Dreaming of a white Christmas

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

Just like the ones I used to know

The famous opening lines of what is still one of the favorite songs of the December holiday season.  Did you know what inspired this song and who it was dedicated to?

This can be better understood if you get to know the writer.  He was born Israel Baleen, in Poland, and came to our side of the big lake, with is parents, at the age of 5.  It wasn’t long before he discovered his extraordinary talent for writing music and lyrics.  Some say it was to piss off Hitler that he changed his name after Germany’s capitol city, Irving Berlin.

Events in history often inspired him to compose.  In 1941, learning about the persecution of his people, in Nazi occupied Poland, including some of his own family, that he felt inspired to dedicate a song to his adopted country, that had given them freedom.  God Bless America is still learned by children today and, in 1941, copies of the famous recording of it, by Kate Smith, were flying off the shelf.

As December of 1942 approached, we had begun a series of Pacific island hopping, to bring the war back to Japan.  A detachment of US Marines were engaged in a fierce battle on a Solomon Island, called Guadalcanal.  Most of them were boys, between 18 and 20, about to spend their first Christmas, away from the loving comfort of their families, fighting to stay alive in this tropical hell hole.  And so, Berlin wrote the words and music to this iconic seasonal song, dedicating it to these young man, fighting on Guadalcanal.  Most people learned the song when sung by Bing Crosby in the movie, Holiday Inn but, now you know about its inspiration and dedication.

Next year will mark the centennial of the Christmas miracle of 1914.  More about that in this column, a year from now.