Veterans Memorial Park Wall

The names of all Carroll County citizens who have been killed during America’s wars are listed on one of many walls of honor at the Carroll County Veterans Memorial Park in Carrollton.

Despite the lingering specter of COVID and the emergence of new variants of the disease, the celebration of Christmas and all that the holiday entails have returned to some level of normalcy compared to 2020 because of mass vaccinations during the past year.

However, turn the calendar back 80 years to December 1941. The mood in the nation was far from festive and joyous. Serious concern and fear for the world as a whole had cast a pall over holiday celebrations.

Less than three weeks prior to Christmas Day, 1941, the United States was plunged into a pandemic of a different kind, a world-wide war. Following the Sunday morning, December 7 surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor military installation in Hawaii, Congress approved President Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration of war on Japan the next day, and Germany, an ally of Japan, then quickly declared war on the United States.

Locally, hundreds of Carroll County citizens between the ages of 21 and 45 were either drafted or volunteered to fight. By the end of the war, the age range was extended to include 18-years olds, and even younger volunteers falsified their age in order to serve. For many of them, Christmas, 1941 would be their last Christmas.

Although nearly 2,400 naval and army personnel and approximately 100 citizens were killed at Pearl Harbor, far worse was to come as America headed to war for the second time in 23 years. More than 16 million American men and women went to war, and nearly a half million of them did not return home.

At the Carroll County Veterans Memorial Park adjacent to the county health department on Newnan Road in Carrollton is a memorial wall on which the names of scores of local citizens who died on battlefields in Europe and the Pacific during the war are inscribed. For them, the Christmases of the future would never come.

Christmas Day 1941 was far different than what Christmas 2021 will be. War was not only raging across the globe, but the effects of the conflict that would continue for the next four years dramatically altered American lifestyles. The rationing of food, clothing, gasoline, and numerous other commodities, once taken for granted by citizens, were now prioritized for the war effort and were in extremely short supply and, in some cases, were totally unavailable to the public.

Comparatively, current inconveniences related to the COVID pandemic such as delays in shipments and receipt of items destined to be wrapped and placed under Christmas trees pale in comparison to what Americans experienced when the global pandemic of war raged across the world four decades ago.

Memories made by members of “The Greatest Generation” who lived, fought and died and who attempted to celebrate Christmas during those four turbulent years remain for an ever dwindling few. According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 240,329 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2021. It is estimated that 234 veterans of this era are dying each day, and by 2032 nearly all will be gone.

Trending Videos