The “Red Tails”

In 1938, a civilian pilot training program, open to black Americans, began under President Franklin Roosevelt who anticipated possible war in Europe. Also, under the 1940 Selective Training and Service Act black Americans could be drafted. The group of black pilots trained as part of the US Army Air Corps are known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Between 1941-1946 nearly 1,000 pilots were trained at Tuskegee Institute (founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington). These pilots formed the 99th Fighter Squadron and were sent overseas in 1942. Their first combat experience was on June 2, 1943 on Pantelleria, an Italian island. In July 1944, three additional all-black squadrons joined them to make up the 332nd Fighter Group. Known for the red paint on the tails of their planes, the 332nd were nicknamed “Red Tails.”

The “Red Tails” flew over 1,400 combat missions, where they destroyed nearly 300 enemy aircraft, over 600 railroad cars, and 40 boats. The 332nd flew many of its combat missions as protective escorts for vulnerable bomber groups. They were so successful that many bomber crews specifically requested them during the missions. Altogether, about 150 Tuskegee Airmen were killed and 32 were taken prisoner.

For their many acts of bravery, the Tuskegee Airmen received many awards. The 332nd was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for the longest bomber escort mission. The 99th had received two Presidential Unit Citations before joining the 332nd. Members of this famous groups were also awarded 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, and 8 Purple Hearts. WallBuilders’ collection includes various signatures and pictures of the Tuskegee Airmen. Theirs is truly a story worth remembering today.

Let’s thank God for the over one million courageous Americans who paid the ultimate price for us all. Let’s pray for the surviving family members of those who have died in this generation to protect our freedoms, and let’s also pray for protection for all those who are currently deployed to various danger spots around the world.

Blessed be the Lord my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle
Psalm 144:1 (NKJV)

American troops land at Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings of 1944.

America Responds to Victory

V-E (Victory in Europe) Day is commemorated on May 8, 1945. One day earlier, German forces unconditionally surrendered to the Allies, signaling the end of most fighting in Europe — although fighting would continue against Japan for an additional 3 months.

President Harry Truman addressed the nation, reading his proclamation calling for a day of prayer. (WallBuilders’ collection includes an original printing of this proclamation, signed by President Truman.) Truman’s proclamation acknowledged the work of God in winning the war and the continuing need for His help:

For the triumph of spirit and of arms which we have won, and for its promise to peoples everywhere who join us in the love of freedom, it is fitting that we, as a nation, give thanks to Almighty God, who has strengthened us and given us the victory.

Supervision over transitioning post-war Germany was divided among four major Allied nations — France, England, the Soviet Union, and the US. General Omar Bradley, commander of the Twelfth Army Group, oversaw the region leading up to the post war transition. He issued special orders (found in WallBuilders’ collection) that provide an interesting glimpse into American policy concerning Germany during this time:

4. To avoid acts of violence, except when required by military necessity.

For you are on American soldier, not a Nazi.

7. To be fair but firm with Germans.

a. Experience has shown that Germans regard kindness as weakness. Every soldier must prove by his actions that the Americans are strong. This will be accomplished if every soldier treats the Germans with firmness and stern courtesy at all times.

b. Firmness must be tempered with a strict justice. Americans do not resort to Nazi gangster methods in dealing with any people. Remember, your fair but firm treatment of the German people will command the proper respect due a member of a conquering nation.

Part of the rebuilding of Germany included pointed efforts to institute democratic policies, as demonstrated in a June 1946 letter by President Truman to a minister. (This letter is also in WallBuilders’ collection.)

As you set out in the capacity of a representative of the Protestant churches in the United States to serve as a liaison representative between German religious leaders and the United States Military Government, may I take this opportunity to express my personal interest in this undertaking.

I attach importance to its success as a contribution to the reestablishment of contacts between the German churches and those in other countries. It would, moreover, seem to me that the revival of German religious life would greatly promote the Allied program for the development of democratic principles in Germany.

The actions of America after fighting in Europe ended affirm that we openly embraced religious principles as part of our public policy — that America did not consider itself a secular nation. This is a lesson worth remembering today, and should encourage us to push back against efforts to secularize the country, whether those efforts occur at a local school or in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Religious Messages from WWI

On April 6, 1917, the US entered World War I, providing much needed troops to a war effort that cost millions of lives across the world. In a speech calling for a declaration of war, President Woodrow Wilson used a phrase that would summarize America’s intent in becoming involved in this and future conflicts: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Although America was officially involved in fighting for just over a year, there were still more than 53,000 American soldiers who lost their lives in that conflict. Today, let’s take some time to remember these people and the war they fought in.

