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The Message That Saved His Life

A World War II veteran remembers a life-saving decision he made on Thanksgiving Day in 1944.

In the winter of 1944 during World War II, I was in France, a platoon sergeant in the Yankee Division under General Patton. About mid-December I received a letter from my mother back in the States.

“Can you remember,” she asked, “where you were on Thanksgiving Day?”

Could I remember? How could I forget the odd thing that happened that day. At dawn I was sent to check out a crossroads where an enemy strongpoint was suspected. Normally I would have had my men fan out so that they could move with the cover of the trees. But just before we started out that Thanksgiving morning, I stopped. I stood stark still, arguing with myself about what I should do.

Then, going strictly against the book, I walked my men right down the middle of a road in an exposed column. No one fired at us; there was no evidence of the enemy. We found the crossroads unoccupied and turned to walk back. 

There, on the backside of the trees where only the German soldiers would have seen, were signs cautioning minen. The woods were mined. We could have been blown to bits!

Mother’s letter continued. She told me how she awakened after midnight on Thanksgiving Eve when it would have been daylight in France:

“I had a strong feeling that you were in great danger,” she wrote. “When I opened my Bible, a phrase in Second Chronicles [20:17] gleamed on the page: ‘Stand ye still and see the salvation of the Lord with you…'”

Stand ye still. Stark still.

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