Roland Rakow received this Christmas card from his comrade Cpl. Ralph Shoemaker at Christmastime 1943. It had been a little over a year since Roland’s return to the States after his escape from captivity.
Cpl. Shoemaker, a member of the maintenance crew of the 83rd (Roland’s squadron), served with that unit until the end of the war. Roland kept in touch with him since the war, until Shoemaker passed away last year.
The front of the card reads: “Christmas Greetings, 83rd Squadron, 12th Bomb Group, United States Army Air Force”; in the center is a propeller with wings and four stars in gold.
The British Eighth Army, with essential support from the USAAF 12th Bombardment Group (known as the “Earthquakers”), had pushed Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps from North Africa and pursued them northward into Europe.
On the first interior panel is a picture of three B-25 bombers in flight. A printed caption reads: “Earthquakes over Africa,” and a pasted strip bearing the date “September 1, 1942” is a reminder of the day Roland’s plane was shot down and he was captured.
The inside of the card bears this inscription:
“‘Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men’ is only a vision this Christmas of 1943, but it’s a Hope that grows brighter with each passing day. As we fly through these dark horizons our course is lighted by His Star. Our Christmas prayer embraces a Hope that its Light will bless you with the Season’s richest Joy, and that your cherished Dreams of a peaceful, happy Future will soon become a lasting Reality. Europe 1943”
Shoemaker penned on this panel “Isa 9:6.”
(Isaiah 9:6 reads: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”)
Across two panels inside is an elaborate map of North Africa and southern Europe. A narrow gold and blue ribbon connects Bethlehem to eastern Egypt. From there a broader ribbon snakes from Egypt through Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Tunisia, then north to Sicily and onward to the gates of Rome.
The greeting reads: “The Very Best of Wishes for Christmas and New Years. I’ll write when I can. Cpl. Ralph Shoemaker.”
On the back of the card, in black and red, is an angel bearing a shield and a drawn sword—the symbol of the 83rd Bombardment Squadron.