Americans had initially preferred remaining neutral in what was seen as a European conflict but actions taken by Germany led to a shift. In May 1915, a German U-boat (submarine) sank a British ocean liner killing over 1,000 people including about 120 Americans. Then, in February 1917, a telegram was intercepted in which the Germans offered Mexico a return of territory lost to the US if Mexico would join the war. These actions raised outrage among the general public, making the declaration of war more acceptable when it was made.

As would also happen during WWII, war bonds were used as a way to raise money for the war effort. In our collection of original documents and artifacts, WallBuilders has war bond posters from both WWI and WWII that used religious messages to ensure support and raise money for those wars.

Also, throughout American history, Bibles have been distributed to soldiers going into war and sometimes these Bibles would include messages from leaders on the importance of Bible reading. For example, a letter from President Franklin Roosevelt was inserted in a Bible distributed during WWII. A letter from President Woodrow Wilson was used in a WWI era Bible (pictured on the left, from a Bible in WallBuilders’ library), as was a letter by General Pershing.

John Pershing was put in command of the American forces in WWI. His involvement in several victories in the later months of the war helped the Allies obtain victory. General Pershing returned to America a war hero and was promoted to General of the Armies in 1919. His letter printed in the front of a 1917 Bible provides a glimpse into his religious beliefs:

To The American Soldier:

Aroused against a nation waging war in violation of all Christian principles, our people are fighting in the cause of liberty.

Hardship will be your lot, but trust in God will give you comfort; temptation will befall you, but the teachings of our Saviour will give you strength.

Let your valor as a soldier and your conduct as a man be an inspiration to your comrades and an honor to your country.

Our history demonstrates that America accorded religion and morality a prominent place in military life — a belief that, sadly, is today being eroded.

Tuskegee Airmen

Between 1941-1946 nearly 1,000 pilots trained at Tuskegee Institute (founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington). These pilots are known as Tuskegee Airmen. They formed the 99th Fighter Squadron and went overseas in 1942. Later the 99th joined three other all-black squadrons in the 332nd Fighter Group. Especially noteworthy, these pilots flew over 1,400 combat missions throughout WWII.

Below are signatures and signed photographs of various Tuskegee Airmen from the WallBuilders collection.


“Broncho” Charlie Artifacts

Charlie Miller (1850-1955), nicknamed “Broncho Charlie” (this nickname came about as a result of his job of busting broncs for ranchers), was the youngest Pony Express rider at age 11. Later, he worked for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show; fought in WWI at the age of 67; at age 81, delivered letters on horseback from New York City to San Fransisco to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Pony Express; and at age 92, he applied to join the Army for WWII but was turned down.

Below is a poem written about Miller by Howard Clinton Dickinson. Also shown are pictures excerpted from the 1935 book Broncho Charlie. A Saga of the Saddle. The Autobiography of Charlie Miller as told to Gladys Shaw Erskine. (See also a 1931 letter by Charlie detailing his conversion to Christianity.)




“Broncho” Charlie Miller Religious Letter

Charlie Miller, (1850-1955), nicknamed “Broncho Charlie” (this nickname came about as a result of his job of busting broncs for ranchers), was the youngest Pony Express rider at age 11. Later, he worked for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. He also fought in WWI at the age of 67; at age 81, delivered letters on horseback from New York City to San Fransisco to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Pony Express; and at age 92, he applied to join the Army for WWII but was turned down.

In this letter from 1931, Charlie (sometimes spelled “Charley”) recounts his conversion to Christianity. [The transcript has added punctuation and paragraphs for easier reading, though the original spelling has been retained.]


 
  
  
 


Transcript

Oak Dale L N.Y.
Feb 16th 1931

Mr H Parsons

Dear Friend,

Your late letter I read with much joy. For in relating your friend Mead’s experience brought me in line of my early life with his struggles. I was a careless and unbelieving man and was indifferent to any thing – re the church. My wife was brought up in a Quaker surrounding and my mother was a meathodous {sic} but I would never attend any place of worship.

And one night I walked into a Salvation Army hall half drunk and sit way back in the last bench – Charley was well known by everybody that had seen my actions around the town. I had three little children than, and loved them. But when asked by two workers, one a lady that was a capt and an ensign, weather {sic} I was a Christian, I was very angry and left the hall and dammed them all. They were both splendid singers and I liked there {sic} singing. I went home but something told me that night I was wrong, and when I got home I was all put out, could not sleep. My wife thought I had had a row with someone and I never told her about going to the hall.

