1943 Gettysburg Christmas

This story is about two air cadets who were both , only ten rooms apart in " OLD DORM " Gettysburg College for 1943 Christmas. They did not know each other until 2003 when they saw these story's on the internet


Almost AWOL Christmas

Christmas Season 1943. I had been away from my fiancee for only 4 months

when I arrived at Gettysburg College as Air Corps Cadet. I was a homesick

fly boy. I called my Charlotte (Micky) and told her I missed her and was going

A.W.O.L. and come home to see her. Bang!! I got a stern voice saying, "No

you stay there†and she would come to see me. On Friday Dec 24 Micky came

with my mother and father. I met them at 9 A.M. The next three days were great.

Sunday night I walked (Gettysburg was only a couple of blocks in those days)

them to the Bus Stop. I said goodbye and slowly walked back to "Old Dorm."

which was our barracks and as the old song said "tears flowed like wine."




A fellow cadet Don Murray story


This really isn't a Christmas story so much as a Christmas parable - call it The Parable of the Rash Judgement and What Befell Him Who Exercised It.


In December, 1943, I was one of about 100 pre-aviation cadets assigned to the 55th College Training Detachment at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania. As Christmas approached, it was decided to grant a few days' holiday leave to a limited number of men. I was not one of the lucky few. Rashly, I refused to accept a lonely Christmas in Gettysburg. With or without a three-day pass, I would go home for Christmas in New York.


It matters not how I managed to slip away undetected from Gettysburg on the morning of Christmas Eve. I boarded a bus for Harrisburg, caught the first train for New York and was on my way. No sooner was I in my seat in a car full of Christmas travelers - some in uniform like me, most in mufti - than in strode two MP's, their white Sam Browne belts and black armbands generating terror in my guilty soul. I prepared to surrender quietly and be shipped to Leavenworth.


But they were not checking for passes and furlough papers. Filled with the Christmas spirit, they greeted each serviceman cheerfully as they moved down the aisle. They didn't notice my ashen face and trembling hands when they passed my seat and wished me Merry Christmas. They did not return during the remainder of the three-hour trip, but I never unclenched my fingers until the train stopped at Penn Station.


Boarding the Long Island Railroad train I became aware that I was drenched with sweat. By the time I walked in the front door at home, I was weak and dizzy. My mother, an RN, hustled me off to bed and called the family doctor. I had a fever of 102. "Flu," said the doctor. "Stay in bed for the next two or three days," he said. When he had gone, I confessed. "Dad," I said, "I can't stay beyond tomorrow. I'm AWOL." To my Spartan father, a doughboy in World War I who never broke a rule, I might just as well have admitted to murder.


I don't remember Christmas Day, except being sick and remorseful. My father raged quietly about my shameful escapade. I was a pariah in my own home. Toward the end of the day, I began to feel a little better, and Dad and I discussed how to get me back to Gettysburg alive and, if possible, without arriving under military arrest. Despite my feeble protests, he said he was going with me. On the morning of December 26th, we boarded the LIRR for Penn Station. An hour later we were on a train for Harrisburg. I took the window seat; Dad took the aisle and opened the NY Times as if it could serve as a curtain concealing his dishonorable son. I pulled my GI overcoat up to my neck and feigned sleep, remaining in that position for the entire miserable journey. Again the car was filled with holiday travelers, again MP's roamed the aisles and again I was not accosted. I began to think I might get away with it. We left the train at Harrisburg, boarded the bus for Gettysburg and arrived late in the afternoon - but in plenty of time to get to the college in a taxi, safe at last. ..


An hour before cadets on pass had to report back, my father and I stood on the steps of the college Administration Building as he prepared to leave for the bus station. He was quiet for a few moments, then he stuck his hand out and said "You'd better see a doctor." I nodded. We shook hands, and I said, "I'm sorry for what I did, Dad, but thanks for coming with me." He looked at me for a long time and then turned to go down the steps to the cab. And then, to my surprise, he looked back, smiled and said, "Take care of yourself, son." He didn't hear my whispered "Merry Christmas, Dad" as the cab drove off.


That evening as I sat wearily on my bed, the staff sergeant who served as barracks chief stuck his head in the door. He was not a favorite with us. "Hey," he barked, as I looked up expecting the worst. Since I had never been authorized to leave on Christmas Eve, I had not dared to report back. Did he know?


"Have a nice Christmas?" he asked with a grin, adding, "I didn't see you around."


"It was OK, Sarge," I said, "but I think I caught a cold.".


"Better get over to the Dispensary, then," he said and closed the door. I did that. An hour later I was hospitalized with a strep throat infection that would keep me there for a week. .


And that was Christmas, 1943.



