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A Catholic priest and a Jewish boxer walked into a foxhole on Guadalcanal — and put on a midnight Christmas Mass for the ages
Often when I hear carolers singing, my inner ear segues into "My Yiddishe Mamma." A schmaltz pop song of the 1920s, it was part of a Christmas Eve service on a World War II battlefield.
Unlikely as that might now seem, it was a perfect musical metaphor for the values our GIs were defending. America was far from perfect; black people were second-class citizens. But it was a beacon of brotherhood compared with the totalitarian countries we were fighting. Japanese soldiers were drilled in the idea that Westerners were barbarians. Germans were taught that Jews were a pestilence that had to be eradicated at Auschwitz and Treblinka.
But on Dec. 24, 1942, a Catholic priest from Brooklyn, New York, and a Jewish boxer from Chicago put together a midnight Mass for U.S. Marines of various hues and creeds. The service was held amid the foxholes of Guadalcanal, a South Pacific island.
What the Guadalcanal campaign revealed about the nature of warfare — and why it matters for modern conflicts
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on The Conversation.
Between Aug. 7, 1942, and Feb. 9, 1943, U.S. forces sought to capture – and then defend – the Pacific island of Guadalcanal from the Japanese military. What started as an amphibious landing quickly turned into a series of massive air and naval battles. The campaign marked a major turning point in the Pacific theater of World War II.
It also revealed important lessons about the nature of warfare itself – ones that are particularly relevant when planning for conflict in the 21st century.
Seventy-five years ago, on Aug. 7, 1942, the Allied offensive against Japan began with the invasion of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The fight for the small tropical isle became a grueling half-year campaign, with the U.S. Marines locked in an unforgiving struggle against the Japanese troops. But a newly formed American unit was there to meet them: the Marine Raiders. Here’s how the elite force persevered, as told by one of its last surviving members.
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