I never noticed it before….did you?? Bing Crosby’s reference to the Italian Campaign in the holiday classic “White Christmas?”
Toward the end of the movie, as the 151st Division Army buddies of Bob Wallace (Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) are waiting “back stage” for their cue to march into the banquet hall and surprise their former commanding officer…. Wallace addresses the men, telling them to line up and look sharp, like they did on that day back at Monte Cassino.
So I wondered about the historical accuracy of the reference….
While the battle for the Abbey of Monte Cassino (photo above from Oct. 2014 tour) was epic, second only to the Battle of the Bulge in US casualties in the ETO, the 151st Division reference is fictional, or at best, inaccurate. The 151st Regiment, its origins stemming in part from the Indiana National Guard, served with the 38th Division in the Pacific Theater from January, 1941 until it was inactivated in November 1945.
And what about retired Major General Waverly... the commander of the fictional 151st, beloved by his men, who left their homes during the holidays to travel to the General’s Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont after Crosby beckons them from a radio broadcast?
Could Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen have been the inspiration for the character of Major General Waverly? Allen enjoyed a reputation of sincere affection for his men and was a beloved leader of the First Division, which indeed fought in Italy.
As for Bing Crosby (born in 1903) and Danny Kaye (born in 1911), neither served in the military during WWII. Crosby traveled throughout Europe during the war, entertaining troops, and was recognized by Yank Magazine as the entertainer who had done the most for American G.I. morale during WWII. Kaye, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, toured with the USO after WWII, entertaining occupation troops with his gestures and facial expressions and comedic musicality.
While Crosby, Kaye, Major Waverly and the 151st never lined up near the imposing Abbey, you can follow in the footsteps of the men of 1st Division on our 2015 Italian Campaign.