Photos Show Troops Celebrating Thanksgiving On The Battlefield

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday usually spent at home with family — sometimes an intimate event with immediate family members, other times large get-togethers with extended family and friends — with everyone centered around a holiday meal complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. But for the men and women serving in the military, Thanksgiving is often like other days — time away from family and loved ones while deployed overseas.

The time spent away from family and the cherished moments missed due to deployments are part of the sacrifice the troops make in service to their country. Often overlooked or forgotten, this sacrifice can take a toll on both the service member and their family. That’s why the military has always made a special effort to make sure that service members are still able to celebrate the holidays even when they are on deployment or right on the battlefield.

While the first Thanksgiving was celebrated between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe in 1621, it was President George Washington who made the first Thanksgiving Day proclamation in 1789. Then, on October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made a Thanksgiving proclamation during the middle of the Civil War that established Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November each year.

Since the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day was created during wartime, it has only been fitting that the military has ever since ensured that troops were able to celebrate with a Thanksgiving meal wherever they were, on land or sea, during peacetime or war. Take a look at these photographs and images of the troops celebrating Thanksgiving during the wars of the past two centuries.


Civil War

Image: Library of Congress/Alfred R. Waud -- A sketch from the Civil War shows Union troops celebrating Thanksgiving.

Image: Library of Congress/Alfred R. Waud — A sketch from the Civil War shows Union troops celebrating Thanksgiving.

Photo: National Archives/We Are The Mighty -- On the first official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863 Union troops took a break from the fighting to enjoy an actual sit-down dinner.

Photo: National Archives/We Are The Mighty — On the first official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, Union troops took a break from the fighting to enjoy an actual sit-down dinner.

World War I

Photo: National Archives/War Department -- A Sailor and a Doughboy enjoy turkey for Thanksgiving during World War I.

Photo: National Archives/War Department — A Sailor and a Doughboy enjoy turkey for Thanksgiving during World War I.

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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.