May 29, 2023 is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a day of honor and remembrance. It’s a day when we reflect on the sacrifices our citizens in uniform have made to protect the liberties we cherish here in the United States.
However, it was Almighty God who helped us to establish this nation. It was He who helped our founding fathers develop and write the national documents that state our freedoms and teach us to defend them. And it is God who inspired men to write the Holy Scriptures that teach us about duty, honor, integrity, and commitment.
As Americans, we have a solemn obligation to pray for and to support our troops to the best of our ability because they are the ones on the front lines of battle who enable us to enjoy the opportunities and freedoms we often take for granted.
Not only on Memorial Day, but every day we should remember the sacrifices of our service members and honor the memory of those who perished in the fight for freedom.
Although my father didn’t die in battle, I’m thinking of him right now. He was stationed on the USS Yorktown, CV-5. On May 4-8, 1942, the Yorktown was in the Battle of the Coral Sea just northeast of Australia. A 500-pound armor-piercing bomb plunged through the ship and exploded adjacent to my father’s radio room, but the steel wall shielded dad from death. Although we lost the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, CV-2, the Battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval engagement the Japanese didn’t win.
When the damaged Yorktown limped into Pearl Harbor, Captain Elliott Buckmaster requested six months for major repairs, but Admiral Chester Nimitz knew what was brewing near Midway Island and gave Captain Buckmaster only 72 hours.
The Japanese fleet, advancing to attack Midway, included four attack carriers, two battleships, three cruisers, nine destroyers, twenty-eight submarines, and eight refueling tankers. Altogether, they could have had about 180 ships assembled for the operation. This was not some spur-of-the-moment impulse; rather it was a strategic, well-planned full-scale attack – as was the attack on Pearl Harbor. We might have had about 55 ships in the area to counter the assault.
The Fighting Lady (Yorktown) did set sail in three days. As the ship approached Midway, a paralyzing fear gripped dad. He couldn’t shake it off. Finally, he prayed, “Lord, I’m saved and I know it. If I must die, I must. It’s okay with me. Only one thing I ask of You: take this numbing fear out of my heart and mind so I can do my duty. Amen.” (Dead in the Water, USS Yorktown at Midway; page 92.)
Dad, an intra-ship radioman and musician, said the fear lifted immediately. The change was so dramatic that he thought someone had entered the room. Then Psalm 91:7 came to mind – “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” Dad said he experienced no heavy fear throughout the rest of the war.
The Japanese intended to use Midway Island as a base of operations from which to finish the job they started at Pearl Harbor, and Admiral Nagumo betrayed his ignorance of Americans by saying, “The enemy [America] lacks the will to fight.” But US intelligence broke the Japanese code and Admirals Nimitz and Spruance devised a plan similar to an old western ambush and caught Admirals Yamamoto and Nagumo off guard. Japan learned about our will to fight when they lost the same four aircraft carriers they used in attacking Pearl Harbor. They also lost two heavy cruisers, three destroyers, and 275 planes. This battle ended Japanese naval superiority in the Pacific. We lost one carrier (the USS Yorktown), one destroyer (the USS Hammann), and 150 planes.
Although the USS Yorktown, CV-5, sank on June 7, my father survived the battle. After the war, dad attended college and seminary, and reentered the US Navy for another 20 years, but this time as a Chaplain. Retiring with the rank of Captain, he said the eight years as an enlisted man and the wartime experiences in World War II helped prepare him for what lay ahead in life.
We should not be afraid of negative circumstances in life; rather we should prayerfully face them and learn from them. If we purpose to live to honor Jesus Christ, we should remember His words in Hebrews 13:5 – I will never leave you nor forsake you.