Blackout Christmas

Carlos P. Romulo’s Christmas message, 1949, which he wrote while serving as president of the UN General Assembly:

To appreciate Christmas to the full, one must know how it feels to be deprived of its blessings. We had that experience in the Philippines in December, 1941. The invasion of the Philippines had been launched a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. By Christmas time, Manila, the capital, had been declared an open city and the withdrawal of the Fil-American forces to Bataan was under way. The long night of the Japanese occupation had begun.

The Filipino people observed Christmas that year under black-out conditions: the enemy was no respecter of open cities and the advent of Christmas did not interrupt his bombing schedules. I was then in the uniform of a major in the army of the United States.

On Christmas eve we felt as though the lights of freedom, of decency, of justice and peace, of everything we valued and cherished, were going out all over the world. This thought came to soldiers in their unlighted trenches, to the refugees huddled along the dark roads and open fields, to the women and children in their black-out homes.

And out of the realization of their loss and their peril was born a mighty resolve to make sure that peace and the blessings of peace shall never again be jeopardized, even if the world should have to be rebuilt in order to make peace lasting as well as universal.

Eight eventful years have passed since that “dark Christmas” of 1941. I am now in Washington and the lights are on, but the struggle for peace continues. A new tyranny darkens many lands and endanger the security of the free world.

Our resolve to win the peace, shared by all the peoples bound together by their resistance to Nazi, fascist and Japanese aggression, gave birth to the United Nations. The trials, disillusionments and vicissitudes of the past eight years have not weakened it.

Despite the “cold war,” the peoples of the world are firmly determined that the efforts to establish a just and enduring peace should continue.

I firmly believe that mankind’s desire for peace will ultimately prevail. The splitting of the atom has made “peace on earth,” the central message of Christmas, a condition for the survival of the human race.

Through the instrumentality of the United Nations, much has already been accomplished. With good will the primary aim of the charter “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” can and will be attained.

CPR Recalls Manila Christmas 1941

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