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Text Illustrations
It was Christmas eve, 1914. All was quiet on France’s western front, from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps. TRENCHES came within 50 miles of Paris. The war was only 5 months old then, but already 800,000 men and women had DIED or been WOUNDED. Every soldier wondered whether or not Christmas day would bring a new round of fighting and killing.


But something happened. British soldiers raised "Merry Christmas" signs above their TRENCHES, and it wasn’t long before CAROLS began to float across the no-man’s-land of BARBED WIRE and MINES. The SONGS came from German and British TRENCHES alike.


Christmas day DAWNED to find UNARMED soldiers leaving their TRENCHES, though OFFICERS on both sides tried to stop it. The men picked their way across the distance that SEPARATED them to exchange SONGS and CONVERSATION. Small GIFTS were exchanged. Christmas day passed PEACEFULLY along miles of the front.


In some places the SPONTANEOUS TRUCE continued into the next day as neither side was WILLING to FIRE the first shot. Finally, however, the WAR resumed as fresh troops arrived and the high command of both sides ordered that further "informal understandings" with the ENEMY would be considered high TREASON.