The Christmas truce of 1914 was the best thing that came out of WW I. From Thomas Knapp at antiwar.com:
As 1914 drew to a close, Europe had been at war for months. On the Western Front, opposing armies faced each other across a stalemated front line running from the North Sea to the Swiss border. On December 24, 100,000 soldiers from both sides of that line decided to create some peace on Earth.
They decorated their trenches with holiday spirit. They sang carols to each other across “No Man’s Land,” then walked into the space between their trenches, met, smoked and drank together, and exchanged what gifts they could round up. Chaplains conducted Christmas services for all comers. Impromptu football matches were played between shell craters (Germany’s Battalion 371 beat the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 2 to 1).
A similar truce occurred on the Eastern Front between Austro-Hungarian and Russian troops.
The “Christmas truce” didn’t end “the war to end all wars.” It dragged on for nearly four more years, at a cost of more than 20 million lives.
If soldiers refused to right each other, who would fight? The living carcasses who are always promoting wars fought by other people’s kids? Not likely. War could be stopped by a mass refusal of the soldiers to shoot at one another. From David R. Henderson at antiwar.com:
Originally published December 24, 2008
In my Veterans Day column last month (November 2008), I quoted free-market economist and World War II veteran Richard Timberlake, who wrote:
“Yet, any U.S. soldier or airman who thought even briefly about his job of trying to kill and destroy ‘the enemy,’ knew that he was not within range of damaging Hitler and other Nazi leaders. We could not reach their personal environments or influence their decisions; our activities were many magnitudes removed from hurting them. We could only chip away at the peripheries of their domain and hope that they would realize the futility and fallacy of their ways. To do so, we had to try and kill our enemy counterparts with whom we had no personal quarrel at all.”
I thought of that these last few days as I reread Stanley Weintraub’s Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce. While Timberlake, a pilot of a B-17 bomber, realized that he had no quarrel with his German counterparts, it was difficult for him to act on that. He was dropping his bombs on unknown victims. But during World War I, troops on both sides of the front slicing through France and Belgium not only understood that they had no personal quarrel with the “enemy,” but also acted on this understanding during the Christmas season of 1914. Silent Night is the detailed story of that amazing aspect of World War I. (An excellent movie, Joyeux Noël, was based on this event.)
What if the naive young men that sinister old men con to fight their wars for them decided to swap stories and Christmas gifts from the home front with the “enemy,” instead of bullets and bombs? It happened once, in 1914 during World War I. A wonderful film, Joyeux Noel, was made about the Christmas truce, and it’s great Christmas viewing for the whole family. From Gary G. Kohls at lewrockwell.com:
“…and the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame;
And on each end of the rifle we’re the same”– John McCutcheon
104 years ago something happened in the fifth month of the “War to End All Wars” that put a tiny little blip of hope – which was cruelly and rapidly extinguished by the pro-militarism powers-that-be in both church and state – in the historical timeline of the organized mass slaughter that is war.
The event was regarded by the professional military officer class to be so profound and so disturbing that strategies were immediately put in place that would ensure that such an event could never happen again.
By Christopher Klein, via David Stockman’s Contra Corner:
Five months into World War I, the Christmas spirit took hold in the most unlikely of places—the bloody Western Front. In a series of spontaneous ceasefires, soldiers laid down their arms to sing carols, exchange gifts and even play soccer with the enemy. On the centennial of the Christmas Truce of 1914, look back at the sudden outbreak of peace that brought a brief moment of cheer to a grim war.
Charles Brewer never expected to be spending Christmas Eve nearly knee-deep in the mud of northern France. Stationed on the front lines, the 19-year-old British lieutenant with the Bedfordshire Regiment of the 2nd Battalion shivered in a trench with his fellow soldiers. After Great Britain entered World War I in August 1914, many of them had expected that they would make quick work of the enemy and be home in time for Christmas. Nearly five months and 1 million lives later, however, the Great War had bogged down in intractable trench warfare with no end in sight.
Although disappointed to be far from home on Christmas Eve, Brewer at least took solace in the fact that the perpetual rain, which made moving through the trenches as much of a slog as the war itself, had finally abated on the moonlit night. All was jarringly quiet on the Western Front when a British sentry suddenly spied a glistening light on the German parapet, less than 100 yards away. Warned that it might be a trap, Brewer slowly raised his head over the soaked sandbags protecting his position and through the maze of barbed wire saw a sparkling Christmas tree. As the lieutenant gazed down the line of the German trenches, a whole string of small conifers glimmered like beads on a necklace.
Brewer then noticed the rising of a faint sound that he had never before heard on the battlefield—a Christmas carol. The German words to “Stille Nacht” were not familiar, but the tune—“Silent Night”—certainly was. When the German soldiers finished singing, their foes broke out in cheers. Used to returning fire, the British now replied in song with the English version of the carol.
For the full story about this spontaneous and remarkable truce, which was, unfortunately, only a brief respite in a horror that was drag on for another four years: