27 Nov Thanksgiving in the 1940s
|Thanksgiving dinner, Italy, 1944|
|Soldiers choosing their prized turkey for Thanksgiving, 1943|
I can see everyone, eating dinner deluxe,
|Norman Rockwell painting, “Freedom of Want”|
Often referred to as ‘The People’s Holiday’, Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that is neither a religious, state, nor a political holiday. The holiday was born from the nation and has remained so since the birth of the nation; the coming together of varied peoples. From the first Thanksgiving, to the Thanksgivings of the 1940s, not much had changed. The holiday still meant family coming together to celebrate the good fortunes of life. Not even the Second World War could change that for America. In fact, the Norman Rockwell painting, “Freedom from Want”, became the token image for the holiday. The spirit of the holiday could have been dampened by all the shortages, rations, and restrictions, but the people would not let that happen.
|Basting a turkey in the field on Thanksgiving|
Throughout the U.S. involvement overseas, military officials did their best to provide a traditional, hot holiday meal for the soldiers overseas. In 1943, the American people sent two liberty ships fully stocked with Thanksgiving supplies for the soldiers. Everything was included, turkeys, trimmings, cranberry sauce, and even various pies, all sent throughout the European and Pacific theaters, all the way to the frontlines. Those lucky enough to be stationed on board one of the Navy’s vessels received excellent food all the time, but Thanksgiving was particularly scrumptious for the servicemen. Despite the good intentions of the higher ranks, every man missed their families, especially during the holidays, but the soldiers had each other through the hardest time of their lives. However, no Thanksgiving could quite compare to the ones held at home. Some men observed that the feeling of Thanksgiving wasn’t there, not like at home.
- Since so many young men were drafted, America’s favorite sport, football, was put on hold for the war. But in 1943, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers combined their teams in order to fill their rosters and the team was nicknamed the ‘Steagles’.
- Rubber was the hardest material to come by because 92% of our supply came from Japanese occupied lands. Everyone had to do their part to aid in the war effort, even Macy’s Department Store. Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day parade used marvelous, gigantic rubber balloons for their annual parade. The balloons were donated to the cause and shredded for scrap rubber, thus cancelling the parade for the duration of the war. America would not see another parade until 1945.
|Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1940|
- Benjamin Franklin suggested the national bird for the newly founded country of America should be the Turkey because it was a “much more respectable bird” and “a true original native of America.” Instead, we prefer to eat the bird.
- Abraham Lincoln was not the first President to urge Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving. George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison all issued proclamations regarding the holiday.
- Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia was the first major store to host a Thanksgiving parade and not the famed Macy’s Department Store.
|Thanksgiving Day Football Game, 1940s.|
- Cranberries were actually used by the Native Americans in the first Thanksgiving dinner, as well as for their daily medicinal needs. Today the meal is incomplete without the delicious fruit.
- The first Thanksgiving football game was held in 1876, about the same time the sport was officially recognized.