Forget the tropes on “Pilgims and Indians,” the American Thanksgiving you know is written in the military history of the nation. During the War for Independence, with America as yet fully defined, there were several thanksgiving celebrations called by Congress that were ad hoc and not at all related to one another. They were, furthermore, the legacy of the European celebrations, and often based in religion rather than anything particularly American. By the Civil War, the war that was the ultimate test of the political entity’s survival, the moment had arrived to codify the as yet relatively informal celebrations into a national holiday. In the wake of the victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln finally yielded to Sarah Hale’s perennial call for the institutionalization of the Thanksgiving holiday. One negative result of the holiday’s Civil War roots was that into the 20th Century the holiday would chafe the former Confederate States. Nevertheless, as the United States came into its own as a world power in the 20th Century, not only a holiday but an iconic menu and setting was created via Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” painting. Depicting a roast turkey for dinner and the extended family around the table, while this image might not literally replicate the Thanksgiving experience of every American, it represented an ideal that could serve as a touchstone for any American, and as a blueprint for what the military authorities could provide to the troops so as to signify the holiday.
This menu component of the holiday is one of its critical features. According to Priscilla Ferguson’s arguments Thanksgiving has become the most significant symbol of culinary unity in the American melting pot. She argues that the diverse traditions that have combined to create the American menu means that there is no singular American gastronomic culture to which all can relate. While her argument in favor of Thanksgiving notes its importance as an event, and that individual Thanksgiving meals can vary according to region and ethnic background, a persuasive argument can be made that by the 20th Century a singular, iconic menu emerged that is recognized by any American as the Thanksgiving dinner. This may not be the meal that any particular individual may enjoy; however, if on Thanksgiving that meal is served it will be enjoyed as such. And, as mentioned previously, the ability to have recourse to a singular, shared tradition is of great value to the military usage of Thanksgiving. A shared tradition allows for a relative ease in the military’s ability to provide a celebration of this holiday. Interestingly, in the post-Vietnam War period there has been a willingness to diverge from the traditional menu to pay heed to regional tastes.
How did the Revolutionary War create a holiday? Celebratory meals were taken up by the early American military tradition because of the deeper meanings associated with such events. The importance of the feast portion of a holiday celebration is defined in the scholarship on food and dining by the socio-cultural content it conveys. The Clifford Geertz maxim that “men have birthdays, but man does not,” highlights the value of such content which create our lives, both individually and in the groups to which we belong. As Wood explains the phenomenon, “at the macro-social level various forms of feasting serve to link individuals to the wider social fabric through shared understandings of cultural conventions. Thus, [holiday meals and celebrations] to some degree unite peoples and their culinary culture in shared symbolic experiences.” To inspire the martial cohesion necessary to create an army and an entirely new society, holidays played a significant role. Recourse to socio-cultural content had strategic implications as well. The Revolutionary War was the first conflict to rely in equal terms on the relationship between the people, the state and the military which Clausewitz would identify in the Napoleonic Wars. Reflecting this new calculus in warfare, political and military leadership sensibly relied upon standard celebrations to mark the martial calendar.
In part derived from Christian ritual, in part celebrations of the fall harvest, the Colonial thanksgivings which form the popular understanding of the holiday were as likely recognized by fasts as well as feasts. Just a year shy of the Colonies’ declared independence, the new patriot political leaders called for a Thanksgiving fast to inspire sober reflection of the gravity of the mounting tensions with the British in the aftermath of the fighting at Lexington and Concord. Noting that a fast was called by Congress “to implore the Divine Benediction on our country,” Thacher defined the larger importance of the event as a factor in the development of a shared identity for the Colonies: “This is the first general or Continental Fast ever observed since the settlement of the colonies.” Called for in the midst of increasing military conflict, it is notable that this was the first such celebration by the Colonies as a unified entity. It can be argued that this event marks the first thanksgiving celebration defined by a unique and integral American identity. In the following year Congress called for another day of thanksgiving. This culturally American tradition was enjoyed again in 1776 by Private Joseph Martin and his fellow soldiers convalescing from small pox inoculation in Connecticut after inoculation against small pox. Martin, a soldier, gave earnest thanks for what was (and remains) of the greatest import to the man in the war, a good meal: “Of the pig and the pies we made an excellent Thanksgiving dinner, the best meal I had eaten since I left my grand sire’s table.”