Some few days after that my children was taken sick and my little boy, that night, fell asleep and woke up screaming. And when he got quite, told me that he had dreamed the Devil had his papa and burned him up. I and my wife could see the fever coming. And so I called a doctor and he told us that Black Diphtheria had got a hold of them. And called another doctor in and they both told us that they could not save them but done all they could.

The next morning my house was quarantined and my wife was taken down. No help, only the visits of the doctors. And I drank all the wiskey {sic} I could git {sic} ahold of. My three children died the next night – and my wife layed {sic} in a comatose condition. And I raved and swor {sic} at God Allmighty {sic} for he had left my home bare. They put them in one grave, and my wife got better, and I was wickeder than ever.

One day when the band was lifted from the door and we were let out, my wife was weak, and I went down to see a doctor. Passing into a drug store, in front stood this same crowd of Salvationist singing, throwe {sic} out the life line. I stood and listened, tiers {sic} coming to my eyes and trembling all over. Then as the crowd stood, was asked if any one needed Christ. I broke down and then and there I kneeled down in the street and asked God to forgive me and show me the way, the life. And when the lode {sic} lifted, I was a new man and felt it too.

The crowd stood mute and silant {sic} for God cleaned me up. And men that kept saloons stood and listened when I was asked to say a few words. And when these words came to me, what I had heard my mother say, that God gave his only begotten son that whosoever believed on him should not perish but have ever lasting life. The crowd walked away like they did when the woman was to be stoned in the street. Bless his name.

I know that it is a safe way and I have seen menny {sic} people converted after that. They took me to New York and I preached, never knowing what I should say. And could have been a light, for surely God had called me. But I am sorry to say a preacher whom I knew told me that I was unlearned. And I went home and never preached again and lost a great deal of the Spirit that he gave me. And he tells us that he that knoweth the way and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. I often feel the call but since I left off I have lost in everything. I know it is so he can shut every door against us if he wants us for himself but I love him. Bless his name.

Now don’t’ feel hurt toward me and I shall do all I can for his kingdom.

My regards to all.

To my early friend,

H Parsons & Family

Broncho Charley

P.S. Don’t give up writing to me for I get comfort from you.

P.S. These last children God gave me, a boy & girl, he has kept to be [blessing] of in my old age & wife he gave back.

President Truman 1946 Letter

Germany surrendered to the Allied powers on May 7, 1945 thus ending major conflicts in  Europe.  As a result, the country was divided between four nations — England, France, the Soviet Union, and the US. A concerted effort was made by the Allied nations to institute democratic policies in Germany, as shown in the following letter from President Harry Truman to Rev. Samuel Cavert.


Harry Truman 1946 Letter to Rev. Cavert


Transcript

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON

June 28, 1946

My dear. Dr. Cavert:

As you set out in the capacity of a representative of the Protestant churches in the United States to serve as a liaison representative between German religious leaders and the United States Military Government, may I take this opportunity to express my personal interest in this undertaking.

I attach importance to its success as a contribution to the reestablishment of contacts between the German churches and those in other countries. It would, moreover, seem to me that the revival of German religious life would greatly promote the Allied program for the development of democratic principles in Germany.

With every good wish for the success of your mission,

Very sincerely yours,
Harry Truman

Reverend Samuel McCrea Cavert, D.D.,
General Secretary,
The Federal Council of the Churches
of Christ in America,
297 Fourth Avenue,
New York 10, N.Y.

 

American troops land at Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings of 1944.

Honor a Veteran!

Veterans Day originally started as a national holiday to commemorate Armistice Day – the end of the violence in WWI, which had occurred on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (i.e., November 11 of 1918).

The following year in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson established the first observance of Armistice Day, explaining:

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory. 1

But in 1954, following both WWII and the Korean War, President Eisenhower signed an act renaming the holiday Veterans Day 2 so that “a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed much to the preservation of this Nation.”3 (emphasis added) He requested:

[L]et us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores to preserve our heritage of freedom; and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. 4

But veterans were respected and honored long before any official holiday was established, including by George Washington in his June 8, 1783 Circular Letter of Farewell to the Army calling on Congress to provide veterans’ benefits, which he believed was due them as “the price of their blood and of your independency.” 5 In 1989, the Department of Veterans Affairs was elevated to a cabinet level department by President George H. W. Bush.