I just love stories like this :pdt34:




A recent "newbie" to our site, WWII veteran, MSgt Cecil A Saul, was searching the world wide web for "Gettysburg College", and stumbled upon our site. Unfortunately Papa Art is no longer with us, so I couldn't hook them up, but it was nice for him to find a "brother" and to read his memoirs. How I wished the two of them could have chatted together.


Here's his story regarding Gettysburg College. Thanks for writing to me and becoming a member of our forum. He has a great writing style, which I'm sure you'll enjoy!


Hi, Marion:

Sorry, I have no intention of taking over your blog. I merely stumbled on to the story, and as usual, was too late. My own bag: I have beeen doing findagrave for a couple years. That's a genealogy/graves registration site. In the process I got to writing biographical sketches and that led to a half-baked idea of writing history/memoirs/biographical sketches at the same time. That is why I googled Gettysburg College. I was looking for trails to cadets I knew. So far I have found only one. Pete Schneller, but i hope (and dread) to find others. BTW. Here is a rememberance of Gettysburg. Post it if you think it is appropriate. Thank You



Longview, Texas November 19th , 2011

On this date 68 years ago I was an Aviation Cadet taking a five month college course in preparation for pilot training. My unit was the 55th College Training Detachment at Gettysburg College, Gettysburg PA. My dorm room which I shared with five other cadets was in “Old Dorm” which I understand is now renamed “Pennsylvania Hall”. There were, I believe some 500 to 600 cadets there.

That day started off fairly normally but in the middle of breakfast, in another building across the parade ground, things changed. One of our cadet officers burst in and shouted an announcement: That this was the 78th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and ceremonies in commemoration were being held at the “Cyclorama” on the Battlefield and we were all invited! “Chew fast; but eat every scrap on your plate!” And then it was back to Old Dorm and a change into dress uniforms and an inspection in front of the building and we were set to go. Except there was no transportation. But , what the heck it was only 10 miles or so and we were young and in fine health! We marched. In formation, since there were spectators along the way. We quick-marched. We force-marched. We double-timed . We only fell back to infantry cadence when our uniforms began to get too sweaty for us to be presentable. But we still arrived late. The Cyclorama was packed and we stood outside in formation for several hours. Our band played periodically. We stood at attention or parade rest for hours. People gawked at us. It slowly dawned on us that we were not spectators; we were spectees. We were not there to see but to be seen. Finally the ceremonies finished inside and people started drifting out. Among them were the Civil War Vets. Old duffers in their late ninetys and a few whose age exceeded 100. In wheel chairs, on crutches, with canes some, with missing limbs Most wearing some faded article of uniforms, both blue and gray. Then for us cadets, the day changed. We were practically mobbed by the old soldiers who wanted to talk to the young soldiers who couldn’t talk to them because we were standing at attention. Finally reason prevailed and we were told to “Fall out!”

And then pandemonium prevailed. Every one shook hands and saluted, hugged, thanked each other, and forgave each other. Old men and little children cried. The canons boomed . The band played. A few old fellers saluted with swords and cadet officers returned the salutes with ceremonial sabers… it’s a wonder no one was beheaded! And then people gathered in groups around the old fellers and tried to get them to tell war stories. Some talked quite well. Others mumbled . Others cried or spouted the nonsense of Alzheimers or seemed almost panic stricken at the commotion. I drifted here and there trying to get close enough to a vet to hear a good war story. And succeeded. I don’t know who he was . He wore part of a Union uniform I don’t remember that he talked much but he uttered one of the most memorable sentences that I have heard in my life: “ I remember my grand daddy bouncing me on his knee and telling me about the winter he spent with Washington at Valley Forge and my daddy was with Andy Jackson at New Orleans and I fought to preserve the Union from behind that rock right over there.”

We got back to Old Dorm late after a long cold miserable walk in the dark. It was several days before we could compare our war stories. But some of the stories were horrendous. Old Dorm was used as a hospital during the battle and hundreds of men died there. Old men told of being wounded in the leg, being taken to Old Dorm, given a jug of whiskey with instructions to drink half and waking up next day in a wagon with a dozen other amputees on their way to Michigan and not needing instructions with what to do with the rest of the whiskey in the jugs which each man carried. Where were the legs? Supposedly dropped through a hole sawed in the floor of the operating room, Old Dorm.

Mistakes were made at Gettysburg. Pickett charged. (Bad move!). Lincoln said “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here today” (But we did note and we did long remember!) My big mistake at Gettysburg was going to that ceremony before the camcorder was invented.! Before he died, General MacArthur said, “Old Soldiers never die. They just fade away”

Msgt Cecil A.Saul, USAF Retired

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

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