With yet another thanksgiving celebration in 1777, the Revolution and the War for Independence brought the new country together in its first official national holiday. This one marked the Continental Army’s victory over the British forces at Saratoga in October of that year, which success guaranteed French diplomatic and military support. In recognition of this momentous occasion Samuel Adams led the Continental Congress to declare a national day of celebration and thanks. On 18 December of that year, the first national thanksgiving was celebrated throughout the colonies. Even the soldiers at Valley Forge in 1777 were able to celebrate with a feast. As recorded by a young surgeon, Albigence Waldo, General Washington’s troops dined upon roasted pig.
Of course, not all soldiers dined well on that thanksgiving holiday. Joseph Martin recounts, in sarcastic tones, the slim pickings that comprised the “sumptuous feast” to which his unit was treated: half a gill of rice and a tablespoonful of vinegar. Martin’s ire was with his fellow citizens in civilian life, for he knew full well that while the Army endured near starvation, the citizenry at large was enjoying the abundance the country afforded. His scathing sentiment is displayed when he credits the repast provided to the soldiers to a citizenry that had “opened her sympathizing heart so wide.” The Revolutionary War, with its near-broken logistics system, was the inspiration for the practice of griping over relative injustices. American sensibilities, even then, favored fairness. Shared harshness could be endured for a common purpose, which explains the paradox of the strengthening cohesion of the soldiers within the army. As between the army and society, however, the growing belief that the one side was suffering unduly inspired the soldiers’ indignation. This sentiment was particularly strong, because the soldiers felt poorly done by for being made to starve in a land of plenty while in noble service defending the terms of the revolution. To alleviate these negative emotions, the soldiers griped.
However, Martin’s prospects had improved by the late years of the war. Returning to an area in New Jersey in which he had served earlier in the war, Martin and several of his fellow soldiers, while searching for a deserter, enjoy the late war hospitality of the locals: “We had a good warm room to sit and lodge in, and as the next day was Thanksgiving, we had an excellent supper.” The next morning their host provided them with toast and cider, the latter of which Martin describes “as good and rich as wine,” as a proper beginning to their day. However, the bounty did not end there, as the host would not allow them to leave until they had shared “a genuine New Jersey breakfast” with him, consisting of buckwheat pancakes “flowing with butter and honey,” and washed down with “a capital dish of chocolate.” Their Thanksgiving continued as they lucked into obtaining lodgings with a family that felt kindly towards the Connecticut troops, “as that section of the state was originally settled by Connecticut people.” Finally, at another house they were again provided for by “the remains of [the] Thanksgiving cheer.” In these celebrations, the sharing of the holiday with extended family that will become the standard was already in evidence in embryonic form.
The citizens who provide for Martin and his comrades were happy to be clear of the British Army and loyalists, heartened by the impending victorious close of the war, and likely harbored a degree of gratitude towards the Continental soldiers. This sharing with strangers, of making them like extended family, precedes the traditions that would accrete to the holiday in later years. However, given the notion of a “Thanksgiving” holiday as it existed then, where the objective was to express gratitude for the blessings one enjoyed, it seems reasonable that sharing one’s good fortune would accord with the spirit of the holiday.
The end of the War of 1812 was celebrated with a day of prayer and thanksgiving. At President James Madison’s urging, Congress resolved to celebrate the second victorious confrontation with the British on April 31st of 1815. As that war is often considered the final act in the War for Independence, it is fitting that its successful conclusion should be marked by what was emerging as an American holiday.
The establishment of a permanent national holiday of Thanksgiving resulted from the decades’ long campaign of Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent women’s magazine editor. Beginning in 1827, her efforts finally bore fruit in September 1863, when an editorial on the subject struck a chord with President Lincoln and the public in the North. Again, this moment in the holiday’s history was inspired in part by military events: Hale’s editorial appeared in the wake of the Union victory at Gettysburg. This moment was particularly ripe as the victory had a tremendous effect upon popular sentiment regarding the war. Lincoln’s proclamation of that same October declaring the holiday brought the two pieces together:
It has seemed to me fit and proper that [God’s gifts of prosperity and freedom] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
Thus the creation, evolution, and designation of the Thanksgiving celebration as a national, culturally American holiday were all intimately connected with the country’s wars.
