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1914 truce

Published December 23. 2009 05:00PM

Several years ago at the World War II Weekend show at Reading Airport, I handed a book titled "Home By Christmas" to one guest veteran to autograph.

When he saw the title his first reaction was "Which Christmas?"

Serving in another country during times of war is stressful. I recall stories my father and uncles told about the harsh winter of 1944-45 in Europe and how painful it was to be separated from family over the Christmas holiday. As a member of the 101st Airborne, and surrounded by the enemy while trying to defend the strategic Belgium crossroads town of Bastogne, my one uncle had it especially hard during Christmas 1944.

The History Channel documentary on the "Christmas Truce of 1914" tells an incredible story from World War I. Mired in the trenches of no man's land, both British and German soldiers were enduring the worst of conditions on the Western Front. On Christmas Eve, the Germans began singing Christmas carols and soon, the British joined in from across the lines in their language. Then, on Christmas morning, men from both sides climbed out of their muddy holes to exchange handshakes and even trade small gifts like bread and cigarettes.

The words "peace on earth, good will toward man" never rang more true than to the soldiers on that Christmas nearly a century ago. The combatants briefly laid down their arms to celebrate together, astonishing not only their commanders, but the world.

By Jim Zbick

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