This post was written by guest blogger Carrie Goeringer.
On December 23, 1944, weather on the island of Corsica was bleak and dreary, as it had been for most of the winter. Many of the children who lived on the island had never known a real Christmas because of the ongoing Second World War. So, the 57th Bombardment Wing of the Army Air Forces (AAF) and its chaplains decided to give a Christmas party like the ones Americans were familiar with at home. The men from the squadron donated money for gifts and shared their candy and cookies for the party.
The National Archives film “Corsican Kids Christmas Party” captures this event. This silent, unedited film is from Record Group 18, Records of the Army Air Forces, and is from the “Combat Subjects” Program Series. The film was shot by Army Air Forces 9th Combat Camera Unit (AAF CCU).
The party was held in an old warehouse being used as a theater. The children were treated to some “GI” movies, and members of the 57th serenaded the children with Christmas carols. A French-speaking GI Santa Claus, Sgt. A.L. Kurth of New York City, was seated before a table spread with presents. Each child could make a survey of the toys and select just the one they wanted to take home, as well as a grab bag of other Christmas goodies. The children responded to their hosts with their own Christmas caroling and smiles. The children can be seen happily accepting donuts but the cold ice cream they were given didn’t go down so well because of the cold winter weather.
Cameraman Lt. W. T. Blume noted in his production file remarks that he used two 400 foot rolls of film and poor artificial light to record the event. He explained further that the individual scenes were unslated because of “chaotic conditions caused by a surging, turbulent mob of seventy little French speaking children.” The lighting was often erratic for the same reason. The production file also notes that “the children were very thrilled with the whole thing and the party was declared a success.”
This map of Corsica, captured from the Germans Army, and held by NARA’s Cartographic Branch, (RG 242-German Army-Misc. Maps of Italy) is an outline showing potential targets of allied airfields, including the ones used by the 57th Bombardment Wing.