Dr. Gifford has been asked to provide this article once again as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Please enjoy!
Americans know Ohio native Eddie Rickenbacker as a World War I hero. He was the ace fighter pilot of the Ninety-fourth Aero Pursuit Squadron who personally shot down twenty-six enemy aircraft. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and received many other decorations for bravery and service to his country.
Two decades later, Rickenbacker, over fifty years old and the president of Eastern Airlines, served his country again. In October 1942, he was inspecting air bases in the Pacific when his B-17 crashed into the ocean 200 miles north of Samoa.
Rickenbacker and seven other men survived. Adrift on three rubber rafts, they had four oranges, a little water, and two fishing lines─but no bait. One man died and the other seven suffered terribly from thirst, hunger, and heat.
One of the men had a Bible in his pocket and he and his fellow sufferers sustained themselves by reading aloud. On the eighth day, they prayed frankly and humbly and a seagull landed on Captain Rickenbacker’s shoulder. It became bait and the starving fliers caught some fish and survived for twenty-three days before they were rescued.
At the beginning of World War II, this was a special Christmas story. For those who reflect on it today, it is a reminder that faith will bring deliverance.
Captain Rickenbacker’s ordeal also becomes a metaphor for our lives, because we are adrift in a sea of ignorance, vulgarity, irresponsibility and genuine evil. If we pray for guidance in 2014, it will come as surely as it came to Eddie Rickenbacker and his crew in 1942.
Rickenbacker’s story is included in a magnificent book, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” This book, published by the Library of Congress, celebrates the spirit of Christmas during World War II.
“It would be a great gift for any World War II veteran,” reports World War II aviator Carl Leming. This book honors more than 16 million American men and women who served in our armed forces during World War II. Through military service, “the Greatest Generation” learned lessons of teamwork, initiative, sacrifice, and self-discipline. They won the war, enforced the peace, and proudly led our nation through the second half of the twentieth century. Today they are marching into the pages of history. Christmas 2014 is approaching, but it is never out of season to give a good book to someone you love and respect.
This book and many others that focus on World War II are among the thousands of books available in the Jesse Stuart Foundation Bookstore at 4440 13th Street in Ashland.
For more information or to place a telephone order, call (606) 326-1667 or visit our website at www.jsfbooks.com.