Showing Mercy in the Midst of War

Tony Hisgett

Photo Credit: Tony Hisgett via CC Flickr

How many of us have ever known someone that we really didn’t like? They were someone that we considered our rival, our opponent, our enemy. If we were given the chance, we would “take care of them”, hurt or destroy them. But how many of us have ever been in a situation that we could actually take take out our hate and anger on our enemy…then decided to show mercy and take the honorable thing…take the high road and help them?

Today’s tale is a true story that took place during World War 2 in the skies over Europe. It is my hope that you can learn a simple lesson today…that having compassion and mercy for our enemies actually takes more boldness and courage than to take revenge.

Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called “Ye Old Pub” and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper and deeper into enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

After flying the B-17 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot, Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17.

When he got closer the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he “had never seen a plane in such a bad state”. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, the tail gunner was wounded and the top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose of the plane was smashed and there were holes everywhere.

Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at the English pilot, Charlie Brown, and saw that Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn around 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane back to the North Sea and to England. He then saluted Charlie Brown, turned away and headed back towards Europe.

When Franz landed he told his commanding officer that he had shot down the B-17 over the sea, and never told the truth to anyone.

Meanwhile, back in England, Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told everyone at their briefing what had happened, but were then ordered never to talk about it.

More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the German Luftwaffe pilot who had saved his crew. After years of research, Franz was finally found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions. The two pilots met in America at the 379th Bomber Group reunion…together with 25 people who are now alive…all because Franz showed mercy and compassion and never fired his guns that day.

When asked why he didn’t shoot them down, Stigler later said, “I didn’t have the heart to finish off those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were desperately trying to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting a man in a parachute.”

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“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.” ~ Dalai Lama

Your Life Is Not Your Own

german

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

This is a re-post of an article that I posted a couple of years ago around Memorial Day. It is a powerful message that you will not soon forget. This an amazing account of incredible sacrifice during World War 2 involving simple towns people. Warning: Tissues WILL be required!

Around this time each year, Memorial Day, I am reminded of a story that I once heard. Though the exactness of it I cannot confirm, I am assured its basis is quite factual, and its message definitely deserves to be retold.

The story is of a man, Andrew, who was known all his life for selfless sacrifice and good works. He always stood in defense of the defenseless, and toiled without tiring, standing up for the downtrodden and underprivileged. As he grew old, and people tried to honor him for his well-lived life of service, he was reluctant to accept the praise and attention that his community desired to heap upon him. It was then, for the first time, that he told a story that had burned deep in his heart and was hard for him to relate.

Andrew was a young man, thirteen years old and living in Austria, when the Germans invaded. The Austrians, brave and proud, decided to fight back. In the town where Andrew lived, the men and teenage boys organized and destroyed a power plant that the Germans relied on to continue their war effort. The men and boys all knew this would cause great hardship on themselves as well, for they also relied on the power from the plant. But the thing they had not counted on was the swift and severe retribution that would come from the Nazi invaders.

The next morning, before the sun was even up, trucks rolled into town. Soon, the sound of marching soldiers was heard in the streets. The men and boys of the town, twelve years old and older, were ordered to the town square. Andrew found himself standing in a line with the other men and boys, still trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes.

The commanding officer berated them, and told them they were fools to think they could stand against the might of the German army. He told them they were nothing, and their minuscule efforts would not slow down the German war effort, but it would hurt them because a price was going to be paid for their rebellion. He then said that every 20th man in the line would be shot.

As each 20th man was pulled from the line and marched away, Andrew looked down the line and started counting. With horror, he realized that he stood in a 20th position. He trembled with fear as the soldiers moved closer and closer to him, and the shots started to ring out at the edge of town where the unfortunate men were being taken.

As the Germans continued to move down the line, Andrew could see others counting and their eyes turning to him with a look of pity and concern. Andrew found himself wanting to flee, but too frightened to move. Even if he tried to run, the soldiers on the trucks, with the mounted machine guns, would cut him down before he could get ten yards.

But then, in the instant that the last man before Andrew was pulled from the line, the Germans turned their eyes away, and Andrew felt a hand on his shoulder. The hand tightened quickly, and before he knew what had happened, he was jerked forcibly over one spot, and the old man who had been standing next to him moved swiftly to switch positions.

Andrew looked up at the silver haired man and the man smiled. Just before he was taken from the line and led away, the old man spoke quietly to Andrew. “Your life is no longer just your own. Live it for both of us.”
Andrew watched silently as the old man disappeared from view toward the edge of the village. His heart jumped as the shots sounded, shots that Andrew knew should have been his own. In that instant, tears flowing down his face, he determined he would indeed live his life for both of them. From that day he had tried to live so that the unknown old man would have felt his sacrifice was well repaid.

Each time I consider the flags flying by the many graves in the cemetery, thinking back on Andrew’s story, I realized that no one’s life belongs just to them. Each of us owes a debt to many who have paid prices through hardship, hard work, and even the sacrifice of their lives, from which we have benefited.

