Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce, 1914

On a beautiful, crisp moonlit night in 1914, voices rose up in the frosty air, carrying out over the bleak expanse of no-man’s land to reach the trenches of the opposing side.  This is the heartwarming story of the Christmas Truce that happened during WWI.

The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce of 1914
An artist’s impression from The Illustrated London News of 9 January 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

Perhaps it was a bit of curious Christmas magic that caused the truce to simultaneously break out over parts of the western front.  Maybe it was the message in the songs sang by both sides on Christmas Eve, speaking of peace on earth, good will towards men.  Regardless of how it started and why, two-thirds of German, French, Belgium, & British troops – about 100,000 men – participated in this Christmas miracle.

Most accounts say that it happened with the singing on Christmas Eve.  As Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled, it was “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere.”  Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it with a bit more detail:

 

quote

The following morning across the trenches, German soldiers emerged, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English.  Allied soldiers warily left their own trenches to greet them.  In other places, Germans held up signs that read “You no shoot, we no shoot.”  Throughout that Christmas day, troops from both sides exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons, and hats.  The truce also allowed both sides to bury their own dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on no man’s land.  One account mentions a British soldier receiving a hair cut from his pre-war German barber.  Other accounts speak of a pig-roast, impromptu soccer games, and other festivities.

The truce didn’t happen across the entire western front, however. In some places the fighting continued.  While other moments of peace happened over the course of WWI, none came on such a scale as the Christmas truce of 1914.  In one of the most violent times in history, for such a truce to happen is a truly remarkable occurrence.  The truce is symbolic of the human desire for peace and humanity.

We hope this story warmed your heart this chilly Christmas like it did ours.  If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out JMCremps collection of other wartime stories.

 

8 Fascinating Independence Day Facts You Never Knew!

We know all about the parades, picnics, concerts, barbecues, fairs, parties, and fireworks that happen on the fourth of July, but what about the history behind this federal holiday? The day marks the original 13 colonies’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared independence from the Great Britain and its king. Although you probably know the most common facts behind this great event, here are some fascinating facts that you may not know. IndependenceDay1

  1. The youngest man to sign the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Lynch, Jr of South Carolina.  He was just 27.  At 70 years old, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest delegate. The main author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was  just 33 at the time.
  2. Seven of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were educated at Harvard.
  3. The only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as President of the United States were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
  4. Only John Hancock actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. All the others signed later.
  5. President John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe all died on July 4th. Adams and Jefferson, who both signed the Declaration, died within hours of each on July 4, 1826.
  6. The first Independence Day celebration took place on July 8, 1776 in Philadelphia.  It was also the day that the Declaration of Independence was first read in public.  People were called to hear the reading by the ringing of the Liberty Bell.
  7. Every 4th of July the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is tapped (not rung) thirteen times in honor of the original thirteen colonies.
  8. Americans like to celebrate their Independence Day with a backyard barbecue. As a nation, we consume approximately 150 million hot dogs and 700 million pounds of chicken on this day.  That’s a lot of barbeque!

It’s easy to make make American History come to life when you visit JM Cremp’s American History pages.  Besides our best-selling American History books, you’ll find fun reference materials, toy soldiersearly-american dress-up ideas and more.

*Facts derived from https://academicexchange.wordpress.com

An Interactive History of D-Day

June 6 marks the anniversary of that fated day that began the campaign of the liberation of Nazi-controlled Europe and brought the long-planned Operation Overlord into play.  It also marked the beginning of the end of the war that started for most Americans with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  The Allied invasion of the beaches of Normandy in France was the largest seaborne invasion in history and came to be known as D-Day.  Planning for this operation began the year before and proved to be the crucial turning point in the war in Europe.  Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”  Although victory did not come easy, nor did it come without significant cost, it did eventually come.

The naval invasion fleet included 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels.  More than 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion including over 2,200 British and American bombers.  Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on that fateful day with over 10,000 casualties logged and 4,414 brave men and boys having given their lives.

