War doesn’t care what day it is, what month, or if that day is important to you. War doesn’t care about anything at all. And as war passes, important days in the life of everyone involved are passing as well. Someones daughter’s birthday, a wedding anniversary, the independence day of your country, or dozens of other days that you would like to celebrate.
The enemy usually won’t respect your celebrations. Often it was the opposite – your day off, the very moment when you got a bit relaxed, would be the exact moment when the enemy would choose to strike. It was always a difficult task to organize Thanksgiving Day in the army during wartime, especially on the front. But at the same time, it was especially important there because the day itself reminded the soldiers of home and overall morale was increased.
For thousands to celebrate Thanksgiving in wartime requires an enormous amount of time and effort to organize – logistics, guards (someone has to do it) and dozens of other details that have to be precisely and carefully prepared.
Thanksgiving in 1939-1945
We all know that Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday of November every year, but did you know that between 1939-1941 it wasn’t that way?
Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with that tradition in the wild November of 1939. That year, November had five Thursdays instead of the usual four. Of course, the number of Thursdays in November was not the issue. “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” changed the day to the second-last Thursday simply because Roosevelt wanted to give more time to merchants and trade before Christmas. To put it simply, Roosevelt hoped that he would help bring the country out of the Depression by expanding a shopping season by one week more.
In 1940 and 1941 the U.S. President declared Thanksgiving Day on the third Thursday. On 26th December 1941, President Roosevelt signed a bill for the first time making the date of Thanksgiving a matter of federal law and fixing the day as the fourth Thursday of November.
On 23rd November 1943, after three days of heavy fighting, the United States forces won the battle of Tarawa. In that year Thanksgiving happened on 25th of November, two days after the island was taken. For many, the victory didn’t taste good at all – thousands of brave servicemen had died; Tawara was brutally hard-won.
On 24th November 1943, USS LiscomeBay was torpedoed. 600 men died just a day before Thanksgiving.