Despite the growing importance of the holiday, particularly for the Northern forces, 1862 was a dismal Thanksgiving year for Billy Yank. Although the Army of the Potomac fared better than the Army of Northern Virginia in the quality and quantity of rations, Union soldiers on campaign in Fredericksburg were known to suffer for lack of food. Bell Wiley, a historian of the Union and Confederate soldier experience in the war, offers the experience of one Massachusetts volunteer whose Thanksgiving meal offered little for which to be grateful: “Yesterday was Thanksgiving at home, but a dismal day for us. Never since I have been in the Army have I seen supplies so short. Now we see soldiers going round begging hard bread.” Things were so bad that Wiley tells that this and other soldiers reported some were found scavenging in the slaughter pens for what meager scraps were left behind, whether that be head, hoof, or tail. Americans, especially Northerners, had, by this time, developed an expectation of the feast that was meant to exemplify this holiday.
Enshrined as a national holiday, Thanksgiving emerged as an event of “family homecoming,” in response to the societal disruption wrought by the massive economic changes in the 19th Century, reconciling the conflict between “individualism and obligation to family.” According to Elizabeth Pleck, the defining feature of the Thanksgiving celebration in the United States is its function as a “domestic occasion.” This is:
a family gathering held in the home which paid homage to the ideal of the ‘affectionate family.’ Such a family was a privatized nuclear one, with a nurturant mother creating a proper home atmosphere…. Although the ideal of the affectionate family was a nuclear one, the domestic occasion was often a gathering of extended kin, a family homecoming…. The domestic occasion was a culturally dominant form, practiced at first mainly by the upper classes and middle classes, which spread throughout society in the 20th Century.
This concept of the holiday squares with the near manic celebration of the holiday within the American military in the 20th Century. Deprived of the actual ability to return home in most cases, military personnel were provided the opportunity for a symbolic homecoming by partaking of the traditional meal. The menu, the specific foods, became totems of home and family for the troop who could not fulfill this “domestic” obligation. The troops were thus able to pay homage to the rites and customs of the holiday. Furthermore, as Thanksgiving was a particular holiday for the extended family, the members of the unit could substitute for these relations. Finally, the family at home would know of the satellite celebrations, and be relieved that at the very least their deployed loved one was enjoying something of the holiday. For these reasons, Thanksgiving became a very important holiday to the American Armed Forces.
Pleck goes on to argue that Lincoln’s role in the creation of the Thanksgiving holiday rooted the celebration in the by then established values of the country: “By having Lincoln as its midwife, Thanksgiving also celebrated the blessings of American nationhood as well as its domestic ideals. Thanksgiving was – and is – a holiday of belief in the national purposes and destiny.” The holiday’s association with the blessings bestowed meant that the wars, and therefore troops, fought to secure them were included as well.
The Spanish American War brought the first appearance of any significant celebration of the holiday in the south since the end of the Civil War. In the face of war, the North and South united against a common external foe. While they were encamped in Savannah awaiting embarkation for Puerto Rico, the Georgia volunteers were treated to a lavish Thanksgiving banquet in 1898 by the ladies of that city. The citizens of Savannah also treated the massing soldiers from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Nebraska to a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving that same year.
During the Progressive Era, Thanksgiving moved into the schools as a means of indoctrinating the children of immigrants into the ways of their new country so that they could go home and be the “Americanizers” of their parents. This is also a time when the Protestant roots of the holiday began to be downplayed. A holiday or celebration started by the nation’s first “immigrants,” it could be shared with the succeeding generations of newcomers. According to Pleck, this linkage to nation, rather than creed, was important to making Thanksgiving America’s holiday:
Yet in the case of Thanksgiving, nationalism was a more significant feature than commerce. In that sense, Hobsbawm and Ranger were correct to draw attention to nationalism as a force in creating new traditions and reinvigorating others. Celebrating the national mission was an important impetus for the invention of Thanksgiving in the early 19th Century and remains a central element in the holiday to this day.
