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During World War I, there was an unofficial ‘Christmas Truce’ during the winter of 1914.
The song ‘Silent Night’ was sung across the battle lines by German, French, and English troops, as it was one of the few carols that soldiers on both sides knew.
Soldiers ventured out of their trenches and spent the day visiting, playing soccer, trading souvenirs, and sharing food.
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Afterwards, irate commanders on both sides forbade unauthorized fraternizing with the enemy.
After the sinking of the Lusitania by Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany U-boats in 1915, public opinion in America changed.
The United States entered World War I on APRIL 6, 1917.
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Soon, Americans were arriving at the rate of 10,000 a day to fight ‘the Hun.’
George M. Cohen wrote the popular song, ‘Over There,’ for which he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by President Roosevelt in 1936:
Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming,
the Yanks are coming
The drums rum-tumming everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware –
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.
America enlisted 4 million soldiers and spent 35 billion dollars.
On April 16, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson stated:
This is the time for America…I hope that the clergymen will not think the theme of it an unworthy or inappropriate subject of comment and homily from their pulpits.
On May 30, 1917, President Wilson addressed the Grand Army of the Republic:
In the providence of God, America will once more have an opportunity to show the world that she was born to serve mankind.
Germany’s Red Baron dominated the skies. Eddie Rickenbaker joined the 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron which destroyed 69 enemy aircraft.
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A pilot in Rickenbacker’s squadron was Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, who was unfortunately shot down in a dogfight, July 14, 1918.
Pope Benedict XV, August 1, 1917, offered to mediate peace between European Powers:
Do not…turn a deaf ear to our prayer, accept the…invitation which we extend to you in the name of the Divine Redeemer, Prince of Peace.
Bear in mind your very grave responsibility to God and man; on your decision depend…the lives of thousands of young men.
On September 3, 1917, President Wilson wrote to the National Army:
My affectionate confidence goes with you in every battle and every test. God keep and guide you!
On October 19, 1917, Wilson issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Supplication and Prayer:
Congress, in view of the entrance of our nation into the vast and awful war which now afflicts the greater part of the world, has requested me to set apart by official proclamation a day upon which our people should be called upon to offer concerted prayer to Almighty God for His divine aid in the success of our arms…
It behooves…a nation which has sought from the earliest days of its existence to be obedient to the divine teachings which have inspired it in the exercise of its liberties, to turn always to the Supreme Master and cast themselves in faith at His feet, praying for His aid and succor in every hour of trial, to the end that the great aims to which our fathers dedicated our power as a people may not perish…
Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States… appoint a day…exhorting all my countrymen…in solemn prayer that God’s blessing may rest upon the high task which is laid upon us.
On November 7, 1917, President Wilson issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer:
Even in the midst of the tragedy of a world shaken by war and immeasurable disaster…we can see the great blessings God has bestowed upon us…
We have been given the opportunity to serve mankind as we once served ourselves in the great day of our Declaration of Independence, by taking up arms against a tyranny that threatened to master and debase men everywhere…
Our duty not only to defend our own rights as a nation but to defend also the rights of free men throughout the world.
On December 4, 1917, Wilson addressed Congress:
A supreme moment of history has come…The hand of God is laid upon the nations. He will show them favor, I devoutly believe, only if they rise to the clear heights of His own justice and mercy.
In 1917, President Wilson, former President Theodore Roosevelt, and General John J. Pershing wrote prefaces to New Testaments which were given out by the thousands to World War I soldiers.
President Wilson gave an executive order to the Army and Navy, January 20, 1918:
The President, commander in chief of the Army and Navy…enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service of the United States.
The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.
On May 11, 1918, President Wilson proclaimed a National Day of Fasting:
It being the duty peculiarly incumbent in a time of war humbly and devoutly to acknowledge our dependence on Almighty God and to implore His aid and protection… a Day of Public Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting…be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity and the offering of fervent supplications to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of our cause, His blessings on our arms, and a speedy restoration of an honorable and lasting peace to the nations of the earth…
Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim…do exhort my fellow-citizens of all faiths and creeds to assemble on that day in their several places of worship and there, as well as in their homes, to pray Almighty God that He may forgive our sins…and to purpose only those righteous acts and judgments which are in conformity with His will; beseeching Him that He will give victory to our armies as they fight for freedom.
Less than a month later, May 28, 1918, four U.S. divisions were deployed with French and British troops and they won the Battle of Cantigny, America’s first offensive of the war.
On October 8, 1918, an American battalion was pinned down by machine gun fire along the Decauville rail-line north of Chatel-Chehery, France.
Sergeant Alvin. C. York described it:
The Germans got us…They stopped us dead in our tracks.
Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from…
Those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me.
With all but 8 of his platoon killed, Sergeant York took charge and proceeded to take out 32 machine guns, kill 28 of the enemy, and take 132 captive.
Sergeant York received the Medal of Honor.
His story, edited by Tom Skeyhill, was printed in The Washington Post, March 17, 1929:
Some of them officers have been saying that I being a mountain boy and accustomed to the woods…done all these things the right way jes by instinct…
I hadn’t never got much larnin’ from books, except the Bible. Maybe my instincts are more natural…but that ain’t enough to account for the way I come out alive, with all those German soldiers raining death on me…
I’m a-telling you the hand of God must have been in that fight…
Jes think of them 30 machine guns raining fire on me point-blank from a range of only 25 yards and all them-there rifles and pistols besides, those bombs, and then those men charged with fixed bayonets, and I never receiving a scratch, and bringing 132 prisoners.
I have got only one explanation…that God must have heard my prayers.
Sergeant York’s story was turned into the movie Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper.
The highest grossing movie of 1941, York donated his proceeds to fund a Bible college, The York Bible Institute.
On November 11, 1918, the war ended with the signing of the Armistice.
World War I left combined casualties of nearly 18 million killed or missing and 20 million wounded.
Five days after the signing of the Armistice, President Wilson proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer:
Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day…God has indeed been gracious…
While we render thanks for these things, let us not forget to seek the Divine guidance in the performance of those duties, and divine mercy and forgiveness for all errors of act or purpose…
Wherefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate…a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and invite the people throughout the land to cease upon that day from their ordinary occupations and in their several homes and places of worship to render thanks to God, the Ruler of Nations.
President Wilson said in his 6th Annual Address, December 2, 1918:
What we all thank God for with deepest gratitude is that our men went in force into the line of battle just at the critical moment when the whole fate of the world seemed to hang in the balance.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.