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July 2018

Memories from Jim: How My Prayers Were Answered

We’ve heard so often that there are no atheists in foxholes.  That expression has almost become a cliché.  Well, it’s no cliché to me.  I found out it’s truth the hard way – in a foxhole; in fact, in one foxhole after another.  Not that I ever was an atheist, mind you, but by the time I entered the Army in World War II, I have to admit I was kind of rusty on my prayers.  I went to Sunday school as a kid, but as I grew up I guess I had other things on my mind.

Then along came the war.  Three months after I put on a uniform I landed in Volturno Valley, south of Rome and reported for duty as a replacement rifleman with the Third Infantry Division at Mt. Defenso.

I was hustled right up the front lines, and when I first started getting shot at, I suddenly knew what I’d been savings up my prayers for.  It’s not the kind of thing where you say to yourself, “Now would be a good time to pray, buddy”, you just automatically start praying.  There’s no question about it, you know exactly who you are and Who’s in charge.  It’s not you.

Those of us who were left after Volturno – and we were not many – were nominated to establish the bloody beachhead at Anzio.  We landed with a full company of one hundred and eight men.  In two weeks the Germans wiped out all but forty of us, and that was before the big battle even started.

I was praying pretty nearly all the time.  War cuts you down to size.  I may have been six-foot-seven, but I was terribly small in a foxhole.  You feel completely ineffectual when you know you may get knocked off any second.

It was so miserable – there’s nothing as horrible or terrifying.  All anyone could think of – and pray for – was to get out.  When we were buttoned down in Anzio, we all knew there were only three ways of getting out – by getting killed, by getting wounded badly enough to be sidelines or by lasting long enough to the end of the war.  Survival, let alone escape, seemed impossible.  That’s when you know it’s entirely up to God; and brother, that puts you in a praying mood.

You know my prayers were answered because I’m here to tell the story. I have an idea that the miracle was not such much that prayer helped me escape death, but that prayer helped me face death.


A note from me: Jim told me about many of his experiences in WWII, this is just one of them from a man who loved his country and was part of The Greatest Generation.