Friday, December 17, 2010
A Christmas Story from World War II
On December 24, 1942 the 7th Marine Regiment was relieved from the front line on Guadalcanal after 96 consecutive days of combat. Edward Andrusko and his battle-weary comrades marched to the relative safety of the beach area to wait for embarkation. That night he and many other Marines attended a memorable Christmas Eve service in a coconut grove beside Henderson Field. The makeshift altar was covered by a tent, and coconut logs served as pews. Bomb shelters were close at hand. Andrusko observed, “It was a beautiful service with candles, caroling, prayer for peace on Earth, and memorials to our dead and wounded.” Suddenly, however, the air raid warning sounded. The chaplain, a seasoned combat veteran himself, calmly asserted that he was going to continue with the service, but pointed to the air raid shelters for all who wanted to seek a safer place. Most of the Marines stayed in dark outdoor church, illuminated by a single candle. An amazing scene unfolded, as recounted by Andrusko:
Soon we heard the drone of enemy planes and the whistling of their bombs and explosions approaching closer and closer.
Instantly the dark night was brightly illuminated by our large searchlights . . . nearby batteries of our anti-aircraft cannons blasted away…The guns fired loudly and rapidly, and their high overhead explosion bursts would light up the sky…Our bright red tracers added to the awesome fireworks display. More bombs fell, but soon passed us by.
We sang “Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm. All is bright,” as the enemy planes passed slowly overhead. After a while their bombs fell further and further away from us. Our prayers and carol singing must have been heard through the din of battle, and answered, for soon the all clear was sounded. No one was hurt at our church service. That was our first and last Christmas Eve midnight mass on Guadalcanal Island.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” ~Luke 2:9-11
(This story is a daily devotional from Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II, Page 428)