Throughout U.S. involvement overseas, military officials did their best to provide a traditional, hot holiday meal for our soldiers. In 1943, the American people sent two liberty ships fully stocked with Thanksgiving supplies for those serving abroad. Included were turkeys, trimmings, cranberry sauce, and even various pies, all sent throughout the European and Pacific theaters and even to the frontlines. Those lucky enough to be stationed on board one of the Navy’s vessels received excellent food at all times, but Thanksgiving was particularly scrumptious and appreciated by the servicemen on the ground and in the air. Despite the good intentions of the higher ranks, every man missed their families, especially during the holidays and no Thanksgiving could quite compare to the ones held at home, although the soldiers had each other through the hardest time of their lives.
U.S. military Thanksgiving dinners were a far cry above the usual canned and precooked C- or K-rations. In fact, one British soldier who crash landed at an American airbase in Italy on Thanksgiving Day, later would remember with his first taste of an American military Thanksgiving that “the Americans were looked after slightly better [than the British were], so the lunch I was offered consisted of roast turkey, fresh vegetables and fresh white bread, the like of which we hadn’t seen since the war started. Similarly, a young British boy who happened to be visiting an American airfield in England on Thanksgiving observed, “I was invited into the dining room and was amazed at the food that was there. It was Thanksgiving and I thought Christmas had come early. I’d never seen so much food, as we were all living on rations. I was even lucky enough to taste some.”
After receiving permission from a farm owner, these men, attached to an airbase at Norfolk, England, invade a turkey pen to choose their annual turkey day repast. The turkeys were given to the men for their Thanksgiving dinners, 6 November 1943.
On 25 November 1943, a long line of men formed outside the mess hall on Alexai Point Airbase, each waiting for his turn to be served the traditional Thanksgiving dinner–the first Thanksgiving celebrated by military personnel on former American territory recaptured from the Japanese. The men were members of the 28th Bomb Group and the 54th Fighter Group, stationed on Attu, Aleutian Islands.
At Alexai Point, Attu, Aleutian Islands, officers of the 77th Bomb Group and the 54th Fighter Group also enjoyed their traditional Thanksgiving dinner on 25 November 1943 on former American territory recaptured from the Japanese.
Mess hall personnel readied to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the men of the 13th Air Force who formed a long chow line outside on Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, 25 November 1943.
GI’s, holding plates heaped with food, grin broadly as they pass thru the chow line in the mess hall at Poltava Airbase, a shuttle bombing base in Russia. The Thanksgiving dinner, served by Russian girls, was the first meal prepared in the newly-opened mess hall, November 1944.
GI’s did justice to their Thanksgiving dinner, the first meal served in the newly-opened mess hall at Poltava Airbase, a shuttle mission base in Russia. November 1944.
President Roosevelt’s 1943 Thanksgiving speech to the nation began “God’s help to us has been great in this year of our march towards world-wide liberty. In brotherhood with warriors of other United Nations, our gallant men have won victories, have freed our homes from fear, have made tyranny tremble, and have laid the foundation for freedom of life in a world which will be free.”
He continued, “May we on Thanksgiving Day and on every day express our gratitude and zealously devote ourselves to our duties as individuals and as a nation. May each of us dedicate his utmost efforts to speeding the victory which will bring new opportunities for peace and brotherhood among men.”
In Appreciation of our Troops Who Serve