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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving in the 1940s

Thanksgiving dinner, Italy, 1944

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I hope you all are going to enjoy copious amounts of delicious foods and reflecting on all the things to be thankful for this year and in your lives. Does this day make you wonder what Thanksgiving may have been like in the 1940s? How would people possibly be able to have a full Thanksgiving meal amidst the rations and shortages? Not surprisingly, they managed to make the holiday the best it could be with what they had, always making the most of any situation. I would like to begin by sharing a poem by an unknown soldier on the frontlines…

They’re celebrating Thanksgiving on this very day,
My thoughts are at home, though I’m far away;
Soldiers choosing their prized turkey for Thanksgiving, 1943
I can see everyone, eating dinner deluxe,
Whether it is chicken, turkey or even a duck;
The fellows over here won’t whimper or moan.
They’ll look to the next one and hope to be home.
Truly and honestly, from way down deep.
They want you to be happy and enjoy your feast.
These holidays are remembered by one and all.
Those happy days we can always recall.
The ones in the future, will be happier, I know
When we all come back from defeating the foe.

Thanksgiving in the 1940s

Norman Rockwell painting, "Freedom of Want"
Often referred to as ‘The People’s Holiday’, Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that is neither a religious, state, nor a political holiday. The holiday was born from the nation and has remained so since the birth of the nation; the coming together of varied peoples. From the first Thanksgiving, to the Thanksgivings of the 1940s, not much had changed. The holiday still meant family coming together to celebrate the good fortunes of life. Not even the Second World War could change that for America. In fact, the Norman Rockwell painting, “Freedom from Want”, became the token image for the holiday. The spirit of the holiday could have been dampened by all the shortages, rations, and restrictions, but the people would not let that happen.

As everyone knows, Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of the month of November. Many people believed Abraham Lincoln made the day official in 1863, but he did not. In 1939, the last Thursday happened to also be the last day of the month and retailers were worried about the shortened shopping season for Christmas (back then it was custom to wait until after Thanksgiving to begin the Christmas season). Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to change the holiday celebration to the third Thursday of the month. With any major change, the new date was quite unpopular across the nation, with eighteen states refusing to comply. For three consecutive years, thanksgiving was held on two separate dates, the old date nicknamed the ‘Republican Thanksgiving’ and the new date the ‘Democrat Thanksgiving’ or ‘Franksgiving’. But even President Roosevelt knew the date change had no real effect on retailers and decided on October 6, 1941, to reestablish the fourth Thursday of November as the official day of Thanks.

Thanksgiving for our Soldiers

Basting a turkey in the field on Thanksgiving
Throughout the U.S. involvement overseas, military officials did their best to provide a traditional, hot holiday meal for the soldiers overseas. In 1943, the American people sent two liberty ships fully stocked with Thanksgiving supplies for the soldiers. Everything was included, turkeys, trimmings, cranberry sauce, and even various pies, all sent throughout the European and Pacific theaters, all the way to the frontlines. Those lucky enough to be stationed on board one of the Navy’s vessels received excellent food all the time, but Thanksgiving was particularly scrumptious for the servicemen. Despite the good intentions of the higher ranks, every man missed their families, especially during the holidays, but the soldiers had each other through the hardest time of their lives. However, no Thanksgiving could quite compare to the ones held at home. Some men observed that the feeling of Thanksgiving wasn’t there, not like at home.

Challenges with Rationing and Shortages

1942 was the year of the first wartime Thanksgiving and even though sugar was technically the only rationed item in the grocery, shortages of meat and butter created even more of a challenge for cooks. They also had limited access to certain traditional spices because they came from areas now occupied by the Japanese and cargo space needed to be reserved for wartime supplies.
Carving the turkey, Thanksgiving Day

Things were no better by 1943 and 1944. Not only were meats, butter, and sugar being rationed, but cheese, fats, and canned or processed foods were as well. Some folks would save their ration stamps for the holidays and use innovative techniques to create the perfect meal. Ironically, even though chicken and other birds were not rationed, finding a turkey for your own table was quite a chore since many of the birds were shipped overseas for the servicemen!

As if the food shortages were not enough, tire and gasoline rations made it difficult for family’s to gather together under one roof. However, even smaller, intimate gatherings were just as important as big family reunions.

