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Silent Night and Other Christmas Carols

Posted by on October 29, 2017

December 16 through the 25, 1945. Dad writes two letters home from Guam, over the course of several days. The first letter, the shorter of the two, was started on the 16th and includes additional notes from the 18th, while the second letter was written on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

He notes on the 16th, “The 50 pointers and 3 ½ year men have left and are now on a boat…” Although Dad longs for discharge, for now things are looking up as with the more senior men shipping out resources have been reallocated. He notes an important development. “I just got myself a mattress now and it feels quite comfortable.”

On the 18th he addresses his own prospects, writing, “Men in the service group with 3 yrs. service or 45 points are processing through the Wing today and tomorrow. Here’s hoping we get processed soon.”  He goes on, “My officer put me in for T/Sgt. again. It’s my last chance I guess as I most certainly do not expect to be here 1 Feb. 1946. As soon as something definite comes up, I’ll give you an approximate date of arrival based on the other fellows who have gone home and wrote us. The trip should be fast as we won’t have to follow a zig-zag course. …Hoping to see you in a month and a half.”

On Christmas Eve he sends his wishes to his family that they are “…all in the best of health despite that frigid weather while I sweat in this weather… I showered in our outdoor showers in the open air, cold water, all that on the 24th Dec., winter time.” He also shares his concerns that the time on Guam has taken its toll on him. “My hair has a gray hair here and there now, which is noticeable. I look nice in it, I think. I haven’t lost any hair and it is as bushy as ever. After you’ve been here 6 months you lose hair or get gray streaks. I’d say about one in four fellows is affected that way. I blame it on the food. When we get back to the states it may clear up.”

 As far as his plans to observe Christmas, he writes, “I went to Confession on Saturday and to Communion Sunday. I will go to midnight Mass…at the theater and receive Communion.”  He continues with a story about the difficulty of remaining observant while in the army, “I forgot myself this morning and ate a piece of Spam, but I fasted from meat the other two meals. This will not prevent me from attending Holy Communion as it was unintentional and could not be a mortal sin. Another fellow I know did the same thing. At home, mama would remind you, but here you depend on yourself.”  He add more details, “A Mexican friend of mine, Joe Perez, went with me to Confession and Communion after being away from Sacraments 3 yrs. He felt glad turning in a slip which says that he offered Christmas Communion for his wife. This slip will be mailed [to] his wife by the Chaplain as mine will to mom and dad.”

Dad also writes that Christmas Eve marked the opening of the Service Club “…free beer and all.”  Dad writes that the Chaplain “…forcefully requested that we abstain from intoxicants 6 hrs. before Mass and 3 hrs. from food and water.”  Dad follows up on the 25th that the opening was “a mad house. The Colonel tried to make a dedication speech but they couldn’t call the place to attention. It was out of control. They tried about a half an hour with the P.A. and even played the Star Spangled Banner after which bedlam broke loose again. The Colonel was disgusted and left. Looks like he may take the beer away for several days.”

By way of contrast, Dad writes a few paragraphs about the Chapel on base. “…our Chapel steeple has a lit up star on the front and sides. The blue and red color looks nice in the middle of the night against the darkness of our camp.”  He goes on to further describe the inside of the Chapel, “Behind the altar there are white drapes, fringed with red drapes. The ceiling of the Chapel is white and the rest of the Chapel and ceiling supports have that shellac type of stain. The floor is concrete and to the rear of the Chapel we have stained ‘colored’ church windows which looks nice on the inside when the sun shines from the outside, or when at night you stand outside the Chapel when it has the lights on.”

Dad writes that “after getting disgusted with the Service Club” on Christmas Eve he and two friends “stopped…at the Chapel… Some fellow was playing at the small organ near the rails songs like Silent Night and other Christmas carols. It was most impressive as we stood in the back of the Chapel for several minutes.” It would seem that even in the middle of everything that is going on and while hoping for a speedy discharge, Dad and his friends managed to find a little moment of transcendence on Christmas Eve on Guam.

Dad asks about how midnight Mass was back home in Albany and how the new choir is. Apparently there has been a shakeup at St. Casmir’s with the choir director leaving and most of the choir following him in protest. He comments on this development, “The choir is for the people of the parish and I believe there shouldn’t be any personal differences involved as was the case of our old choir, the one that I doubt I’ll ever go back to now. When you’re in the Army you hope to come back to where you left off, but I guess it’s expecting too much to have things at a standstill until you get back. I guess we have changed a little too.”

He closes with holiday greetings both in English and Polish. “God bless each and every one of you. Wesotego Bozego Narodzene i Szczesliwego Nowego Roku!”  …in English, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

In keeping with the Christmas theme, below are covers of two Christmas cards which Dad received while on Guam in 1945. The first from his sister Anna and her family (Eddie, Terry and Judy) and the second from his friend Joe Damusis who was in Tokyo at the time.

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