Home | About | Donate

On Each End of the Rifle


On Each End of the Rifle

For another Christmas - this one on the verge of God knows what domestic or international turmoil - we remember the extraordinary Christmas truce of 1914, when two "curious and unlikely band(s) of men" long and dutifully trying to kill each other laid down their arms in the name of their common humanity. Its lesson, more vital than ever: "That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame/ and on each end of the rifle we're the same."


Beautiful story. That was one awful war, my great uncle was killed the day he got there. Peace on Earth.


‘Twas a century ago this Christmas Eve
Heaven seemed to give the soldiers leave
Even to set their guns aside, and in friendship believe.

Christmas carols rang out across that blasted earth
Hungry and tired, both sides dreamt of home and hearth
Rising from his trench, a young German walked into that No Man’s Land
In his hands was a candle lit Christmas tree, his song was of a silent night.
Still, no shots from the West. The song was done, the tree planted on a shell-blasted stump.
Then, from both sides, officers walked to the tree and talked, a decision was made.
Men from both sides decided that, though soon they must kill again, Christmas should be a time of peace.
Along the front a truce was set, as men met, shared songs, rations and liquor, photos of families and friends.
Soccer was the only war that night, Allies versus Germans, and no one knows who “won.”

The night was filled with love and brotherhood, food and schnapps, brandy, rum and song.
Realizing that they were fighting “themselves,” too bad they didn’t throw down their guns.
Up and down the front it could have spread, troops throwing down their guns, marching home.
Calling out to the generals, if they truly wanted a war, to fight it out between themselves.
Ending four years of horror, before it had hardly begun.

Steve Osborn
Christmas Eve
Anno Domine 2014


One of my uncles, who lied about his age was the first and youngest soldier from Oregon to die, at Chateau Thierry.


Warriors Returning

For all those regimented dead, now gelt in black marble,
For all those from incoming friendly fire, dead
From truck crashes, VD, suicide and enemy action;
For all those, this wall, this marbled glory.

This marbled glory.

Not shared by the final cynicism of our unexploded ordnance
Ordaining into the Order of Rehabilitation
Those flung into their final dance;
And those whose crutches pirrhouette,
Dust and tears,
Dust and sweat,
Making sporadic obeisance for our wealth.

And as the plough played round our mines
And as the buffalo made its silhouette
Our hearts took fire and in that heat
We shot those kids and lost our minds
In mud and mire and lust and sweat,
That body count we reckon yet
As our black dog weaves the swamp of night.
Those cobwebbed contrail kisses
That rein of bombs and snipers’s misses
My wife I throttled in night-time fright;
Or did I dream, or did I dream?
Of freedom, or was it PX ice-cream?
Or of Saigon’s whores and R&R,
Bangkok, Tokyo, Manila; flung so far
Our hearts took fire and in our heat
We lost our lifetime;
And lest the black dog should weave the swamp of night
We take as wife our whiskey, neat.

And as our plough played round your mines
And as our buffalo made its silhouette
We took your fire and lost our minds
In mud and fire and blast and sweat,
Our body count we reckon yet;
As our black dog weaves its swamp of night
Through cowebbed contrail kisses
That rein of bombs, with some near misses
My wife I throttle in my fright.
Why do I scream? Why do I scream?
Was it Freedom for a Honda Dream?
Our hearts were fire and in that heat
We lost our lifetime;
And lest the black dog weaves its swamp of night
We take as wife our whiskey neat.

Now we Veterans make pilgrimage, we warriors returning,
We incoming friendly maimed
Providing prosthetics from pittances gifted,
Incoming pittances; incoming friendly pittances.

From "Warriors Returning- A tale in 5 voices". H.Shaw, Mosquito Bites Back and Other Poems.


"All war is organized murder." Harry Patch. WWI


Dear Abby -

Thanks for posting that - a good reminder.

But I think it is worth noting that it was actually a mutiny, not a "truce,"
as I argue here . .


Today's Armed Forces are not the Citizen Soldiers referenced here.

Rather, today, we have the "Warrior Class" who mindlessly live out a First Person Video Shooting Game overseas, in Real Life, learning, too late, who they have REALLY served, after their Government uses them up and tosses them, leaving them to deal, on their own, with the Personal Damage they limped home with.

Our economic situation has been specifically designed so as to offer membership, in this class, as a "step up" to a vast portion of our Populace.


There's lots more politically incorrect history about this war.

In 1918 the entire German-Russian front disappeared. Vast numbers of men on both sides got out of their trenches, shook hands and left the battlefields. Berlin alone had 40,000 draft dodgers in the city when the German government surrendered to the British/French/Americans. It was remarkably close to pure chance that the Russian aristocratic government collapsed and the German aristocratic government didn't.

Not that there's anything wrong with a Christmas truce and a good soccer game.