What do you know about the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only In My Dreams)?” Maybe your answer was, Bing Crosby recorded the song on Oct. 4, 1943. Or the song was written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram. The song was recorded by 138 individuals or musical groups. Those are good answers. Think, how did the song touch you?
Songs that remain favorites for decades not only touch, but pull on the heart strings of each listener. If you were one of the 16 million American men and women serving our country 72 years ago in 1943, what was going through your mind when you heard the song? You could have been stationed at some remote rock you never knew existed on a map until you saw the name typed on your orders.
Remember how excited you were when your name was yelled at mail call? You had a letter from home, your connection to home and loved ones. What was the latest news from that person? How many times did you reread the letter?
GIs and civilians loved the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” It was the most requested song at USO shows because it touched your feelings. Yank, the GI magazine, said Bing Crosby “accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era.”
In spite of the song’s popularity with GIs and Americans on the home front, the BBC management banned the song from its broadcasts. Its management believed the lyrics were not “proper” for the morale of its troops.
If this Christmas was going to be your first time away from home, how would you feel? Would you feel sorry for yourself or maybe depressed? When listening to the song, there are two verses of a poem set to music and the two verses are repeated.
Seventy years ago this Christmas millions of GIs, men and women, had spent one or more Christmases away from their family and friends. But this Christmas was different. They were discharged from the service to be home for the holidays! Their kid brothers and sisters had grown taller, graduated from high school and became responsible citizens while they were away from home. There were so many changes during their absence.
Sitting at the dinner table enjoying every fork full of Mom’s traditional Christmas meal in a warm dining room with your relatives was light-years from eating C rations in a foxhole last Christmas during the coldest winter in Europe in 30 years, or sweltering in a tropical jungle, which was closer to a swamp, while “island hopping” in the Pacific Ocean.
Many of the newly discharged veterans wanted to make up for their time away from home. Jewelry stores sold engagement and wedding rings in record numbers. Marriage ceremonies were basic and happened in a matter of days. Nine months later the maternity wards of hospitals across America began to burst at the seams in 1946. In the next 18 years, 77 million new Americans became “The Boomer Generation.”
I’ll be home for Christmas is one person promising to be with loved ones for Christmas. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, if he or she could not be home for Christmas, they could visit home in their dreams.
In 2015 you could use your smart phone to talk, or better yet, Skype or Face Time with the folks at home. Remember, your heart is always home, “if only in your dreams.”
Ken Beaton of Carson City contributes periodically to the Nevada Appeal.