History Minute: The Christmas Truce

British and German troops meet in No-Man's Land during the Christmas truce.
 (courtesy photo)

British and German troops meet in No-Man's Land during the Christmas truce. (courtesy photo)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- In the summer of 1914, the world went to war. As the nations of Europe marched to the fronts, political leaders told their warriors the war would be over soon. However, as the months ground by, this lie unraveled, and the troops of Germany, Great Britain, France, and Belgium dug into the trenches that crisscrossed France.

As Christmas approached, the trench-bound soldiers prepared for a holiday away from their families. Along the lines of the Germans, small Christmas trees and decorations appeared at the tops of their trenches. On Christmas Eve, impromptu choruses of Silent Night broke the quiet, and both sides began calling holiday greetings across the front lines.

Slowly, groups of soldiers rose from the trenches to meet in no-man's land in a spontaneous Christmas truce. Years later, veterans of the Great War recalled meeting their mortal enemies on a common ground, shaking hands, and trading small gifts. At one position, British and Germans joined in a game of soccer; the Germans won 3 - 2. At some locations, this strange and unofficial truce lasted for a few more days; at others, fighting resumed the next morning.

The value of history is that it teaches us about ourselves, and as the holiday approaches, the story of the Christmas Truce has particular meaning for the warriors of Misawa Air Base. Around the world, the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Army are prepared to meet our enemies, but as we prepare for war, remember that we are fighting for peace.

As the historian for the 35th Fighter Wing, I am proud to be a part of a wing with a strong warrior tradition. I am also proud to know that as a part of the greatest military unit on Earth, we are fighting for the cause of peace.

Merry Christmas!