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27 November 2013

Thanksgiving 1943



 

by David Middlecamp

November 25, 2013

As Thanksgiving approached in 1943, somber war news dominated the front page and there was no mention of sales or special store hours.

Nov. 24, 1943

"A quiet and worshipful Thanksgiving is anticipated in San Luis Obispo with a general closing of business establishments and schools, and with the majority of churches scheduling special services Thursday, to which the public is invited."

One exception was the local ration board, which would remain open to take applications for ration books, though none would be issued.

Camp San Luis Obispo planned a 45-minute program, "a day of real meaning in today's world that still finds the United States untouched by enemy bombs." Technically true, since enemy bombs had fallen on Hawaii and Alaska, not yet states.

Massive Allied bomber missions were being carried out over Germany, but losses were heavy. Because of the amount of fuel needed for the long distances, fighter planes could not cover the whole route. The bombers were often on their own, vulnerable to Luftwaffe fighter attack. Every bomber that went down would take an aircrew of about a dozen to death. The lucky ones would parachute to capture and prison camp.

Promises of the portly Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring had turned out to be braggadocio.

Berlin was not immune from air strikes, and a report from Stockholm had eyewitness reports of the homes of Adolf Hitler, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels all hit by bombs. It was presumed that the Nazi leaders were in shelters.

The propaganda minister would attempt to deflect anger at the Nazi inability to prevent attacks by blaming Jews, airmen and communists among others. Goebbels was one of the loudest of many Nazi voices in favor of sending Jews to death camps and would later endorse summary execution of Allied airmen shot down over Germany.

In the U.S. the Senate Military Affairs committee voted to ask Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson for a full report on the slapping of a shell-shocked American soldier by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton in Sicily last August.

Patton's career hung in the balance.

President Roosevelt had nominated Patton for permanent promotion from colonel to major general.

An American Legion Post in Louisiana had protested the mistreatment of the soldier.

"Respectfully request that you demand a full investigation incident with AEF. These are American soldiers and not Germans. If our boys are to be mistreated let's import Hitler and do it up right."

A House of Representatives member argued that if a soldier had slapped a general, the consequences would have been more than an apology could repair.

A War Department spokesman said that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had rebuked Patton "mercilessly" and that Patton had issued an apology to his troops and the soldier. Unless there was "a great public clamor" the matter was considered resolved.
 

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