Interesting Trivia

  • Since so many young men were drafted, America’s favorite sport, football, was put on hold for the war. But in 1943, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers combined their teams in order to fill their rosters and the team was nicknamed the ‘Steagles’.
    Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1940
  • Rubber was the hardest material to come by because 92% of our supply came from Japanese occupied lands. Everyone had to do their part to aid in the war effort, even Macy’s Department Store. Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day parade used marvelous, gigantic rubber balloons for their annual parade. The balloons were donated to the cause and shredded for scrap rubber, thus cancelling the parade for the duration of the war. America would not see another parade until 1945.
  • Benjamin Franklin suggested the national bird for the newly founded country of America should be the Turkey because it was a “much more respectable bird” and “a true original native of America.” Instead, we prefer to eat the bird.
  • Abraham Lincoln was not the first President to urge Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving. George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison all issued proclamations regarding the holiday.
  • Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia was the first major store to host a Thanksgiving parade and not the famed Macy’s Department Store.
Thanksgiving Day Football Game, 1940s.
  • Cranberries were actually used by the Native Americans in the first Thanksgiving dinner, as well as for their daily medicinal needs. Today the meal is incomplete without the delicious fruit.
  • The first Thanksgiving football game was held in 1876, about the same time the sport was officially recognized.

I hope you all enjoyed!

Take care and Happy Thanksgiving,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Our D-Day Fallen: Sergeant Weldon A. Rosazza

Hello All,

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It is a time to give thanks, appreciate family, and care for those in need. The Bedford Boys spent many months in England and, for many of them, missed the holidays with their families for the first time. It was hard on all of them, not only were they not with their families, but they were practically worlds apart. They also knew there was a chance they would never see their loved ones again, but they could count on each other for support. Today I want to remember one of our D-Day Fallen, Sergeant Weldon Rosazza.
Sergeant Weldon A. Rosazza
 Weldon Rosazza was considered a buck private when he joined the National Guard in 1939 at the age of nineteen. Named after an Italian town, Rosazza was an extremely handsome man who had all the luck with the ladies. By D-Day, Rosazza had earned his Sergeant stripes. He was considered the most sophisticated of the Bedford Boys, partially due to his short time in Washington D.C. as a child and his constantly neat appearance. He and John Clifton ran around southern England winning the hearts of many English ladies.
Rosazza grave in Normandy

 Ivybridge was a particular town the GI’s favored. Almost every weekend you could find the boys in town drinking and carrying on. As time wore on and the soldiers became comfortable and disgruntled at times, testosterone was high and the entertainment low. Ivybridge was a place the soldier’s could relax and feel normal for once. 

They ate ‘good’ pub food, played darts, read the local news, listened to American jazz on the radio, and gossiped with each other and the townsfolk. It was a regular home away from home. It was also a chance for the GI’s to hear the BBC radio reports of what was happening in Europe. Every night, just before 9 pm, the town would silence, awaiting the reports through the wireless. They would hear reports from all over, from the Russian front, to the fighting in Africa, even the slow progress through Italy. By 10 pm, the bar would close and the boys hiked back to their barracks where they had some personal time to write letters or read.
British "War Brides" coming to America after the war.

The Bedford Boys were also attending many dances and entertainment at the American Red Cross’s Tidworth House, a mansion that adjoined the 29th headquarters. There the men could meet English ladies, some for the first time, at weekly dances. Many of the women were part of the Land Army in charge of agricultural production for Britain. These women were used to wartime rations and bombings so American soldiers were the perfect companions for them. Quite a number of American’s became engaged or married to English girls they met while training. They were known as “War Brides”.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and remember your loved ones. 

Take care,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Change is Upon Us!

Hello All,
Beautiful day at the Memorial, 11/11/14
I would like to begin this post by saying thank you to all those who joined us for the National D-day Memorial’s Veteran’s Day celebration! It was a great success and it was heartwarming to see so many supporters come to the site to honor our brave veterans.

Now that our events season is beginning to wind-down for the winter (do not forget our Luminary Project), the Memorial has exciting news to share, WE’RE MOVING! Have no fear, the physical site of the Memorial will remain the same; however, the Foundation’s office location will change. The D-Day Memorial Foundation has made the conscious decision to move our office down the street to a building more suitable for our growing needs.  

