War Bonds and White Christmases
Wright Museum Collection Illustrates Yuletide in WWII
(Published December 2007)
The U.S. is now in the midst of its fifth holiday season since the first American troops were deployed to Iraq—and the seventh since the U.S. began its offensive in Afghanistan. With thousands of Americans still serving overseas, the Wright Museum’s vast collection provides a window onto how their grandparents celebrated Christmas on the home front and the frontlines.
During WWII, Christmases were marked by a shared longing for a time when cherished loved ones would return home. “When the war is over” became a recurrent catchphrase that took on added meaning during the holidays.
At right: War Bonds Christmas Poster - Since relatively few consumer goods were available due to the demands of wartime production, the holiday season actually presented Americans with the opportunity to save.
America’s mood was probably best summed up by the 1942 Irving Berlin hit, “White Christmas”—a song whose lyrics, incidentally, don’t once refer to the war:
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright.
And may all your Christmases be white.
In marked contrast to Christmastime today—when Americans’ holiday spending sends millions deep into debt—gift giving during the war tended to be more modest. The demands of war production created a dearth of consumer goods.
Instead, many gave the gift of war bonds. More than 85 million Americans — half the population — purchased bonds totaling $185.7 billion—approximately $2.16 trillion in today’s money. The consequence, interestingly, helped Americans save and generated the wealth that would power the nation’s post-war economic boom.
If the mood on the home front was marked by an anxious sense of longing, that feeling was magnified among America’s soldiers, sailors, and Marines serving on the frontlines.
With the war’s end, there came a sense of relief. The December 25, 1945 issue of Stars and Stripes’ Pacific edition articulated the prevailing sentiment: “As we worked and fought and sweated along the hot and humid jungle road from the South Pacific, we often dreamed of a ‘White Christmas.’ But it was a dream of home, and few of us thought we would see snow before it came our turn to take that ‘last boat ride.’”
At right: In contrast to the erratic war-time flow of letters and packages, the coming of peace opened the parcel floodgates as loved ones from home sent presents to troops serving in American-occupied territories overseas.
General Douglas MacArthur echoed the sentiment: “On this Christmas Day—the first in five years on which our guns have been silent—I join with all members of this command in thanking God for our deliverance from the death and destruction of war and pray that our merciful Lord will sustain us in our efforts to realize in the fullest the ideal—peace on earth and to all men, good will."
A staff writer for Stars and Stripes reported: “Shopping days are over and U.S. occupation troops are searching their socks this morning for gifts from home and looking forward to that turkey dinner plus trimmings. Christmas in Tokyo, and elsewhere in American occupation areas, is marked by the efforts to make it as much like home as possible.
“Mail of course, particularly from the States, is foremost in the minds of most. In past weeks, outgoing as well as incoming packages have flooded the overseas APO’s. Soldiers generally open their Christmas packages as delivered, but they also manage to save a few to enjoy Christmas Day.
“Mess sergeants have garnered bouquets from men in their outfits year after year for the real work they put in on the traditional turkey dinners, without which no American Christmas is complete. And there are always plentiful trimmings to make this one meal the most un-Army like of the year.”
The Wright Museum of WWII History is a one-of-a-kind non-profit institution dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of America’s Greatest Generation. With its vast collection of fully-operational military vehicles and extensive exhibits relating to the American Home Front, the Wright Museum is a member-supported national treasure located right here in New Hampshire. In the words of Senator Bob Dole, “The Wright Museum tells the story of [a] great national achievement, a story that, more than ever, today’s generation of Americans—and especially our young people—need to understand and appreciate.”
The Wright Museum is a non-profit institution devoted to educating learners of all ages. With its nationally-significant collection of fully-operational military vehicles and vast collections relating to the American Home Front, the Wright Museum is a member-supported national treasure located right here in New Hampshire.
To learn more, call the museum at 603-569-1212 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.