I consider myself a scholar, and I spend a lot of time reading the most complex and challenging books I can find on World War II. I also try to stay in touch with popular culture, however. It is the common language spoken by all Americans, and it often addresses issues in a clear and fundamental way that a more intellectual approach cannot touch.
And so, rather than discuss issues of strategy and tactics this time out, praising this general and criticizing that one, identifying “correct” and “incorrect” decisions made by both sides during World War II, let me turn to the words of that great American artist and philosopher, Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby. On the December 21, 1944, episode of his popular weekly radio program Kraft Music Hall, Bing had a few things to say after crooning a typically tender version of “Silent Night.” I think that his remarks are worth repeating, and will always resonate as long as we have loved ones who are at war:
“On our fighting front, there are no silent nights, but there are plenty of holy nights. I’m sure that all of us are offering up prayers for the gallant gang of American kids to whom anything that has to do with peace still seems very far away.
"My own thoughts are a lot humbler than they were last year. I’ve talked and lived and chowed with these boys, boys whose courage and faith is something that beggars description. Seeing those GIs kneel in a muddy pasture in France brought back to my mind the lines of an old, familiar prayer that I’d heard somewhere along the line back home.
"'God, grant unto us an early peace and victory founded on justice, and instill into the hearts and the minds of men everywhere a firm purpose to live forever in peace and goodwill toward all.'”
I’d like to join “der Bingle” in wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
To which I’ll simply add the fondest wish that we all have for our very troubled world: Peace.
This piece appeared originally in World War II magazine’s online column “Front and Center” on December 20, 2009.