Christmas Memories from the 504th

From all of us in the F.A.A.A, we wish you the merriest Christmas and a very happy new year. In recognition of the fact that the men we represent did not get a “day off” from the war, here are some Christmas memories from the 504th P.I.R. who would spend 2 Christmases on the front lines in 1943 and 1944.

Captain T. Moffatt Burriss's "home" in the Ardennes on Christmas Day, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge." From his book "Strike and Hold: A Memoir of the 82nd Airborne in World War II."
Captain T. Moffatt Burriss’s (I/504) “home” in the Ardennes on Christmas Day, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.” From his book “Strike and Hold: A Memoir of the 82nd Airborne in World War II.”

From Ross S. Carter in his book Those Devils in Baggy Pants:

About eleven o’clock [on 25 Christmas 1943] the little colonel with one man as a bodyguard came down from [Hill] 1205 wanting to know why in hell the attack failed. The battalion medical officer who came with him brought one bottle of whisky for the entire company! It was the best he could do and we appreciated his good will. Although every man thirsted for the whole bottle, no one more than touched it to his lips for fear the next man wouldn’t get a taste. Some of the drinkingest men in the army refused it entirely so that their buddies could get a drop.

From James Magellas in his book All the Way to Berlin:

Christmas Eve night [1943] was calm, cold, and serene. The battlefield had been relatively quiet that day–no patrols, no enemy contact–but the normal amount of artillery fire had been coming in and going out passing over our heads. Back in the valley the support troops were attending church services. In between the crackling of shells over our heads, we could hear the Christmas carolers. The strains of “Silent Night” were echoing through the valley and drifting to the mountaintops. As I strained to hear the voices between artillery shells, I clearly recognized the carols “Silent Night” and “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” They left me with an empty and eerie feeling. Christmas services were behind us proclaiming the birth of the Savior, and Germans were in front of us; like us they had one purpose–kill their fellow man, the enemy in front of them.

For the 3rd Platoon, H Company, Christmas Day was like all others on Hill 610. The weather was cold, wet, and miserable, and the incessant volleys of artillery shells went their unabated way. It had been almost two weeks since I’d had my boots off, washed, brushed my teeth, or changed clothes. The menu was the same except for one small change. Apparently, someone in the valley had scrounged up loaves of Italian bread–enough for one piece of bread each–placed them in burlap bags, and loaded them onto a mule to be brought up the mountain with our regular quota of K rations and water. But there was one problem. The mule on his long and difficult climb had sweated profusely, dampening the bread right through the burlap bag. So we heated it over our small Coleman burner and devoured it. The meal was a far cry from the traditional Christmas dinner we had known at home, but we still had a lot to be thankful for on that Christmas day: our lives.

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