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Classic Covers: A Soldier’s Christmas

Published: December 18, 2010

Shopping, decorating and lots of Santas: that’s what Saturday Evening Post Christmas covers are made of. But we wanted to remember those serving overseas this holiday season.

Santa’s in the News – Norman Rockwell

Santa's in the News by Norman Rockwell

Santa's in the NewsNorman RockwellDecember 26, 1942

Norman Rockwell wanted to remind us amidst the horrible 1942 war news, that it was still Christmas. Rockwell finished his famous “Four Freedoms” paintings about this time: Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Want, Freedom of Worship and Freedom from Fear. Whoever purchased a war bond would receive a set of the Four Freedom prints, and the original paintings were exhibited in a special tour, a way the artist helped rack up millions in war bond sales.

Lone Soldier – Mead Schaeffer

Lone Soldier by Mead Schaeffer

Lone SoldierMead SchaefferDecember 25, 1943

Nor were our WWII troops forgotten by Rockwell’s friend, fellow cover artist Mead Schaeffer. Schaeffer painted dozens of soldiers for Post covers during these years, although this is perhaps the most touching. A lone soldier standing guard on December 25, 1943. Like Rockwell, Schaeffer was a stickler for details. A WWII cover of the crow’s nest of a patrol boat was changed after the Navy took a look at it. The fear was the enemy could determine the location of our Russian convoy route on the basis of the stars in the Arctic night sky. So the heavens were scrambled for the actual Post cover. Presumably, these Christmas stars passed muster.

Hanging Holly – J.C. Leyendecker

Hanging Holly by JC Leyendecker

Hanging HollyJC LeyendeckerDecember 21, 1918

Back to the first war to end all wars. Remembering her sweetheart at Christmas time, this lady keeps his photo first and foremost among the decorations. Beginning in 1899 and continuing to 1943, J.C. Leyendecker did a remarkable 322 Saturday Evening Post covers, one more than Norman Rockwell. It is said that Rockwell deliberately did one less, out of deference to his idol.

A Soldier’s Christmas – J.C. Leyendecker

A Soldier's Christmas by JC Leyendecker

A Soldier's ChristmasJC LeyendeckerDecember 22, 1917

Leyendecker did many covers of the WWI soldier, writing a letter by campfire, throwing a grenade, praying at a memorial. One we can never resist is this soldier sharing his meager holiday with a little French cutie. By now the prolific artist was famous for his iconic Arrow Shirt ads featuring remarkably handsome men and elegant ladies.

A Soldier’s Thanksgiving – J.C. Leyendecker

A Soldier's Thanksgiving by JC Leyendecker

A Soldier's ThanksgivingJC LeyendeckerDecember 8, 1917

This happy soldier, also from 1917, lucked out for his holiday feast. Is that perhaps a plum pudding? Although Leyendecker’s art career was waning by World War II, he received commissions from the U.S. War Department to paint posters of officers like Eisenhower and MacArthur encouraging the purchase of war bonds.

Saluting Santa – J.C. Leyendecker

Saluting Santa by JC Leyendecker

Saluting SantaJC LeyendeckerDecember 7, 1918

Again by J.C. Leyendecker, this cover sums it up. Wherever our troops are serving, along with our Post artists and Santa himself, we would like to salute them.

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  • Susie Wright

    I think these pictures should be part of our Christmas Season. Our
    military deserve the support and recognition for what they do for us.