This important day in history is memorialized in an informative and interactive way online by visiting the US Army’s official D-Day website.  You can listen to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech to the troops reminding them that, “The eyes of the world are upon you,” before they embarked on ” a great crusade.”  You can also learn what the “D” in D-Day stands for.

normandyFor the younger generation, the book Normandy, A Graphic History of D-Day tells the intricate story of the planning and execution of Operation Overlord from the invasion of five D-Day beaches (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword) on June 6, 1944, to the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. In between, Vansant paints a portrait of the campaign’s vicious and unforgiving fighting, including the Allies’ capture of Cherbourg, the deadly battles in hedgerow country, the Allied struggle for Caen, the breakout of Patton’s Third Amy, and the eventual defeat of Axis forces in the Falaise Pocket. It was the Allied success in Normandy that hastened the beginning of the end for the Nazis.

However you choose to teach your children about this day isn’t as important as the fact that you are teaching them about this very important day.  It is a day in the history of the world where men and women of many nations, religions, and races came together with a single-minded purpose to defeat a common enemy.  It is the story of good vs. evil and triumph over tragedy.  It is a story that must be told for many generations to come.

 

Why is November 11th Veteran’s Day?

Veteran’s day is a special day set aside for us to show respect to our nation’s veterans who have selflessly served our country. It is meant to show them that we appreciate their service and that we don’t take them for granted. This simple holiday is celebrated quietly throughout our country every year, but have you ever wondered why November 11th is set aside as Veteran’s Day?

Veterans_day
Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War

Veteran’s Day originated as Armistice Day which signified the end of World War I. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance of the anniversary of this historic occasion, and by 1938, the first Veteran’s Day was celebrated. Veteran’s Day is not the same as Memorial Day in that Veteran’s Day is meant to celebrate our nation’s veterans both living and deceased who have served our country in both war and peacetime. On the other hand, Memorial Day is meant to honor our nation’s fallen veterans.

JM Cremps encourages you to  join us in teaching our children to honor and respect our nations veterans. In total there are 23.2 million military veterans in the United States. This veteran’s day, encourage your children to personally thank a veteran. It will be a lesson in humbleness and thanksgiving that will stick with them for years to come.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org. Department of Defense. Defense Audiovisual Agency; Scene Camera Operator: Mickey Sanborn National Archives and Records Administration

Navajo Code Talkers – American Heroes that Turned the Tide of WWII

Navajo Code Talkers
Navajo Code Talkers on the island of Saipan in June, 1944.

During World War II, military commanders on both sides of the war used complicated machines, known as cipher machines, to send messages back and forth.  Although, the technology used to encrypt (write in code) these messages was state-of-the-art and complex, the codes were breakable by the enemy IF the enemy learned the key (the way to solve the code).  Eager to come up with a way of communicating that was even more difficult to break, military commanders turned to a trick Roman officers used in the first century BCE – they communicated in a language that the enemy didn’t know and couldn’t easily learn.

The Navajo language was so complex and difficult to master, and the people themselves were so isolated, that few outsiders ever mastered the language.  It was for these reasons that the Navajo language became the perfect method of unbreakable communication for the US Military during World War II.

Originally, the marines took on 29 Navajo recruits.  Those original recruits had to devise new words for military terms that were not part of their native language.  For example, a dive bomber was called a chicken hawk, a battleship was a whale, and a commanding officer was called a war chief.

Navajo code words for English letters.
Navajo code words for English letters. (courtesy of wikipedia.org)

Within the first two days of the battle of Iwo Jima, the Navajo transmitted over 800 messages without a single error.  The enemy was completely confused and the battle of Iwo Jima’s success can be attributed in part to the brave men of the Navajo nation who successfully transmitted important coded messages.  One american officer stated, “Were it not for the Navajo code talkers, the Marines never would have taken Iwo Jima.”

Eventually the Navajo Code Talkers numbered over 400, and their success attributed to the outcome of the war.  Countless movies, documentaries, and books have covered these amazing men and their stories.  You can learn more about these american heroes on the website www.navajocodetalkers.org.

Battle It Out! Remote Control Toy Tanks That Win

Remote control toy vehicles have been a favorite among kids for a long time.  From toddlers to teenagers, kids love the idea of being able control the motion of an object. But with so many RC toys available today, choosing the right one for your child can be overwhelming.