Veterans Day, 2014
Since our dedication on June 6, 2001, the growth of the Memorial has been outstanding.  Because of that increase, we have joyfully out grown our current office.  In addition, our collection has increased extensively in recent years and it is our priority to share our exciting finds and donations with the public! In the new office, we will showcase our fine artifacts in a display case on the main level, front and center. The items will be rotated periodically to ensure everything has equal stage time and to keep it interesting for your viewing pleasure. Education is a pillar of the Foundation’s mission and every detail counts in our book. Showcasing artifacts and information is one of the various ways we can teach the public about the importance of D-Day and the impact it has on the nation. We encourage you to visit our office and view our beautiful relics.
Piece of the Gerchkoff collection, donated to the National D-Day Memorial in 1998.

The move will take place the week of Thanksgiving. It is important to mention that this move would not be made possible without the support of all those who are connected with the Memorial. Your care and support make our mission successful and our growth possible. It seems appropriate for us to move during a time of thanks and renewal. It is the beginning of the next chapter for the Memorial; a time of continued growth and development.
This battle flag, in our collection, was carried ashore by members of the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion, Company B on June 6, 1944 on D-Day.

The new address is 133 West Main Street, Bedford, Virginia. Our contact information will remain the same.

Take care,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Luminary Project and D-Day Fallon

Hello All!

Veterans Day at the Memorial, 11/11/14
I hope you all have thanked numerous Veterans today! As John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” I could not agree more with JFK; he is saying that we thank our soldiers for being valiant and courageous, but sometimes forget what that truly entails. Also, we should strive to exhibit the values we hold so dear. As a whole, we all need to remember that we can always do more and put our words into action. Since the holiday season is upon us, it is a great reminder of what we can do for others; a time to show our appreciation properly. There are many ways to get involved with the Memorial and in the community; all you have to do is ask.

Veterans Day Ceremony, 11/11/14
The next event coming up is our Luminary Project, held December 12-14, 2014, 6pm to 9pm. The Luminary Project honors the 4,413 men killed on D-Day. As evening approaches, the flames of memory come alive throughout the site, from the drive leading up to the Memorial, throughout the grounds, and interwoven in the Elmon T. Gray Plaza; each blazing luminary igniting the lamp of freedom.

My first luminary experience was last year, and let me tell you, it was both outstanding and haunting. It is one of those occasions that will put the loss of D-Day into raw perspective. Each light signifying a lost soul for the ultimate sacrifice that helped us win the war for the Allied nations. It is truly a site to see for all ages. I encourage and implore you to join us throughout the weekend; you will not regret one moment here.

Luminary night at the D-Day Memorial
If you would like to get more involved; Lumaries are sold throughout the year, even up to that week, and are displayed from December 12-14. Each luminary costs $20, or six for $100, and they can be purchased in honor or memory of anyone of your choosing, D-Day veteran or not. Remember, all proceeds benefit the Memorial and business or organizations are more than welcome to purchase quantities.

In honor of the Flames of Memory, I would like to share a little bit about one of the Fallon Bedford Boys, Nick Gillaspie.

D-Day Fallon: Nick N. Gillaspie

Nick N. Gillaspie
Private First Class
Company A, 116th IRB, 29th Infantry Division
PFC Nick N. Gillaspie

Nick Gillaspie was another avid Baseball player among the Bedford Boys, along with Frank Draper and Elmere Wright. He grew up with four brothers and went to a one-room schoolhouse. He was known around Bedford for his impeccable manners and kindness, as well as his rook playing skills. His Rook skills came in handy on the Queen Mary’s voyage over to England since the men had a lot of down time on the ship.

Games of any kind were important to the soldiers because it was the only way to pass the time. When they were given the chance to relax, but could not go on leave, many soldiers opt for card games, gambling games, or the book of games devised by the government. Pocket guides and game books were handed out regularly to help the soldiers pass the time and learn about the cultures they would eventually encounter.

Gillaspie is another member of the Bedford Boys we do not know much about, but we do know he was on the same LCA Wallace “Snake Eyes” Carter was on. Unfortunately, what we know of that particular LCA is that everyone perished early on in the beach landings. He has never been forgotten and never will be, just like all of our Bedford Boys.

I hope to see you all soon, take care!