It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, but I wanted to share one more Thanksgiving primary source before finishing this miniseries. I found a letter written by a U.S. chaplain on Thanksgiving Day 1944 from his post on the Vogelkop Peninsula on the island of New Guinea.
Chaplain Russell C. Stroup, 6th U.S. Infantry, Pacific Theater
Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1944
You have been much on my mind and in my heart today. I think the whole Regiment was AWOL in spirit today, our minds having sneaked off to the far-flung firesides where we sat down to delectable feasts with folks back home.
Everything was done here to make the day as good as it could be. The morning was not busy, and we had all the afternoon off. The Thanksgiving Day service engaged my attention. I enclose the program. We had a splendid attendance and I think that the service gave the men a feeling of home and real Thanksgiving.
The big moment was the noon meal. The government got a plentiful supply of frozen turkeys to us – whole birds, just as they would be at home. Each company of about 150 to 200 men had about 200 pounds of turkey. Since the turkeys had to be cooked on just two field ranges in each company, cooking began the night before and continued through the morning. There was fruit cocktail from cans, mashed potatoes, dressing, peas, pickles, cranberry sauce, fresh rolls, pumpkin pie, and coffee. Plenty of everything filled every nook and cranny of the men. They left the groaning boards as stuffed as the turkeys had been, to lay around for a sunlit afternoon. By supper, we were back to bully beef, but no one cared since no one was hungry yet.
I had invitations from many messes to have turkey dinner with them. I appreciate the fact that they wanted me, especially as each extra person reduced the amount of precious bird for the others. I ate with C Company,which is right next door to my tent, although I am supposed to mess at headquarters.
Reflecting On The War In the Pacific
Russell C. Stroup had commissioned as a first lieutenant, Chaplain Corps, in August 1942. He was first appointed to serve the 399th Infantry and by November 1944 had transferred to 1st Battalion Headquarters, 1st Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division.
The 6th Infantry Division had fought at the Battle of Sansapor on Dutch New Guinea (July 30-August 31, 1944) and after the battle, they remained to garrison the beachhead and newly captured territory. The Thanksgiving celebration came as a welcome break and semi-joyful moment after the summer’s fight.
I’m Grateful For This Account Because…
It’s a wonderful primary source, revealing a thanksgiving feast for U.S. soldiers and the thoughts of home.
I’ll tell you a little secret – I’m actually writing this blog post on Thanksgiving Eve. And I’m thinking of the U.S. service members who are a far from home for this holiday. For me, this is a historical reminder to think of and thank our nation’s defenders.