From gas powered to electric and hundreds of makes and models, perhaps the most important factor to consider is your child age.  RC toys can range from extremely complicated to relatively simple so taking your child’s abilities into consideration is important.  JM Cremps offers a great variety of quality RC toys for all ages, but our all time favorites are the Forces of Valor Remote Control Toy Tanks!

U.S. M1A1 Abrams Radio Controlled Tank (1:24 Scale)
U.S. M1A1 Abrams Radio Controlled Tank (1:24 Scale)

These highly detailed, realistic tanks take RC toys to a whole new level. Precise digital proportioning and independent tank track movement make them fun and easy to control.  Each tank features a combination of rotating turrets and elevating main guns, but the BEST part is their Battle Beam technology.

M26 Pershing Remote Control Tank
M26 Pershing Remote Control Tank

This super fun feature allows up to 6 Battle Beam tanks to challenge and conquer each other at once.  With the 27 MHz FM Band multi-player system you can fire upon other tanks and watch them shudder as they react to the damage. Realistic shot recoil, sound effects and working lights make combat with the enemy as exciting as possible.  So brush up on your tactics and study your battle techniques because it’s time for some serious armored combat.

Mission #5 – Backyard “Command Center” Obstacle Course for Kids!

Mission Objective – To collect the most mission cards at the end of the mission.

Obstacle Course for Kids Keeps Army Kids Happy
Calling all Army Kids! Are you ready for the next big mission?

Calling all Army Kids!  Mission #5 is here and it is a real obstacle course challenge.  Divide the group into two teams.  Each team will have a home base.  In an area that is equidistant from both bases, will be the command center.  At the command center will be Mission Cards (exercises written on notecards or paper) that have tasks on them that will need to be completed.

Each team will take turns sending a soldier to race to the Command Center and grab a Mission Card.  That soldier completes whatever task is on the card and runs back to the home base, remembering to take the card with.  When he/she taps the next soldier on the back, then the second soldier repeats the same process. When all of the Mission Cards are gone from the Command Center, the mission is complete.  The team with the most cards wins!

Obstacle Course for Kids Makes Kids Smile
They’ll all be smiling before, during, and after they complete this Backyard Obstacle Course for Kids.

Here’s how to create your own Obstacle Course for Kids:

  • Mark two home bases and a Mission Command Center.
  • On notecards or paper, write down various Missions.  These can be anything from exercises (10 jumping jacks), to tasks (say the alphabet backwards), to funny skits (run around the yard like a chicken).  Create as many mission cards as you’d like to for the group and use as many different tasks and ideas as you can think of.  (See below for a list of mission ideas)
  • Put all the mission cards in a bucket or bowl in the center of the command center so that they can be chosen randomly (no picking and choosing amongst mission cards!)
  • Divide into two teams and get started!

To complete the military theme, let your soldiers get into the spirit of the mission by donning their military gear.  A Four Pocket BDU Army Shirt for Kids, matching Six Pocket BDU Army Pants for Kids, and an authentic Army Helmet for kids will turn them into battle-ready soldiers!

Authentic Army Helmet for Kids
An authentic Army Helmet for Kids will turn them into battle-ready soldiers!

Backyard Command Center Obstacle Course for Kids Mission Ideas:

  • 10 or more of exercises including: lunges, squats, pushups, burpees, jumping jacks, sit-ups, or pull-ups
  • run around the house, the yard, or the block
  • sing a song, recite a poem, or read something aloud
  • run around the yard like an animal (chicken, horse, crab, bear, elephant, etc.)
  • list 10 of anything (10 different flowers, states, people, etc.)

Dogfights, Secret Codes, and Other Inspiring War Stories

Kids have been playing army for as long as there have been armies! Sometimes, play is just play, but the next time your army kids are in full battle mode, why not use it as an excuse to teach them a little history? Even a sentence or two about a brave soldier trapped behind enemy lines could spark a curiosity that may lead to a long conversation about the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.  Imagine what would happen if you told them this:

“Did you know that pilots in World War I would often very briefly turn OFF their engines during a battle so that the engine would not stall when they turned quickly? When the pilot then restarted the engine in midair, it sounded like a dog barking. That’s why airplane battles are called dog fights!”

