This holiday season most of us celebrate a traditional Christmas. There are folks who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanza, the Solstice or any number of other religions, beliefs, or traditions. To all of us, all of you I wish you all the best in however you and your families celebrate the season and the New Year.
That being said, I thought I'd share something with you from Captain Wellings' collection from the Naval War College. While searching his archives for items to copy, I found this - the menu for the Christmas dinner served to the crew on December 25th, 1942 while the men were docked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This document and an attached note to his wife are on the Memories of Strong page as well. I was really moved by this menu because I realized that this was the very last Christmas dinner for 46 of the men, including my Uncle Billy. It's a typical meal with turkey and the trimmings, but atypical in that some of them would not see another holiday season.
I have an excerpt to share from the letter Gus wrote home on December 26th, 1942. He speaks of calling Dolly and hearing her voice, then of his activities on Christmas Eve and the next day:
"Fred and I called from the Towers in Brooklyn, then had two drinks and were back aboard by 1045 pm. We listened to “Command Performance” from 1100 to midnight and then to bed with thoughts of my two little girls in Boston. After a late breakfast I opened my presents and was happy to read your card and to receive the scarf from Anne. I received a tie from Gladys and a pocketbook from Marg. Then Donald and Jackie Fulham and yours truly went to 1000 mass in Brooklyn. The service was really beautiful. I thanked God for his many kindnesses and promised that I would be worthy of this trust. I also asked him to take good care of my darlings. However I could not help but being sad. On the way out of church a lady dressed in deep black broke into tears when she saw the three of us leave the pew to leave the church. It was easy to guess that she had lost a son in the Navy or perhaps another branch of the service.
Before lunch I spoke to the crew and read your telegram. I really think I “put it across”. I then tried to call home but the earliest I could get a call through was from 2 to 3 hours. We had a fine dinner at 1230 and sailed immediately afterwards."
So not much time was spent in any kind of celebration, before they headed to sea with purpose. They were together as a crew for this last Christmas, their family at sea. While they missed the families at home, I feel that Wellings and his fellow officers did their best to give these guys a memorable holiday.
We remember the men and women who serve us now, and allow us to feel safe in our homes, and safe to celebrate in whatever fashion we see fit.
Thank you for your service, and much love and happiness to all for the New Year!