On this special day when we pause to reflect on the sacrifices made across the years by men and women willing to lay down their lives to protect and defend our Constitution, our freedoms, and our way of life, let’s be proactive in our gratitude. Thank a veteran or active military member in uniform, attend a Veterans Day parade, pray for the military families, and remind those around you of the significance of this day. For additional information about this holiday, see:
https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp

God bless!


Endnotes

1  Woodrow Wilson, “Address to Fellow Countrymen,” November 11, 1919, Supplement to the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Bureau of National Literary, 1921), 8804, https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_Compilation_of_the_Messages_and_Papers/ZKUyAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA8804&printsec=frontcover.
2 “History of Veterans Day,” United States Department of Veterans Affairs (at: https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp.
3 The Federal Register (Washington, D. C.: The National Archives, 1954), 19:198, Dwight Eisenhower, “Proclamation 3071: Veterans Day 1954,” https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/docs/proclamation_1954.pdf.
4 The Federal Register (Washington, D. C.: The National Archives, 1954), 19:198, Dwight Eisenhower, “Proclamation 3071: Veterans Day 1954,” https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/docs/proclamation_1954.pdf.
5 George Washington to Meshech Weare, et al, “Circular Letter of Farewell to Army,” June 8, 1783, The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1938), XXVI:492, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-11404.

President Eisenhower’s One Nation Under God

February 7 is a notable historical day for the acknowledgment of God in modern America: it is the day that a sermon was preached before President Dwight D. Eisenhower, suggesting that the words “under God” be added to the pledge. The sermon was preached by the Rev. George M. Docherty, pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C.1

This sermon was preached for Lincoln Day, and it had a great impact on those listening, including President Eisenhower, who was seated in the same pew that Abraham Lincoln had regularly occupied in that church as President.2 In that sermon Docherty stated:

There was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristics and definitive factor in the American way of life. Indeed apart from the mention of the phrase, the United States of America, it could be the pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer and sickle flag in Moscow with equal solemnity.3

He made the point that the American pledge as it then existed could just have been recited by citizens from any country, even those from communistic nations that hated God. The day following the sermon, U. S. Rep. Charles Oakman from Michigan introduced a Joint Resolution (H. J. Res 371) to add the words “Under God” into the pledge,4 explaining:

Mr. Speaker, I think Mr. Docherty hit the nail squarely on the head. One of the most fundamental differences between us and the Communists is our belief in God.5

Two days later, on February 10th, Senator Homer Ferguson from Michigan introduced the Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. 126),6 explaining to the Senate:

Our nation is founded on a fundamental belief in God, and the first and most important reason for the existence of our government is to protect the God-given rights of our citizens. . . . Indeed, Mr. President, over one of the doorways to this very Chamber inscribed in the marble are the words “In God We Trust.” Unless those words amount to more than a carving in stone, our country will never be able to defend itself.7

These resolutions were passed, and on June 14, 1954 (Flag Day), President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law, officially adding the words “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, telling the nation:

From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country’s true meaning. . . . In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.8

Who could have imagined that a single sermon could have such an impact? Yet American history is full of such accounts. On February 7th, take time to read this remarkable sermon, remembering that we are indeed “one nation under God.”


Endnotes

1 George M. Docherty, One Way of Living (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1958), 158, “One Nation Under God.”
2 “Lincoln and ‘Under God’,” Presbyterian Historical Society, February 7, 2014; “House Joint Resolution 243 to Amend the Pledge of Allegiance to Include the Phrase ‘Under God’: Extension of Remarks of Hon. Louis C. Rabaut,” Feb 12, 1954,  Congressional Record (Volume 100 Session 2), 1700.
3 “Abraham Lincoln: Extension of Remarks of Hon. Charles G. Oakman,” Feb 12, 1954, Congressional Record (Volume 100, Session 2), 1697; George M. Docherty, One Way of Living (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1958), 164; “House Joint Resolution 243 to Amend the Pledge of Allegiance to Include the Phrase ‘Under God’: Extension of Remarks of Hon. Louis C. Rabaut,” Feb 12, 1954,  Congressional Record (Volume 100 Session 2), 1700.
4 Feb 8, 1954, Congressional Record (Volume 100, Session 2), 1522.
5 “Abraham Lincoln: Extension of Remarks of Hon. Charles G. Oakman,” Feb 12, 1954, Congressional Record (Volume 100, Session 2), 1697.
6 Feb 10, 1954, Congressional Record (Volume 100, Session 2), 1600.
7 Feb 10, 1954, Congressional Record (Volume 100, Session 2), 1600-1601.
8 Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill To Include the Words “Under God” in the Pledge to the Flag,” June 14, 1954, The American Presidency Project.