(Beware though. This kind of inspiration may lead to the next great air battle occurring in your living room.)

Secret Carrier Pigeon found with Coded WWII letter.
This secret coded WWII letter from Sgt. Stott to agent XO2 was found attached to a carrier pigeon’s skeleton in a chimney in England.

The next time your adventurous troop is battling it out, try this one on them:

“Hey guys, did you know that in 2012, in a chimney in England, an older couple found the skeleton of a World War II spy pigeon with a red cylinder still attached to its leg? When they opened up the cylinder, there was a secret, coded message inside.“

That kind of teaser could provide their imaginations with hours of fun and my lead to a lifetime of interest in history. Be prepared, however, because they may ask you to show them the coded letter.

JM Cremps has many resources to inspire your child’s imagination and encourage a love of learning. One of our favorite resources for World War I and World War II history is the Usborne Book, War Stories – True Stories from the First and Second World Wars. This 432-page book is full of photographs, drawings, maps and diagrams. The short stories cover enemy raids, traitorous spies, secret plots, epic battles, and heroic missions. It is recommended for kids ages 8 and up.

Army Kids WWII Books War Stories Usborne Books
War Stories, True Stores from the WWI and WWII, is full of inspiring stories and interesting facts.

Whether your kids decide to use the couch to launch the Invasion of Normandy or their favorite toy soldier set to stage an epic battle, the short stories nestled in the pages of this book will provide them with hours of inspired fun.

Mission #4 – Operation Capture the Flag

Army Kids Operation Capture the Flag
Operation Capture the Flag is a special mission designed for the toughest Army Kids. Are you ready to get started?

Hey Army Kids.  It’s time for another mission!  This fun game is a cross between capture the flag and freeze tag.  It’s really simple AND really fun.

Mission Objective: Capture the other team’s flag before they capture yours!

Mission Intel:  Divide into two teams.  Each team needs to hide their flag on opposite ends of the area that you are going to play in.  You’ll have to assign some of your soldiers to guard your flag, while other soldiers set out to capture the other team’s flag.  The first team to capture the other team’s flag wins.  Easy enough right?

Well, your secret weapon is your ability to freeze the other team’s soldiers by tagging them.  They’ll remain frozen until they are re-tagged by one of their teammates.  Of course, the other team is going to do the same thing to you so be careful!

JM Cremps has a full assortment of authentic US Army gear for kids that will really make this game a lot of fun.  Start with some Camo Face Paint to disguise yourself.  Then, make sure to grab your helmet.  We’ve got several styles, but our authentic Steel Pot Army helmet is one of our most popular.  Complete your military outfit with our US Army Tactical Vest.  It is loaded with pockets so you’ll have plenty of places to store your gear during the battle.

Army Kids Tactical Vest
The Army Kids Tactical Vest is the perfect addition to every army game.

Mission #3 – Operation Field Dinner – Kids Camping Recipes

Army Kids Campfire Cooking - True Adventure for Boys!
A campfire is a fun way to end an adventurous day.

Every soldier knows how important a campfire is for survival, but it is equally important for morale. After a long day of marching with a heavy pack through rough terrain, a warm, crackling campfire is like an old friend.  When you’re hungry, and the mess hall is far behind, that same campfire is your ticket to a full belly.  If you’re tired of eating hot dogs and marshmallows around every fire, you’re in luck – JM Cremps has some simple and delicious ideas for your next campfire meal.  (And you can leave the hot dogs behind!)  Check out these kids camping recipes:

Egg Platoon

– Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray OR rub the inside of each muffin cup with butter.  Crack one egg into each cup.  Top with cheese, meat, or vegetables.  Put the muffin tin on a grate above the campfire.  Bake until the eggs are set (about 10 to 15 minutes).  You can also make toast to go with these awesome eggs.  Just lay a piece of bread on the grate next to the muffin tin.  After one minute, flip the bread.  Keep flipping until your toast is just the way you like it!