The nationalism angle is confirmed in Etzioni’s formulation of a theory of public rituals. He argues that “holidays serve to socialize members of a society as well as to reaffirm their commitment to values and as such serve to sustain the integration of society.”
Thanksgiving would also mark the end of the first global conflagration of the century. General Pershing celebrated his army in November 1918, declaring ‘victory…was the Thanksgiving gift to the American nation,” and an honorable repayment of the debt owed Lafayette and the French in the Revolutionary War. Another Thanksgiving meal just after the Armistice was uniquely celebrated. William Langer, a soldier in the AEF, recounts the story in the memoir of his unit while his unit was in Verdun, awaiting transport back to the States. Upon agreement with the company cook to delay their meal to 3 or 4 o’clock, the troops were promised a proper turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Just as the men sat down to tuck into the holiday feast, the bugle sounded to call the regiment. All in the company fell out, save Langer: “I was a sergeant and I thought a good soldier. Of course, I should have set a good example in answering the call without complaint. But the war was over and I decided, with the Thanksgiving dinner before me, that for once I would disobey orders.” As time passed and the rest of the company did not return, Langer began to worry, “could the company have entrained to start for home?” His wait was ended at long last when his unit mates returned. And what was the cause of the delay, the explanation for which was difficult to get out of his fellow soldiers? The Regimental Chaplain had chosen that exact moment to deliver a sermon in honor of Thanksgiving and the end of the war in the ruins of the Verdun Cathedral. This turn of events contains the sort of irony particular to military service: the sermon interrupted the meal, one of the few things, besides survival, for which a soldier can be truly grateful.
By WWII, the American holiday, state, and armed forces had reached global maturity. A young lieutenant in Western Europe describes how the Mess Sergeant brought a proper feast to the soldiers on the front lines for Thanksgiving 1944. “A hamburger would have been a treat, but a hot turkey dinner was almost beyond belief.” The commitment to the meal was an institutional requirement. In a government publication meant to explain to the American public the lengths to which the armed forces would go to provide the troops with every comfort of home possible, the declaration of the institution’s commitment to a proper Thanksgiving dinner was its opening salvo. Offering little room for doubt, the publication echoes the essence of the subsistence doctrine: “Thanksgiving turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin… American food for the American soldier in England, Iceland, India, Australia, in Malayan jungle, and African deserts – wherever he is fighting in this global war, the Army endeavors to feed him the food he likes, the food that makes him feel at home.” This commitment was shared across the services, as US Navy Thanksgiving menus from the first half of the century display the familiar gastronomic landmarks of the national meal. Given their druthers, soldiers would assemble a feast of similar fixings on their own as well. Neal Barton records that his unit used their mess fund to put together a traditional feast for Thanksgiving 1941. Reflecting the relaxing nature of the holiday, he writes that “all day long the boys visited the mess hall. Seemed as tho they would eat, go walk it off then start the process all over. Nothing was removed from the tables but dirty or empty dishes.”
The commitment to turkey on Thanksgiving was also codified operationally within the Quartermaster Corps. Per one subsistence publication, “Turkey rations are authorized for all men actually messing with the organization on Thanksgiving….” The exact meaning of this point for the bureaucracy and administration of quartermaster duties is set out in a footnote to the above directive: “The so-called ‘turkey ration’ is merely the garrison ration increased by the excess cost involved when 28 ounces of turkey (undrawn) is substituted for the meat component of the garrison ration. This excess cost is computed by the regional depots on the 15th of October… of each year. A certificate showing the actual number of men present on Thanksgiving… is attached to the ration return.” One hopes the turkey meat was not as dry as the language authorizing it. The recipe for “Turkey, Roast” from the 1941 Manual of Mess Management is equally sparse, but the ingredients and intent give prospects for a decent meal.
