Protected during wartime
As I think of how I can prayerfully support the men and women serving today in the armed services in theaters of action, I’ve found it helpful to recall the wonderful protection I had during my tour of duty in World War II. I was raised attending a Christian Science Sunday School, and I called upon this training constantly while in the military. I frequently prayed with the loving, protecting passages in Psalms to sustain me during dark times.
I was released from college early and drafted into the army in 1943 at the tender age of 20. My college work had been in chemistry, so after boot camp I was assigned to a chemical warfare intelligence unit. I was sent to Italy on a very old World War I freighter, the slowest ship in the 106-ship convoy. There was a lot of fear and trepidation among the soldiers as we sailed off into the unknown. We were far behind the other ships and there was great concern that we’d be caught alone without any protection.
My ship’s purser was also a Christian Scientist and our discussions led to the request that I put together some readings for the men from the pocket editions of the Bible and Science and Health that had been given to us and other Christian Science servicemen by The Mother Church. I did two readings on Sundays, one at dawn and another later in the morning, both of which were attended by everyone on board. Soon the Jewish troop members asked if I would hold a service for them also, which I was happy to do. I put together readings from the Old Testament that including accounts of healing. This service was held in the evening, though all of the Jewish members also attended the other services as well.
One night I was awakened by the purser and asked to come to the bridge. A soldier who had great fear of what lay ahead had been rescued out of the sea after jumping overboard in an attempt to end his life. There were no medical facilities on board and the Captain was not sure what to do. I knew the Captain was the son of a Baptist minister, and I suggested we pray together. We stood for several minutes and silently prayed. I then asked that the soldier be released from custody, and he and I went on deck and talked together for a long time. I told him his life was a precious thing, and he did not have the right to end what God had given to him and would protect no matter where he was. After these talks we went below for coffee, and he went to his bunk in peace.
Having entered the boat with hard questions about my being there and what was in store for me, I saw that divine good was at work and that I did have a purpose for being on that ship.
Later, from Sicily we went up the Italian peninsula and were among the first troops to liberate Rome. As we approached, we passed soldiers returning from the Battle of Monte Casino, some of whom looked worn and battered. The soldier I had talked to on the boat was among them. He called out “Chaplain, Chaplain” (even though I wasn’t a chaplain), and ran across the trail to me. We hugged without saying a word. He rejoined his troop. And I knew he was OK.
Then one night while riding on the top of a personnel carrier, I was struck across the face by a line of barbed wire that had been strung high across the road by fleeing enemy troops. I had on a pair of goggles that saved my eyes from being struck, but I was cut across the side of my face and fell off the carrier. My mates stopped and offered what assistance they could with what we had with us. We were many miles and a few days from any medical facilities.
I knew I was on my own with God and reached out in prayer for support and healing. I affirmed, like the Psalmist, “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. . . . If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Ps. 139:1–3, 8–10).
When we reached medical help, they did for me what they could, but said it was a bad wound and I would have a scar for the rest of my life. I did not accept this verdict and turned to our divine Physician. With God at my side I knew I could overturn the medical diagnosis. As Mary Baker Eddy points out: “When the Science of being is universally understood, every man will be his own physician, and Truth will be the universal panacea” (Science and Health, p. 144). The wound quickly healed and I don’t have any sign of a scar at all.
I continued in war zones in Italy, France, and Germany for three years until I was discharged. My early training in the Christian Science Sunday School had supported me through all those years and through many instances of being under fire. I felt God’s protection all the time. I know that the prayers of my loved ones were surrounding me, too.
I’ve just retired from full-time employment after 61 years in a public service organization, and as an active student of Christian Science, I’m learning new and wonderful insights each day. I can’t say enough how grateful I am for Christian Science.
New York, New York, US