Christmas in World War II (the Battlefields)

By | December 20, 2020

[December 20, 2020]  World War II was the largest and most destructive war ever.  It was a time of great upheaval, chaos, and death.  However, the war was also a time that saw America’s traditions carried forward onto the battlefields, the hospitals, and homes.  Christmas in WWII was given special attention.

Our troops did their best to celebrate Christmas.  Wartime separations and deprivations made festivities emotional and nostalgic.  The war found Americans on many wartime fronts in combat.  In 1941, for example, American soldiers were putting up a fighting retreat in the Philippines.1

In 1942, our troops fought on Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and Tunisia.  By 1943 they fought in the Southwest Pacific and Italy.  Christmas 1944 found the Allies reeling from the Battle of the Bulge in Europe and also engaged in northern Italy and back in the Philippines.

“The guys who won World War II and that whole generation have disappeared, and now we have a bunch of teenage twits.” – Clint Eastwood

Our military forces went out of their way to provide a holiday meal whenever possible.  Whether onboard ships or fix bases, meals of turkey and ham, were available.  In front-line combat units, field kitchens tried to provide turkey dinners. However, troops were happy to be alive and get a warm meal.

Army and Fleet Post Offices did an excellent job of providing presents from the home front.  Families were advised to mail Christmas packages by October 15, and there were weight and size restrictions.  Many of these gifts have been portrayed in war movies.  Cherished items such as candy, cookies, warm socks, and maybe a recording of one’s loved ones were sometimes received late.

Doug Satterfield, Baghdad, Christmas 2004

The troops decorated where they could but improvisation and creativity were the norm.  Ration tins and foil wrappings were used for makeshift decorations.  Paper was rare and was often an intentional part of the gifts mailed to the troops and used to decorate where possible.  In combat areas, troops would use such small items to pin to a nearby bush or place on their field jackets.  There was no shortage of making do.

Being separated from friends and family did not mean leaving traditions behind.  Keeping traditions alive was a way to maintain one’s sanity and help those struggling to deal with the horror of the war.  Many military bases arranged for Santa visits, concerts, and parties.  Additionally, many of the troops put together parties for local children.

These wartime struggles reminded the troops of the reason for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.  But it was the creativity and generosity that made Christmas in WWII meaningful and memorable.


  1. A large part of this blog post is based on an article by Sarah Sundin in “Christmas in World War II – The Military.”
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “Christmas in World War II (the Battlefields)

  1. Terrance Culver

    Gen. Satterfield, are you going to have a Christmas in WWII on the home front?

  2. Wally Goodman

    First pix I’ve seen of Gen. Satterfield in uniform.

    1. Linux Man

      Yep, good one Wally. Oh, Merry Christmas to you and to your family.

  3. Randy Goodman

    Looking at the picture of Gen. Satterfield, who was a Lieutenant Colonel at the time of the photo, you can clearly see he is also wearing a shoulder holster. I don’t think it is regulation because the Army was using a hip holster like in the cowboy days. You can learn a lot from a picture. Thank you for your service, Gen. Satterfield.

  4. Jonathan B.

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for another amazing blog post.

  5. Jerome Smith

    Reading about history can be boring boring boring. My history teacher in college was soooo bad and boring that I nearly stopped reading or thinking about the past. Then, Gen. Satterfield came along to help bring out the “meaning” behind so much of our history that it now has more meaning for me. Thanks Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      I feel pretty much the same. These comment forums are also very helpful. Read, think, write, repeat.

    2. Fred Weber

      Good comment, Jerome. I think many of us had the same experiences.

  6. Dead Pool Guy

    Really good article today, just before Christmas. Well done, Gen. Satterfield. Keep these kind of articles coming our way.

  7. Janna Faulkner

    A little history of the struggles of our soldiers (and other branches of the US military) during WWII is now a piece of the legend these men (and a small number of women) endured. There is no discounting the service that everyone played a part in winning it for democracy, freedom, and individual liberty. These values are exactly the opposite the leftist, neo-Marxist ideology that so many people are adopting today. Just saying.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Janna, I agree that so many of our young people today and a few wannabe powerful politicians have adopted this progressive-style, PC, ideology that looks at the world thru the prism of discrimination. They are, indeed, warped in their ideas and ways of life. Too bad they haven’t the guts to really try out this way of life by moving to China or Russia or Cuba or any of the real communist nations. Let’s see how their “peaceful protests” work out there. We would never hear from them again.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Yep, a little history goes a long way but one has to pay attention to it, understand it within the context of the times, and have the motivation to apply it to our daily lives. Otherwise, it counts for nothing.

    3. Honey Flower Betsy

      Good points here!! Thanks all. Merry Christmas early….

  8. Lynn Pitts

    A few days ago, Gen. Satterfield wrote about why he was (is !!) an American Patriot. I recommend everyone go back and read the article again. I am posting the link to make it easy. In that article he noted that he wore the US flag on his right sleeve for 40 years. In today’s article you can see it below the 1st Cavalry combat patch that he is wearing on the uniform.

    1. Stacey Borden

      Must be the earlier version in the war before they came out with the IR subdued USA flag. Is that why the flag is colored? Any body know?

        1. Karl J.

          Eric, thanks for the link and a bit of the background on this IR flag. If you look up our troops today, you will find that flag on those in combat zones.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      Lynn, thanks for connecting the dots. Small things do matter, especially as they relate to symbols of importance.

  9. Tom Bushmaster

    Ha Ha,,,, great photo, Gen. Satterfield. Thank you for sharing your photo at Christmas time. Glad you are able to write about WWII and Christmas’ celebration even during war. ❤

  10. Army Captain

    Sir, great pix of you beside the Christmas tree while in a combat zone.

    1. Greg Heyman

      I was thinking the same thing, Army Cpt. Thank you for your service as well.

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