Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

On this day in 1868, a crowd of 5,000 gathers at Arlington National Cemetery for the first Decoration Day. This day is now known as Memorial Day.

It was a few weeks earlier, on May 5, that General John A. Logan, leader of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance.
General Logan stated: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Then, at Arlington, James A Garfield, who would become the 20th president, addressed the crowd:
“The faith of our people in the stability and permanence of their institutions was like their faith in the eternal course of nature. Peace, liberty, and personal security were blessings as common and universal as sunshine and showers and fruitful seasons; and all sprang from a single source, the old American principle that all owe due submission and obedience to the lawfully expressed will of the majority. This is not one of the doctrines of our political system—it is the system itself. It is our political firmament, in which all other truths are set, as stars in Heaven. It is the encasing air, the breath of the Nation’s life.”

Later, he added: “The voices of these dead will forever fill the land like holy benedictions.”… [H]ere let them rest, asleep on the Nation’s heart, entombed in the Nation’s love!

“We honor… we pray…”

More recently, in his Presidential Proclamation Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 1966, President Lyndon B Johnson said:
“On this Memorial Day, as we honor the memory of brave men who have borne our colors in war, we pray to God for His mercy. We pray for the wisdom to find a way to end this struggle of nation against nation, of brother against brother. We pray that soon we may begin to build the only true memorial to man’s valor in war — a sane and hopeful environment for the generations to come.”

He then went on to “urge all of the people of this Nation to join me in prayer to the Almighty for the safety of our Nation’s sons and daughters…, for His blessing on those who have sacrificed their lives for this Nation in this and all other struggles, and for His aid in building a world where freedom and justice prevail, and where all men live in friendship, understanding, and peace.

Indeed, may we pray similarly for all present and future struggles. Finally, may you  have a blessed and reflective Memorial Day.

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Patton prayer

On this day in 1945, General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army captures Frankfurt.

In December 1944, prior to the famed Battle of the Bulge, Patton asked his chaplain Colonel James O’Neill to write a prayer asking God for good weather for battle. 250,000 prayer cards were distributed to every soldier in his Third Army.

“Chaplain, I am a strong believer in prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by praying.”

3,200 training letters went out to officers and chaplains to, for, as Chaplain O’Neill said: “we must urge, instruct, and indoctrinate every fighting man to pray as well as fight. In Gideon’s day, and in our own, spiritually alert minorities carry the burdens and bring the victories.”

Patton was victorious. First, his army broke through the German lines at Christmastime. Then, they crossed the Rhine river in the week leading up to the capture of Frankfurt.

Victory to Victory

Here’s the aforementioned prayer:

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

General George S. Patton prayer

Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugural address

On this day in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States. Our nation was in the depths of the Great Depression, and Roosevelt outlined his “New Deal” and told Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Dedication of a Nation

Here’s how he closed his famous address:

“We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.

In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.” (emphasis added)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugural adress March 4, 1933 Page 9

USO United Service Organizations

On this day in 1941, The United Service Organizations, the USO, is incorporated in New York, at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Those organizations were the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

This is their stated mission: 
“The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation.”

Lastly, though congressionally chartered, the USO is not part of the federal government. It remains a private organization that relies on generous contributions and volunteers.

USO United Service Organizations

Patton prayer

On this day in 1944, General George S. Patton, aka “Old Blood and Guts,” begins his bold strategy to relieve the Allied defenders of Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

Ultimately, his plan paid off, and his 3rd Army penetrated the German lines and pushed them east across the Rhine.

Notably, a couple weeks prior, 250,000 prayer cards were distributed to every soldier in his Third Army. The text of the two-sided card follows:

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I Wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.
G.S. Patton, Jr, Lieutenant General, Commanding, Third United States Army.”

In everything

After all, as General Patton said just prior to their distribution:
“[B]etween the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything. That’s where prayer comes in.”

 

Patton prayer

Remember December 7th Pearl Harbor

On this day in 1941, at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a swarm of over 360 Japanese warplanes unleash a devastating surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor.

