Christmas 1945 was my first Christmas, thus a special day for me. I was one day old. So when I heard about this book with a title, "Christmas 1945: The Story of the Greatest Celebration in American History," I knew it was a book for me.
You probably won't be surprised to learn that this book makes no mention of my advent. Of course what made 1945 special for people other than my family was the fact that World War II had ended earlier that year, and many of the soldiers and sailors were home for Christmas for the first time in several years: "An entire nation had prayed together for exactly the same relief, and the prayer was answered. Christmas 1945 was the fulfillment of the most ambitious collective appeal ever lifted to heaven--victory, peace, and the return of American soldiers"
The author's research for this book has apparently included reading newspapers from throughout the nation published in 1945. He has organized the various stories into chapters on various subjects and made an interesting narrative designed to foster reminiscing for those who can remember those days. For me it was learning about the world into which I was born.
The government had instituted "Operation Magic Carpet" to get all (most) of the troops home by Christmas. Some the stories in this book were about their home comings. But large numbers of military people trying to get home for Christmas all at the same time overloaded the capacity of the trains and other means of transportation. So the book had many of their stories too of being stranded in various parts of the country unable to make it home by Christmas day.
Then there were the military service personnel who were still overseas. Many of them were in countries devastated by war. Conditions weren't so good for the people living in many of the countries of Europe and Asia. Many were starving and homeless. But at least the big war was over, and the shooting had stopped. So the war survivors were able to start picking up the pieces and think about a possible future.
The book contained many cute little human interest stories. The following is one of my favorites:"Ronnie Haskvitz, an eight-year-old Minneapolis boy had a dog, a shepherd named Laddie, who died in 1942. Ronnie's parents did not have the heart to tell him that his dog had passed on, so they told him that his dog was enlisted into the Army's K-9 Corps, hoping that this would resolve Ronnie's inquiry as to the dog's whereabouts, and it worked ... until the end of the war.
At war's end, Ronnie, seeing pictures and hearing stories of K-9 Corps dogs reuniting with their owners, deduced that Laddie was on his way home. As time passed, Ronnie grew increasingly concerned about Laddie's whereabouts. His first letter to the War Department asking about his dog was intercepted by his mother before the postman could carry it away. A few weeks passed without a response, so the persistent child mailed another letter, this one without interference. When a baffled officer from nearby Fort Snelling called the Haskvitz home with apologies for his inability to find a record of the dog, Ronnie's mother explained the confusion. Empathetic to both Mrs. Haskvitz and her son, the Army sent an official correspondence to Ronnie: 'We received your letter, and after checking all the files here at this headquarters we regret to inform you that your dog died while in the service of his country We know you will feel bad about it, but you should be glad he died while doing something for the war. We extend to you our heartfelt sympathy.' "
This story was picked up by various newspapers around the country, and suddenly Ronnie was receiving numerous offers for free replacement puppies.
I noticed that there was an "Inflation Conversion Table" at the end of the book. $100 of 1945 dollars was worth $1,188.09 of 2009 dollars. That's about the same ratio of increase in my body size over that same time period.