North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

By Katie Bourg
Senior Daze 

A Christmas nearly 70 years in the past

 


I don’t make a habit of living in the past. I’m pretty busy keeping up with my present schedule, which is busier than any time I can remember. Except for when my young family had me running in different directions. As this year comes close to an end, I’ve found myself thinking about another Christmas. It was a different time, and memories fade. But if you do a little probing some come back. I started asking questions.

It was 1944. I graduated from high school that spring. Four days later ‘our boys’ were fighting for their lives on Omaha Beach. More were doing the same in the South Pacific. The nation was holding its collective breath that summer and fall, as our boys began to make good progress, and relax a little.

I must have been rather dense not to have noticed my mother’s intent to uproot me from my nice dry prairie home and plant me in the Pacific Northwest. It was the coldest, rainiest winter I remember in the seventy years since I arrived here. I was not a happy camper. When I didn’t follow through on my father’s plan for my education, I acquired a job too far away to live at home. Not that I considered a project house a home. Home remained my prairie. It was not a very festive holiday season. Not for me, and not for anyone I knew, as it turned out. But the war was going better.

Then on December 16th, Hitler’s troops mounted a new offensive. It is known as the Battle of the Bulge, and we started losing the ground we had gained. Between the rain and cold here, and the bitter scenes in the latest newsreels, it was a dismal Christmas. Not a good time for anyone. The radio was always on for the next report.

A good friend had been relocated after two years at sea to a local base. His enlistment was up, but all military were held until the war ended. So bad was the situation in Europe that during Christmas week he reenlisted for another hitch, assuming the war was not going to end soon. When we began to gain ground again, the middle of January, he was a little bitter. The war ended in Europe on May 7, 1945. He remained a sailor for another two years.

I’ve been wondering what others remembered. So I asked some friends where they were and what they can recall of that Christmas. I’ve always listened to war stories. My father and his friends spent many hours reliving their WWI experiences, even as they worried about their own sons facing the same enemy. It is interesting what they remember and what they do not. No two are alike.

Ted West was a Navy medic. He spent time in New Zealand. He was at Guadalcanal, where he remembers a boy whose arm was severed and hanging by a tendon. Scissors were used to finish cutting it off. It couldn’t be saved. Ted was sent back to the States, and stationed at Sand Point in Seattle. Then to Missouri, where he spent Christmas of ‘44. His young wife Juliann was expecting their first child.

Bud Adams was a member of a Combat Engineers Unit. His truck was not needed on D-Day, so he didn’t get to the beach until the second day. By Christmas he was in France working to maintain roads that were vital to our troops. The battle was in Belgium, in the Ardennes forest. He doesn’t remember much about Christmas, either.

Don McPherson was a flyer. He was stationed on the Savo Island #75, one of the small aircraft carriers built in a hurry to fight in the South Pacific. It was only 500’ long in a very big ocean, but had a flight deck. Don flew a Wildcat FM-2, which could out-maneuver the Japanese Zero. All he remembers about that Christmas is sitting around telling stories. His brother was a paratrooper in Europe.

Seventy years later we still have young people out there. Someday they may not remember what they were doing this Christmas.

We should never forget what they do for the rest of us.

 

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