments and lights. But soldiers have to improvise when they are far from home.

On Christmas Eve, 1944, Frank Wayne Martin was in a farm house somewhere near Luxembourg. As Wayne notes in his book, Patton’s Lucky Scout, here is what he did:

I walked farther among the spruce trees until I found a small tree that was the right size for our Christmas celebration. I hacked it down with my trench knife, took it back it back to the stone house, and set it up inside next to the fireplace.

For several days, I had also been gathering materials to decorate a Christmas tree as I walked around the countryside. Whenever our bombers flew over, they would drop clouds of aluminum strips to confuse German radar. The strips were essentially the same stuff as the aluminum “icicles” sold in stores to hang on the branches of a Christmas tree.

By the time I emptied my two pockets of the collected anti-radar strips and placed them on the tree, it looked quite nice.

Whenever I see a small simple tree, it reminds me of his, the spruce tree enjoyed by a band of brothers in the winter of 1944, in the midst of the Battle of the Bulge. Those radar-chaff “icicles” brought a touch of home across the Atlantic Ocean to that stone farm house.

It would not surprise me a bit, if he brought in the tree humming ‘O Tannenbaum’ (O Christmas Tree). Since the Christmas tree tradition started in Germany, Wayne would have found simple pleasure in continuing on the edge of Germany the centuries-old tradition of having a tree – especially in the midst of war. Nothing kept him from celebrating Christmas with a tree – not the Great Depression, and not even World War II.

Merry Christmas to all.


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