___________________________________

Private First Class Field Dinner

Army Kids Private First Class Field Dinner
The Private First Class Field Dinner is ready to put on the fire.

What you’ll need:

  • Tinfoil
  • Cooking Spray
  • Ground Beef (or turkey)
  • Diced Potatoes
  • Shredded Carrots
  • Diced Onions
  • Salt & Pepper & Garlic (or your favorite seasoned salt)
  • Butter
  • Optional Vegetables of your choice
  • Ketchup (optional)

This recipe is such a favorite in our family, that it’s been cooked around the campfire (and on the grill) for five generations now!  Best of all it is easy, nutritious, and fun to make.  Each person can make their own dinner just the way the want it, and just the size they want it too.  Plus, it’s the perfect way for little brothers and sisters to get involved in the fun.

Cut a 12 inch section of tin foil and spray one side with cooking spray.  Place about a handful of potatoes, a ½ handful of onions, and a ½ handful of shredded carrots.  If you want to, you can add another handful of any type of vegetable you’d like.  Some of our favorites are mushrooms and sweet potatoes. (Yes Sweet Potatoes!)  Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, and a little garlic (Or use seasoned salt.)  Top with a tablespoon of butter.

On top of the vegetables place a hand-sized portion of ground beef.  Season the ground beef with additional salt, pepper, garlic OR seasoned salt.    Lift the ends of the tinfoil up until the meet in the middle.  Roll up the ends to form a pouch and seal the contents inside. (It kind of looks like a pastry.) Cut another piece of tinfoil slightly larger than the first one, and double wrap your dinner.  This will prevent it from being punctured.

Place your First Class Field Dinner on a grate over the campfire or place it in an empty coffee can in the embers.  Cook it for 30 to 60 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender.  To see if your dinner is ready, carefully remove your tinfoil pouch from the fire using tongs or spatulas.  VERY carefully open the sealed tinfoil using a fork so that you can allow the steam to escape without burning your fingers.  Test the softness of the potatoes and carrots.  When they are nice and soft, you’re ready to dig in!

Serve with ketchup for the ultimate Private First Class experience!

___________________________________

Peach Grenades

After a dinner like the one above, it’s time for some real army kids dessert!  How about some peach grenades?  They sure beat canned peach rations any day!

What you need:

  • Peaches or nectarines
  • Marshmallows
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar

What you do:

Cut each peach in half and remove the pit.  Place a marshmallow in the spot where the pit was on one half and leave the other half alone.  Sprinkle both halves with sugar and cinnamon.  Put the peach back together and bake it until the peach is softened.  About 25 minutes.  Test it by poking a toothpick into it.

You can do the same thing to apples, but instead of putting a marshmallow in the middle, put a couple of caramels instead.  YUM!!!

___________________________________

JM Cremps has plenty of army gear (link) for kids to make cooking in the field a lot easier. For example, our 6-in-1 Chowset Tool is the perfect cooking companion.  It’s got a knife for cutting up vegetables and meat, a fork & spoon for eating, and extra tools for cooking.  Our Carabiner Mug (link) is easy to carry and clips on to your backpack or belt.  It’s perfect for both hot and cold drinks.  So bring on the hot chocolate!

Serious campers and soldiers who spend a lot of time in the field prefer to carry a lightweight, portable meal kit in their pack.  Our Outdoor Meal Kit is that and more.  It has two plates (one that doubles as a bowl), a spill-free cup, a colander/cutting board, a fork/spoon combo, and a small waterproof box.  You can’t go wrong with this one!

The Outdoor Meal Kit is perfect for dinner in the field
The Outdoor Meal Kit is perfect for dinner in the field!

Before you head out to build your own campfire, we can’t leave you without reminding you to be safe.  Here’s some simple safety rules all soldiers and army kids must follow:

  1. NEVER start a fire without adult supervision.
  2. NEVER leave a fire unattended.
  3. NO running or horseplay around the fire.
  4. Make sure you use the proper cooking utensils so you don’t cut or burn yourself.
  5. DO have a bucket of water near the fire incase embers or ashes get out of control.