This war crime pulled our country in to World War II.

Mercifully, it was Sunday morning, so many personnel had passes to attend church off base.

Still, over 2,400 Americans were killed and nearly 1,200 were wounded. Most of the Pacific fleet was damaged or destroyed.

So Help us God

The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation about the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Of course, most of us are familiar with his opening statement:
“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

He went on:
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

‘Laus Deo’, we did.

Finally, some may take issue with this phrase as sworn in Our public oaths, despite the greater degree of intent and obligation it imparts, especially in contrast to a personal affirmation.

After all, let us echo the sentiment of George Washington from his farewell address:
Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”


Remember December 7th Pearl Harbor

 

Ike American flag Dwight D. Eisenhower

On this day in 1890, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, is born in Texas.

“Ike,” as he was affectionately called, had the words “under God” inserted in to the pledge of allegiance, and Ike made “In God We Trust” our nation’s official motto.

Those are a few reasons why “I like Ike.”

Appropriate Address

Now, “[m]y friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your heads.”

That’s how Eishenhower began his inaugural address on January 20, 1953.

His prayer proves pertinent, even today:

“Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race or calling.

May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.”

Then, having concluded his prayer, and getting further in to his address, he asked a question that may have no earthly answer:

“In the swift rush of great events, we find ourselves groping to know the full sense and meaning of these times in which we live. In our quest of understanding, we beseech God’s guidance. We summon all our knowledge of the past and we scan all signs of the future. We bring all our wit and all our will to meet the question:

How far have we come in man’s long pilgrimage from darkness toward the light? Are we nearing the light–a day of freedom and of peace for all mankind? Or are the shadows of another night closing in upon us?”

At such a time…

Next, he calls for a renewal of faith. That’s a call each generation needs to answer:

“At such a time in history, we who are free must proclaim anew our faith. This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers. It is our faith in the deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral and natural laws.

This faith defines our full view of life. It establishes, beyond debate, those gifts of the Creator that are man’s inalienable rights, and that make all men equal in His sight.”

Perhaps Our time in history isn’t much different.

Ike American flag
(Be sure to “Unscroll…” more about Ike by searching Our other posts.)

Harry Truman August 11, 1945

On this day in 1945, by order of President Harry S. Truman, the American bomber Enola Gay drops a five-ton atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The aim was to bring the war to an abrupt end, and to avoid an invasion of Japan and the subsequent likelihood of massive American casualties.

Then, on August 9th, the United States drops a second atom bomb, this time on Nagasaki, at last resulting in Japan’s unconditional surrender. A third was likely forthcoming, if necessary.

Also on August 9th, President Truman gave a “Radio Report to the American People on the Potsdam Conference.” After seeing the devastation in Europe firsthand, he remarked:

“How glad I am to be home again! And how grateful to Almighty God that this land of ours has been spared! 

He went on:

“I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb.
Its production and its use were not lightly undertaken by this Government. But we knew that our enemies were on the search for it. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first.
That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production.”

“An Awful Responsibility”

“Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.”

“It is an awful responsibility which has come to us.

We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

* * *

The United States is the only nation to use atomic weaponry in war. While it ended World War II, it may have precipitated the Cold War. Consequently, by 1949, the Soviets had also developed the atomic bomb.

Finally, see The White House memo below from President Harry S. Truman to the Federal Council of The Churches of Christ in America for more perspective:

Harry Truman August 11, 1945 Atomic bomb

 

Dwight Eisenhower D-Day

On this day in 1944 (D-Day), future president, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces  in World War II launches a massive invasion of Europe called Operation Overlord.

In his Order of the Day, he encouraged the “Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces” that The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you” and that he had  “full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.”

Then, he concluded his Order with “Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” (emphasis added)

Dwight Eisenhower D-Day Operation Overlord

 

*****

Thy will be done

Later that night, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the nation to join him in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Amen.”

FDR D-Day Prayer