"I'll Be Home for Christmas" Song Lyrics (The Story of A WWII Soldier Longing For His Family)

By | December 17, 2020

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The holiday greeting is spelled out by U.S. aviation Cadets in the Southeast Air Corps Training Center. (Getty Images)

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" was written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent, but it's most closely associated with American singer Bing Crosby, who also struck holiday gold with his recording of another holiday favorite, "White Christmas." Gannon and Kent had approached several other singers to record "I'll Be Home For Christmas," but they all rejected the song because it was so crushingly sad. When Gannon sang it to Bing Crosby during a golf outing, however, Crosby agreed to record it on October 1, 1943, and the rest is history.

A U.S.O. Favorite

During World War II, Bing Crosby was one of the most popular entertainers in the United States and an especially popular U.S.O. performer. The soldiers in the audience begged him to sing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" regardless of the season, and according to Yank, the magazine of the American G.I. serving overseas, Crosby "accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era." A recording of Crosby's performance of the song on the December 7, 1944 broadcast of Kraft Music Hall Radio Show was even released by the United States War Department specifically for distribution to the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy.

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(Mark Thomas/Pixabay)

What Is "I'll Be Home For Christmas" About?

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" was written well into World War II, when an estimated 16 million Americans (or 11% of the population) were serving in the armed forces. There was hardly a home in the country that didn't have a conspicuously empty place at the dinner table during the holiday season, and the loneliness of being separated during Christmas was universally felt. The melodic longing of a man stuck far away from home and hoping (though not optimistically) to return for Christmas spoke not only to the soldiers serving on the front lines but their loved ones on the home front as well.

The final line of "I'll Be Home For Christmas"—"If only in my dreams"— has been the subject of some debate. Some believe the line simply means the narrator suspects he'll dream of being home for the holidays while circumstances inevitably keep him away, but others interpret the line to mean he believes he'll never make it home at all and the only place he'll be there for Christmas ever again is in his mind. As much of a bummer as this interpretation adds to an already downer song, it was a bleak reality for the 416,800 soldiers who celebrated their last Christmas before the war was over.