A member of the American military stands beside a US flag raised after the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – A Forgotten History?

 

This Sunday (November 11) is Veterans Day! Veterans Day is a time to honor the survivors, and to be grateful for their service and sacrifice to defend what we as Americans believe.
This holiday (originally known as Armistice Day) was established to remember the 1918 signing of the Armistice Treaty and to honor the heroes of World War I. [1]  In 1921, Congress resolved to build a tomb to honor the men who died overseas. Sergeant Edward Younger was given the task of choosing one of four unknown American soldiers to bring home for burial. [2] When the Navy ship Olympia arrived in Washington on November 9th with the body of the fallen soldier, America responded. The Cavalry band played “Onward Christian Soldiers” as the casket was taken to the U.S. Capitol, where the soldier was laid in State. President Warren G. Harding, governmental officials, and thousands of Americans paid their respects to this fallen soldier. [3]
On the morning of November 11th, this soldier was given a military procession to Arlington National Cemetery and buried at what is known today as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tomb has been guarded around the clock by dedicated servicemen and women since 1948. [4] The honor for the sacrifice of this soldier was recently once again evident when the guards refused to leave their post during Hurricane Sandy, which was reminiscent the soldiers’ determination to guard the tomb during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. [5]

The honor paid to this soldier is the same respect that all of our veterans deserve. It was in 1954 that Veterans Day was officially renamed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to honor American veterans of all wars. [6] These brave men and women who
are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom should be celebrated and venerated.

On this special day when we pause to reflect on the sacrifices made across the years by men and women willing to lay down their lives to protect and defend our Constitution, our freedoms, and our way of life, let’s be proactive in our gratitude.

  • Thank a veteran or active military member in uniform
  • Attend a Veterans Day parade
  • Pray for the military families
  • Remind those around you of the significance of this day.
  • Listen to Tuesday’s WallBuilders Live Program

 


[1] “Veterans Day,” The Library of Congress, October 26, 2010 (at: https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/nov11.html). See also, “The History of Veterans Day,” Center for Military History: United States Army, November 19, 2012 (at: https://www.history.army.mil/html/reference/holidays/vetsday/vetshist.html).
[2] J. R. McCarl, Decisions of the Comptroller General (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1923), Vol. 2, pp. 387-389. See also, “Tomb of the Unknowns,” Army: Old Guard (https://www.army.mil/info/organization/unitsandcommands/commandstructure/theoldguard/specplt/tomb.htm) (accessed on November 9, 2012); “The Tomb of the Unknowns,” Arlington National Cemetery (https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/VisitorInformation/TombofUnknowns.aspx) (accessed on November 9, 2012); “Edward F. Younger, Sergeant, United States Army,” Arlington National Cemetery, December 25, 2007 (https://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/eyounger.htm).
[3] Kirk L. Simpson, “The Unknown Soldier,” Supplement Service Bulletin of the Associated Press (New York: Associated Press, December 1921) pp. 3-4. See also, “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” The Quartermaster Review, September-October, 1963 (at: https://www.qmfound.com/tomb_of_the_unknown_soldier.htm); B. C. Mossman and M. W. Stark, The Last Salute: Civil and Military Funerals 1921 – 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1991) pp. 3-18 (at: https://www.history.army.mil/books/Last_Salute/Index.htm).
[4]   “Tomb of the Unknowns,” Army: Old Guard (https://www.army.mil/info/organization/unitsandcommands/commandstructure/theoldguard/specplt/tomb.htm) (accessed November 9, 2012). See also, “Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers Stand Guard During Hurricane Sandy,” MyFoxDC.Com, November 12, 2012 (at: https://www.myfoxdc.com/story/19943347/tomb-of-the-unknown-soldiers-stand-guard-during-hurricane-sandy).
[5] Katie Pavlich, “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Remains Guarded Through Hurricane Sandy,” TownHall, October 29, 2012 (at: https://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2012/10/29/tomb_of_the_unknown_soldier_remains_guarded_through_hurricane_sandy). See also, Luis Martinez, “Still Vigilant at the Tomb of the Unknowns Despite Irene,” ABC News, August 28, 2011 (at: https://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricanes/vigilant-tomb-unknowns-irene/story?id=14397525#.UJ1zZYbCaSo).
[6] The Federal Register (Washington, D. C.: The National Archives, 1954), Vol. 19, No. 198, Dwight Eisenhower, “Proclamation 3071: Veterans Day 1954” (at: https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/docs/proclamation_1954.pdf).