Wartime truce

Published 12:58 pm Friday, March 18, 2022

By Robert “Bob” Holt

World War One was called the “Great War” and the “War to end all Wars.” Fought during 1914 to 1918, over 8 million combatants were killed, 7 million permanently disabled and 15 million seriously wounded.

An estimated 4-5 million civilians died as a result of hostilities, food shortages and malnutrition. The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 began during the last year of the War and killed 20 million people worldwide.

The War began in July of 1914 on the “Western Front” with French and British forces on one side and Germans on the other side. After five months of intense combat, both sides began to exhaust their supply of men and munitions. Then, the week before Christmas a remarkable phenomenon occurred – soldiers on both sides declared an informal “Christmas Truce.” 

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, soldiers on both sides crossed enemy lines, talked, exchanged food and souvenirs, sang carols and played football together. They exchanged prisoners and worked together to remove wounded comrades and the bodies of those who had perished in battle.

When commanders learned of the truce, they ordered no such informal truces would be authorized.

It is sad that often soldiers on both sides have to pay a heavy price because the political leaders of their country cannot get along with leaders of other countries. Currently there is evidence that Russian soldiers are hesitant to attack targets in Ukraine and especially those occupied by citizens such as hospitals, churches, schools and apartment complexes. They are subject to harsh consequences if they fail to follow the orders of their commanders.

Let’s all hope this Ukraine conflict ends quickly with no more military or civilian casualties on either side.

ROBERT “BOB” HOLT, a Franklin native, is a retired professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies degrees from Virginia Tech, and he was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets. His email address is hrobert@vt.edu.