With the wind gently whipping the flags in the breeze, I, too, renewed my own dedication in how I live my life.
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(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website athttp://www.darishoward.com)

Changing the World Through Kindness

Photo Credit: Troth God of Knowledge via CC Flickr

Photo Credit: Troth God of Knowledge via CC Flickr

One of my favorite TV shows that I used to enjoy watching when I was a kid, was about this friendly, caring and compassionate man who loved to share the good things in life and his positive personal thoughts with us kids…Mr. Fred Rogers, host of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”.

He always had this kind and gentle way of explaining the important and every-day-things of life in entertaining and educational ways. I used to think that it must have been really a cool thing to live in a neighborhood like that. Unfortunately, or course, the neighborhood wasn’t real and “life” was a lot harder and different from the way it was portrayed. 

The one thing that I learned the most from watching most of his shows, something that I still try to do every day…even now…is to show kindness and compassion to other people…especially individuals that were less fortunate than me.

One of the best examples that I ever saw of the great, beautiful kindness of Mr. Roger’s was the following video clip of Mr. Rogers and a little crippled boy in his wheelchair named Jeff Erlanger in 1981. The result of this interview and the way Fred Roger’s spoke and treated Jeff during this time, changed Jeff’s life forever.

Twenty years later, Fred Rogers was nominated to the TV Hall of Fame. During the H.O.F dinner something magical and beautiful happened…which you will see in this video.

It WILL touch your heart and hopefully, illustrate to you the fantastic power of showing kindness and compassion to others…just be sure to have a box of tissues with you…you’ll need them 🙂

How can YOU change YOUR world through kindness?

The Soldier and the Spider

Photo Credit: Petra via CC Flickr

Photo Credit: Petra via CC Flickr

This is a re-post of an article that I put up on my blog a while ago. I hope that it encourages and warms your heart like it did mine!!

During World War II, a US Marine was separated from his unit on a Pacific island. The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and the crossfire, he had lost touch with his comrades.

Alone in the jungle, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction. Scrambling for cover, he found his way up a high ridge to several small caves in the rock. Quickly he crawled inside one of the caves. Although safe for the moment, he realized that once the enemy soldiers looking for him swept up the ridge, they would quickly search all the caves and he would be killed. As he waited, he prayed, “Lord, if it be your will, please protect me. Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen.”

After praying, he lay quietly listening to the enemy begin to draw close. He thought, “Well, I guess the Lord isn’t going to help me out of this one.”

Just then he saw a spider begin to build a web over the front of his cave. As he watched, listening to the enemy searching for him all the while, the spider layered strand after strand of web across the opening of the cave.

“Hah” he thought, “what I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web. God does have a sense of humor.”

As the enemy drew closer he watched from the darkness of his hideout and could see them searching one cave after another. As they came to his, he got ready to make his last stand. To his amazement, however, after glancing in the direction of his cave, they moved on.

Suddenly, he realized that with the spider web over the entrance, his cave looked as if no one had entered it for quite a while.

“Lord, forgive me,” prayed the young man, “I had forgotten that in you a spider’s web is stronger than a brick wall.”

We all face times of great trouble. When we do, it is so easy to forget the victories that God would work in our lives, sometimes in the most surprising ways.

As the great leader, Nehemiah, reminded the people of Israel when they faced the task of rebuilding Jerusalem, “In God we will have success!” [Nehemiah 2:20]

Remember: Whatever is happening in your life, with God, a mere spider’s web can become a brick wall of protection. Trust and believe that He is with you always. Just ask for his help and you will see His great power and love for you.

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source: truthbook.com

A Sad Face of War: Pictures That Speak Volumes #64

Photo Credit: Unknown

Photo Credit: Unknown

War and conflict is a horrible and terrible thing. It not only has a devastating affect of thousands upon thousands of soldiers but its poisonous tentacles also reach out and touches the lives on hundreds of thousands…sometimes millions…of families and civilians.

Such is the story with today’s picture. This beautiful little girls was left homeless in the 1940’s when her London home was bombed by the Germans. The only thing she had left in the whole world and the only comfort that she could find was her toy doll.

It simply shows us that war truly is hell.

Why not take some time today to lend someone a smile or a word of encouragement and try to uplift a person who mat be suffering with their own little battles and wars.

A Wonderful Glimpse Into Yesteryear

Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via CC Flickr

Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via CC Flickr

A short time ago, a small group of World War 2 veterans were quietly waiting for their flight at Reagan International Airport, when something magical took place.

Someone decided to play some old-time music from the 1940’s, and suddenly, as if a vail was lifted and a curtain pulled back, the solders instantly reverted back to a time when they were young, agile and filled with life.

The following video shows us this unique transformation in a beautiful and wonderful way and the tremendous power of music.

Pictures That Speak Volumes #48

Photo Credit: Claude P. Dettloff

Photo Credit: Claude P. Dettloff

This picture called, “Wait For Me Daddy” was taken by photographer, Claude P. Dettloff during World War 2. The kid was seen running away from his mother to his father, Private Jack Bernard. This photo was made to help raise money for war bonding.