During the Christmas season of 1942, Kim Gannon, who lived in Brooklyn, noticed that this Christmas was quite different. It was the War, World War II. Once America was in it, the people thought that they would go over there and kick out the Nazis and be back home. However, they were realizing that it was not going to be that easy. People hung on every scrap of news about every battle and prayed that their loved ones were not there. The people also held their breath and said a little prayer as the telegraph boy went by, praying that the news of a dead relative was not in his pouch. They also mobbed the postman in hopes of a letter from their loved ones. With the news of all the loss and destruction, the American people had doubts that they could win this war.
Another thing was that 100 of thousands of fathers, who could not go to war, had moved to the New York and New Jersey areas to work in the factories that were producing war material. They had left the farms and rural areas because the depression of the years before had left very few jobs available and when the factories re-tooled for war, there were jobs again. Thus, there were all these families torn apart by the war.
Mrs. Gannon personally saw some of these scenes play out before her very eyes. That is what made her come up with this simple prayer poem where she captured the thoughts of the whole nation. She showed the poem to a few people and they got her in contact with a fellow New Yorker, Walter Kent, who had recently written the song “White Cliffs of Dover.” Mr. Kent could feel the mood of the song and quickly wrote the score for it.
In Sept of 1943, Bing Crosby’s record company bought “I’ll be home for Christmas” and recorded it in October. They were look for another Christmas hit for Bing because the year before Bing had came out with the hit “White Christmas.” “White Christmas” was the number one selling record of all time until “Candles in the Wind” by Elton John after Princes Dianna’s death. However, during the war years, “I’ll be home for Christmas” was the number one requested song of that time, over “White Christmas” also the USO reports that next to “God Bless America,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is the number one requested song at USO shows still today.
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