In part, these pledges were made to maintain the morale of the American civilian population. There is an almost liturgical quality to them, as if the authors realize they must include certain vital recitations to keep the public happy. World War II was conducted on such a scale that the war could not be fought or won without public support. One very important way to secure this was to make the public feel that the troops were being well cared-for, demonstrating the military’s commitment to them. Although to do so would be a substantial undertaking, no effort or expense would be spared to get it done. Maintaining the link to home, no matter where on the globe the troops might be serving, could be achieved through the Thanksgiving menu, which recalled, at least in general terms, the sense of home. This objective is reflected in the experience of Ann McCaughey, a Red Cross Aide in France, who wrote of her Thanksgiving experience of 1944 that “it was a piece of America that we had transplanted [thousands of] miles across the ocean and set up in the little town of Commercy in France.” For Charles MacDonald, Thanksgiving 1944, was not only a national holiday, but his birthday as well. Escorted to his table in the company mess hall, where he found a plate already prepared for him. As he sat down to eat, the division orchestra broke out into “Happy Birthday.” He writes that “[i]t was only then that I remembered that this was something special; this was my birthday.” As a cake was brought out and his men sang “Happy Birthday” him, he “could not repress a choking sensation,” nor barely “keep back the tears of gratitude.” While the celebration was in itself touching, the event, with its particular emphasis upon the food tokens of a holiday and celebration, was used to signify something of greater meaning; he had earned the respect and admiration of his men.
Blind adherence to this institutional promise to provide a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving could also ruin the promise of this meal, as the grievously put upon Paul Boesch experienced in Germany in the fall of 1944. As was evident from previous experience, he and his fellow soldiers learned again that if Division had set its mind to something, in this case a hot turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day, then that was what was going to happen. It was going to happen even if that meal was more a burden than a blessing. As darkness fell that Thanksgiving evening, with the American units deployed along a hill within range of German artillery, Boesch received unwelcome news from battalion headquarters. The operations officer at the other end was calling to inform him that a hot turkey dinner had been prepared and awaited a carrying party to come pick it up and bring it back to the rest of the unit. Boesch tried to argue against the meal, but was told, “’It’s the General’s orders.’” The staff officer chided him for failure to follow the faith: “’You want to see the men get a nice hot meal, don’t you?’” This provoked the infantrymen’s sensibilities:
“Well, Jeezus Christ, that’s a fine way of putting it. Of course I want to see them get a hot meal. I want to see them get three hot meals a day and a dry bed every night and a babe to sleep with, but let’s save the turkey until they can pull back where they can enjoy it. Who the hell knows it’s Thanksgiving except some silly bastard in the rear who gets hot meals anyway and just wants a change in diet?”
Attempts to make his case further up the chain of command were fruitless. Poignantly, he argued that the folks back at division headquarters “’have no idea what it means to try to get food to those men, not mention the troubles of trying to eat it.’” Unsuccessful in this particular battle, Boesch was resentful: “What the hell difference did it make when a man ate his Thanksgiving turkey? One day was like any other to us.” His soldiers echoed this sentiment, but orders were orders. The unfortunate but logical consequence of the activity in such close proximity to enemy lines followed. As the meal was being brought to the men the German artillery opened fire. The bulk of the casualties from the barrage were taken by the men bringing the food as they were caught out in the open. For their efforts, “seven men had been wounded and three killed, an awful price to pay for a Thanksgiving dinner that nobody wanted to eat.” While this thesis maintains that, in spirit, the foodways policy chosen for the American armed forces has tremendous potential to positively influence morale and effectiveness, it equally recognizes that even the best doctrines if poorly applied can have disastrous results.
Half a world away from Lt. Boesch’s unit, on a ship operating near the Philippines in the Pacific Theatre, greater command sensibility prevailed. James Fahey’s memoirs tell of how the captain, in his Thanksgiving message to the crew, decided to delay the holiday meal. Operational conditions had been such that the ship’s crew was going to General Quarters with such frequency that to try to cook and serve a Thanksgiving meal would be an effort in futility. He promised them, however, that once the situation changed a turkey dinner would be in the offing. Four days later, just outside of Palau, circumstances had changed: “Today was the first chance we had to have our Thanksgiving Dinner, almost a week late but it was worth waiting for. We really had quite a feed. Turkey, and all the trimmings. It was very good.”
