Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Homefront Went to War

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Sometime when I was in my late teens or early twenties, I visited a stationery store in downtown Stockton. Back in the day when big box office supply stores had not yet been invented and people quaintly still wrote letters. This one was having a clearance sale of some sort, presaging the going out of business sale that was destined to come. The store closed its doors years ago.

I came across several boxes of Bibles...New Testaments, actually. Pocket sized and...armored! What the well dressed G.I. should be carrying! There have been anecdotes about people carrying a Bible or something in their left breast pocket stopping a bullet. James Doohan, "Scottie" from the USS Enterprise:
Doohan was hit by six rounds fired from a Bren gun by a nervous Canadian sentry: four in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger. The bullet to his chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case given to him by his brother.

And they say smoking will kill you!

The primary market for this product, I suspect, was people on the homefront. Anxious mothers, girl friends, relatives seeking to provide some added measure of protection, both physical and perhaps spiritual, to those they loved, would buy these and give them or send them to those within the sound of shots fired in anger. I doubt that many G.I.s bought them for themselves, since at that age, most of them, like myself, believed themselves to be at least vaguely bulletproof.

Some were called “The Heart-Shield Bible". They came with different sayings engraved on them. The ones I saw weren't gold plated or coated. Some had a message from FDR in them*. All of them had a message from Jesus Christ. Hard to say how many of them were actually read and how many of them were simply tokens or talismans, carried to ease their loved ones' minds.

But I'm sure they carried a little bit of home in their left breast pocket. A token of the love felt for them by those back on the home front. Those who wanted them to return to them when the war was finally over. And did the only thing, other than praying, that they knew that they could do.

*Could you possibly imagine a message from our current Commander-in-Chief, printed in a Bible, Koran or Torah, encouraging our troops, "commending the reading... to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States"? Me neither.

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