Surprising Christmas ‘Invasions’

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

The United States has been so militarily influential throughout the world that it was invading other countries before it officially existed, says American history scholar Christopher Kelly. In 1741, military forces from what would become American soil conducted large-scale operations in Cartagena, Colombia, and the U.S. has been busy changing other parts of the world since then, Kelly says. Naturally, there are bound to be holiday tales amid all the action throughout the past few centuries. Kelly shares a few that occurred during Word War II.

An unlikely Battle of the Bulge Christmas dinner: This battle was a last-ditch effort from Hitler during the waning days on the German front. On Christmas Eve, 1944, near the German-Belgian border, a woman and her 12-year-old son were confronted by three wounded American soldiers on their doorstep. She let the Americans inside, even though it was considered treason by the Nazi regime. Later, four German soldiers knocked on the cottage’s door, and the woman provided shelter for them, too. She collected everyone’s weapons, insisted upon peace, and shared a chicken for dinner. The next day, the Germans told the Americans how to safely navigate back to their side. The story was told in a Reader’s Digest article by the woman’s son, the late Fritz Vincken, who reunited with one of the soldiers in 1995.

Operation Christmas Drop is a charitable tradition forged by war: The Japanese front was a simultaneously brutal and tedious effort, made more challenging by the many small islands dotting the South Pacific. One of the results was the creation of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. An air crew from the base flying over the Micronesian atoll of Kapingamarangi near Christmas 1952 spotted islanders waving to them. The crew swiftly gathered miscellaneous items on the plane, placed them in a container with an attached parachute and dropped the goods to the islanders. The Christmas Drop has since become the longest running U.S. Department of Defense mission in full operation, and the longest running humanitarian airlift in the world.

The odd Christmas tradition of KFC in Japan: America and Japan have been bound to each other since the war and one of those bonds includes Yokota Air Base, originally a facility for Japanese forces but eventually taken over by the United States during combat. Since hostilities have ended, strong cultural bonds have developed including a Christmas Day tradition of a meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken for the mostly Buddhist nation. “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” – Kentucky for Christmas! – was inspired by a group of foreigners who were searching for Christmas turkey. Ultimately, they settled for the next best thing, fried chicken.

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