The commitment to Thanksgiving did not wane in the Korean War. By this war, the components of the holiday were firmly established. As it happened, that first Thanksgiving of the Korean War fell during the fateful campaigns into North Korea. In the first example, PFC Herman Nelson’s memories demonstrate that the celebration included a settled menu: “On Thanksgiving Day, 1950, we moved to a new location near Kunu-ri, well north of the North Korean capital of Pyong Yang. We ate our Thanksgiving dinner there with an armored tank company, and it was really good. We had a turkey dinner and all the stuff that goes with it.” Another soldier, writing home, told of his Thanksgiving experience:
Well, here it is Thanksgiving afternoon. We’ve finished eating our turkey dinner and a very fine dinner it was indeed. Every man had all he wanted to it. It’s about time. We had turkey (frozen, shipped from the States) sweet potatoes, corn, stuffing, gravy, olives, pie, and candy. We were very lucky we got all that as we were only relieved from the line yesterday.
Lucky indeed, as he went on to tell that his unit had been treated to hot showers as well. As this was the first such opportunity to shower since late September, these soldiers had much for which to be grateful.
Montross and Canzona’s history of Marine Corps Operations in the Korean War demonstrates that this first celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday in that war included all of the necessary components:
Thanksgiving Day, which fell on the 23d, was celebrated both in Korea and the United States…. It was a tribute to American bounty as well as organizational genius that the troops in Korea were served a dinner which would have done credit to a first-rate Stateside restaurant. The menu, as proposed by X Corps to component units, included… roast young tom turkey with cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes… fruit cake, mince pie and coffee.
Generally speaking, however, the Chosin Thanksgiving experience varied depending on where a unit was in the march north. The campaign presented unique complications to front line food service. As they moved north towards the Yalu River, the units that comprised X Corps had several different experiences of Thanksgiving. In his history of the Marine campaign in North Korea, Edwin Simmons provides photographs to document the celebrations of the units stationed at the bases at Hamhung and Hagaru-ri. One Marine, Lance Corporal Harold Mulhausen, certain that the operation would mean missing the holiday dinner, found otherwise:
On Thanksgiving Day, 1950, the Marines continued to move north toward the Chosin Reservoir….we were pretty upset over the thought of missing our Thanksgiving dinner….To our great joy, next morning the cooks brought the kitchens up to our positions and we had our Thanksgiving dinner after all – turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, and all the goodies. It was delicious and I ate until my belly nearly popped.
Interestingly, there is a contradiction between the official history of the Marine Thanksgiving of 1950 and the experiences of specific units and personnel. In their description of the Thanksgiving for Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Davis’ unit, Montross and Canzona record that “the men of 1/7 belatedly celebrated Thanksgiving on the 24th with a full, hot turkey dinner.” As recounted in Martin Russ’ history of the campaign, according to Davis, the dinner did not go as smoothly as that:
“We were out on the very end of the limb tactically. When the turkeys caught up with us they were frozen solid and the cooks couldn’t figure out how to thaw them. What we finally did was make a mountain of birds around two fired-up field kitchen stoves, then covered the whole affair with two pyramidal tents sealed tight with snow. By morning the birds were thawed enough for the cooks to cut up and cook, which took several hours. We rotated the platoons down from the slopes throughout the day. Lieutenant Lee’s platoon, at the point, didn’t get the word, however; each man had to settle for a cup of reconstituted milk and two slices of fresh bread. I felt bad about that.”
Joseph Owen, a platoon commander in Davis’ battalion, provides an even bleaker picture. Describing the policy initiative that drove the Thanksgiving efforts that year, he suggests in his memoir that the impetus behind it was for public relations purposes, suggesting that “it was especially important” to the military leadership in Tokyo “that the front-line troops be shown enjoying the bounties of Thanksgiving.” As a measure of the hubris he believed had infected General MacArthur’s command, he notes that, despite intense combat with the Chinese forces who had entered the war, they “could afford to give the men not only the traditional meal, but also the day off.” Regarding the meal itself, “we had our dinner in frigid darkness at 2300.” However, even then problems arose:
We sat in the snow and on the big boulders with overflowing trays. We relished the feast before us, but we had not reckoned with the cold. The temperature had sunk far below zero again, and our food began to freeze before we could set a fork into it. The giblet gravy congealed and became an icy coating over the chilled turkey and mashed potatoes. The cranberry sauce became sherbet. The oranges froze as hard as baseballs.
