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This is certainly the case with Christmas 1945, a deceptively thin but meaty volume by Matthew Litt (History Publishing Company)
It is as the subtitle says, "The story of the greatest celebration in American history." Its focus on the surface is the first Christmas after the end of World War II when nylon stockings were still scarce but the spirit of the holidays was not. Lights were on in the nation's largest cities for the first time--in many ways: lights of hope, with the realization that troops were finally coming home from Europe and Asia, and that war plants would soon be making tin toys for Santa's stockings again.
So why should anyone today want to read Christmas 1945, unless they have a nostalgic feeling for the time or love wars and their histories? The book offers much more than that, and focusing on one series of events rather than attempting to do another comprehensive overall view of a decade is an excellent idea.
The book is a launching point for contrasts, then and now, big city and small town. One remembers the lack of a reception the small-town boy received when he sat alone in a little cafe in southeast Kansas after returning from service in Vietnam in the 1960s without the honor of a parade. What a difference compared to the reception given in small towns and large when troops returned from World War II to a grateful nation, as told by Litt's simple eloquence.
What a contrast also with the previous Christmas. In 1944, the Allies thought they had the war nearly won when the last days of turmoil broke out in a wooded, mountainous region of Germany. The Battle of the Bulge was to be the last major conflict of a war winding down, a Christmas conflict which would lead in a few months to the surrender of the Nazis and the Japanese. If Christmas 1944 was a frightening reminder that the war was not really over yet, Christmas 1945 was a collective prayer, a nationwide sigh of relief.
Litt, 32, the talented but unassuming author, is a New Jersey lawyer with a degree in politics. His book, purposely, is not a ponderous pretender, claiming to look into all events surrounding the war. But his finely-honed and trimmed approach is a way through the use of footnotes and documentation to find more if you wish. Read the book as a snapshot of hope in a time gone by, or as a view of how people today might learn from the past as they measure their response to returning servicemen and women...with policy questions, perhaps, but gratitude for service.
Part of the book's charm and impact is in its human interest approach--employing every-day people in service or out, while keeping the use of military or historical documents or tales of strategy to a minimum. Another plus is in the use of newspapers of the time, small and large, to tell the tale of the returning combatants or to editorialize about the spirit of Christmas in 1945. Sources include the Lincoln Journal (NE), the Oakland Tribune (CA), the Athens Messenger (OH) and the Big Spring Herald (TX).
A big and busy Camp Crowder in Neosho, MO is mentioned, as is Independence, MO, the home of Harry Truman, who succeeded the embattled wartime president and commander-in-chief Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Truman, Litt writes, insisted upon braving a storm to fly home to Missouri from the White House for his first postwar Christmas dinner.
The fact that Litt found digging through old newspaper clippings about Christmas 1945 more interesting than his dealing as an attorney with white-collar insurance fraud has given us a highly readable, unpretentious, often personal, local and touching story that is a --Bookvues.com, Alan Caruba, Nov. 29,2010
"The Christmas of 1945 was one to remember and celebrate, as this volume so poignantly points out."
- William F. Winter, Esq. WWII Veteran, former Mississippi Governor
"Matthew Litt captures so well the exuberance, joy, and sharing of that special season, which can never again be repeated, but can be remembered as a highlight of our lives."
-Angus Lorenzon, child POW, author A Lovely Little War."
"Christmas 1945 reminds me of the Christmas magic that was always in my childhood."
-Ann Blyth, actress, singer, Academy Award nominee
"Christmas 1945 is a present for all of us who remember that wonderful time, and a sound investment for those who wish to know about it."
-John Downes, financial author,Barron's Dictionary of Financial and Investment Terms."
I think it is very interesting and shows how resilient the people were and helpful to one another after a long war.Published 17 months ago by Marilyn Weesner
This was a Christmas Present for my husband and he enjoyed it very much. He recommends it to all who love history.Published 23 months ago by Sharon L. Douglas
A friend recommended this book and I decided to give it a shot. I am so glad I did. This was a book filled with heartwarming stories; stories that should be remembered and... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Mrs. Blair
This book is written in more of a narrative report style, than a story of the time and events.
It is interesting for its contribution of history, but I'm dragging through... Read more
After my completion of the book Im left with one question. WHAT HAPPENED to our values here in the USA.. Read more
A heart warming story not known by those not involved. This era is about men & women who many are not with us today to testify.Published on December 7, 2011 by Michael Litt
A happy little book about the first Christmas after WW II and certainly a better one than the previous year's when the Battle of the Bulge was being fought. Read morePublished on June 10, 2011 by William H. Franklin Jr.