This episode of the History with Mark Bielski podcast reviews some of the happenings that American and Allied soldiers experienced during WWII. There are a few items from the home front and some from where the fighting occurred, as well as a few snippets from behind enemy lines.
First, a mention that I forgot to include in the last episode. On Christmas Day 1868, US president Andrew Johnson extended amnesty and a full pardon “to all and to every person who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late insurrection or rebellion.”
The Civil War had ended more than three years before and most of the South was in ruins. In many ways, the country had come out of the war, just as divided as it had been at the start. Reconstruction and occupation were the rules of life in the South. The Radical Republicans who had opposed President Lincoln’s conciliatory tendencies wanted nothing more than further punishment for those who had supported Secession. Andrew Johnson, a staunch Unionist from East Tennessee was both feared and loathed by many Southerners. However, his Attorney General James Speed reminded Johnson of Abraham Lincoln’s planned policy of reunification.
1941 — Japan seized Hong Kong from the British. In 1941 Tokyo confronted the West with its imperialistic, aggressive expansion plans. American military involvement in WWII began with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Immediately following was Japan’s invasion of the British colony of Hong Kong. The battle lasted 18 days, leaving hundreds dead and many wounded or shipped off to POW camps. Japan symbolically announced the British surrender of the colony with a 1941 Christmas Day radio broadcast.
1941 — Free French Admiral Émile Muselier captured Saint Pierre and Miquelon from Vichy control. Soon after France fell to the Nazis, the colonial governor of a few small islands off the coast of Newfoundland started working with the resistance. He disdained the Vichy government—the Nazi’s puppet regime in France. On Christmas Eve, 1941, a small task force under Admiral Émile Muselier stormed the island under the cover of night.They met no resistance and the island’s administrative centers were taken within an hour. This kept the islands from serving as a Nazi outpost deep within Allied territorial waters.
The episode also recounts Christmas in the POW camps and the great work done by the USO (United Service Organizations). We specifically reference two prison camps, Stalag Luft I and Stalag Luft III. Airmen prison camps one and three. For the USO, we cite Bob Hope’s long association and support for our service men and women.
Shelter in Camden Town under a Brewery:Christmas Eve, 1940, by Olga Lehmann