We take our worldwide communication capabilities for granted. In an age where FaceTime and Skype allow us not only to speak to those halfway across the world, but to see them at the time, it is easy to forget that only a couple generations ago such interaction was impossible.
Radio made communication between service members and their families possible. The urge to communicate with their loved ones during World War II culminated in “Christmas Eve at the Front,” a nationally broadcasted radio special “spontaneously suggested by American servicemen” serving on the front lines to show Americans back home how they were spending the season, as well as send their well-wishes and messages of encouragement. Listen to an excerpt from the program.[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/2011-12-20_ChristmasEve_Church_kmbc-151.mp3|titles=Christmas Eve at the Front]
“Christmas Eve at the Front” connected soldiers from England, China, India, and the Pacific theater to American radios. Listeners heard soldiers in England gather to sing Christmas carols. They also learned that the rations they saved for the war effort helped to give the soldiers a special holiday treat. As one soldier commented, the group used saved rations of powdered milk and eggs, combined with corn starch and cocoa, to make ice cream.
But the war was also difficult for the soldiers. They commented on working twenty-four hour watches, even on Christmas, with the enemy flying nearby over their heads. And yet, as a gunner from Pennsylvania put it, “There’s one ship in our group called “Heaven Can Wait”. It’d be like heaven to be home for Christmas this year. But Heaven not only can—but has to wait—until our job is finished.”
Christina Tomlinson, KMBC Project staff/History (MA) student
You may request access to the complete recording from the Marr Sound Archives.