To add insult to injury, Owen and one of his corpsmen were sniped at while they tried to make the best of their dinner.
The celebration of the holiday continued through the conflicts of the late 20th century. And in the first decade of the new century, the tradition did not wane as American troops found themselves abroad again for the holiday. Firmly established, the institutional menu can now take account of changes in tastes, so that troops have enjoyed deep fried and Cajun spiced turkeys alongside the traditional fare. Nevertheless, the iconic meal remains, no better demonstrated in the surprise trip of then President George W. Bush to Baghdad Airport to deliver the main course.
Which event was ultimately rendered thusly:
So, America, when you sit down to eat your turkey dinner today, put aside the myths of your childhood. Your holiday has its roots in the martial traditions and experiences which have formed the identity and ethos of the nation.
 Priscilla Ferguson, “A Cultural Field in the Making,” pp. 633-4.
 Roy Wood, The Sociology of the Meal, Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press (1995), p. 47, citing Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, New York: Basic Books (1973).
 James Thacher, Military Journal, p. 30, 20 July 1775.
 George Scheer, ed., Private Yankee Doodle, p. 57.
 Hugh Rankin, ed., Narratives of the American Revolution, p. 184. Another important wartime thanksgiving was celebrated by General Washington’s troops at Valley Forge, to commemorate the formalization of the alliance with the French in 1778. James Thacher describes this event. In addition to a mass military demonstration by the battalions and brigades with much saluting and many huzzahs, there was a dinner provided by Washington for the senior officers and wives present for the celebration. (Thacher, Military Journal, pp. 126-7)
 Scheer, Private Yankee Doodle, p. 100.
 Scheer, pp. 251-3.
 Book of Days, p. 1055.
 Bell Wiley, Life of Billy Yank, p. 226. Interesting to consider, Bell Wiley, a Southern historian, does not discuss Thanksgiving much. Given the holiday’s legal blessing by President Lincoln in 1863, it is not surprising that there is no mention of the holiday in The Life of Johnny Reb. However, the holiday is also largely absent from his companion study of Billy Yank.
 Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of a Domestic Occasion,” p. 775.
 Pleck, p. 773.
 Pleck, p. 776.
 “Spanish American War in Georgia History,” The New Georgia Encyclopedia, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-3222
 David Ott, “Remember the Maine! Adam County’s Involvement in the Spanish American War,” http://www.rootsweb.com/~neadams/spanish.htm
 Pleck, pp. 778-9.
 Pleck, p. 783.
 Amitai Etzioni, ”Toward a Theory of Public Ritual,” p. 47.
 “Proud to pay debt, says General Pershing,” The New York Times, 1 December 1918.
 William Langer, Gas and Flame, pp. xxiv-xxv.
 William Devitt, Shavetail, p. 146.
 Eleanor Hoffman, Feeding Our Armed Forces, New York: Nelson (1943), p. 1.
 Donald Vining, ed., Diaries of World War II, Barton’s Diary, p. 20.
 Subsistence: Conference Bulletins, The Quartermaster School, (1942) p. 21; Manual of Mess Management, p. 132.
 Vining, ed., Diaries of World War II, Diary of Anne McCaughey, p. 98.
 Charles MacDonald, Company Commander, pp. 76-7.
 Paul Boesch, The Road to Huertgen, pp. 170-3.
 James Fahey, Pacific War Diary, pp. 237-8.
 Richard Peters and Xiaobing Li, Voices from the Korean War, p. 69.
 Donald Knox, The Korean War: An Oral History, p. 464.
 Lynn Montross and Nicholas Canzona, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea: Volume III: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 143-4.
 Simmons, Frozen Chosin, p. 41.
 Peters and Li, pp. 99-100.
 Montross and Canzona, p. 148.
 Martin Russ, Breakout, p. 75.
 Joseph Owen, Colder Than Hell, pp. 213-5.