Thanksgiving Day during World War II was not the same for most American families. They were separated from loved ones fighting in the war. Rations were saved, and improvises were made to make a modest version of the traditional Thanksgiving feast, while the United States government worked hard to ensure that every soldier received a hot Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and pie.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt captured the American sentiment of gratitude in the midst of hardship in her November 25, 1943 “My Day” column. She was the first First Lady to write a daily newspaper column. Hopefully, her words will help us to reflect on what we have to be thankful for today, in 2019, 76 years later!
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—This is our second Thanksgiving Day since this war started. A year ago we were still going through the days of preparation. Today I think we can be thankful for real achievements. Our production may not be at its maximum, but it is accomplishing great results. Our men are either already trained or in training, and the military forces we have already sent out to various parts of the world are giving a better and better account of themselves daily due, of course, to better training, better equipment and greater experience.
There are some on this Thanksgiving Day who will feel that everything for which they might be thankful is overshadowed by the loss of some young life, either in the process of training or in the actual fighting. But even to those who are sad, there is reason for thankfulness in the thought that the cause for which their loved ones died is triumphing.
We can be thankful that in the whole length and breadth of the nation we have been saved so far from enemy bombing and enemy attack.
We can be thankful that our transportation system still allows us greater comfort and less sacrifice of our usual mode of living than any other transportation system in the world.
We can be thankful that though we may have had to change our food habits somewhat, we still have plenty to eat.
We can be thankful that there is still laughter and humor and gaiety in many homes in the United States.
We can be thankful that even our soldiers in faraway places who haven't seen their children have the assurance that these children are growing up to carry on the traditions for which they are fighting.
We can be thankful that there is a growing sense of responsibility on the part of our citizens, and that they realize more day by day the importance of preserving their freedom through active participation in their government.
We can be thankful that we ourselves have health and strength; that there are people left at home with whom we can share our love, our joys and our sorrows.
We can be thankful that we live in the United States of America with its traditions which accept the perpetual striving for freedom and justice for all.
We can be thankful for our ability to work for the blessing of God on our country, which is a promise of happier days to come.
Above all, as individuals we can be thankful if no bad news has come knocking at our door, and if our loved ones are still well and able to do their part in civilian or military life in this great period of history.
(Copyright, 1943, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)