Right Opinion

U.S. Military & Commanders-in-Chief: Role of Biblical Faith

William Federer · Aug. 19, 2019

Yale President Ezra Stiles addressed Connecticut’s General Assembly, May 8, 1783, regarding General George Washington being chosen to command the Continental Army:

“The memorable battle of Bunker Hill. (June 17, 1775) … convinced us … that Americans both would and could fight with great effect.

Whereupon Congress put at the head of this spirited army, the only man (George Washington), on whom the eyes of all Israel were placed …

This American JOSHUA was raised up by God, and divinely formed by a peculiar influence of the Sovereign of the Universe, for the great work of leading the armies … to liberty and independence …”

Stiles continued:

“And while we render our supreme honors to the Most High, the God of armies; let us recollect, with affectionate honor, the bold and brave sons of freedom, who willingly offered themselves, and bled in the defense of their country …

The officers and soldiers of the patriot army … and … gallant commanders and brave seamen of the American navy, have heroically fought the war by sea and by land …

Never was the profession of arms used with more glory, in a better cause, since the days of JOSHUA, the son of Nun.”

After having the Declaration of Independence read to his troops, General George Washington issued the order, July 9, 1776:

“Commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains … persons of good Characters and exemplary lives -

To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises.

The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger -

The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier, defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country …

The peace and safety of his Country depends, under God, solely on the success of our arms.”

On May 2, 1778, General George Washington issued the order to his troops at Valley Forge:

“The Commander-in-Chief directs that Divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o'clock, in each Brigade which has a Chaplain.

Those Brigades which have none will attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will, by their attendance, set an example for their men.

While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion.

To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian.”

On November 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ordered:

“The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer nor the cause they defend be imperiled by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High …

‘At this time of public distress,’ adopting the words of Washington in 1776, ‘men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality …’”

Lincoln added:

“… The first general order issued by the Father of his Country after the Declaration of Independence indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended:

‘The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.’”

President Benjamin Harrison ordered, June 7, 1889:

“In November, 1862, President Lincoln quoted the words of Washington to sustain his own views, and announced in a general order that -

‘The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service.

The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity’…”

President Harrison added:

“… To recall the kindly and considerate spirit of the orders issued by these great men in the most trying times of our history, and to promote contentment and efficiency, the President directs that Sunday morning inspection will be merely of the dress and general appearance.”

President Woodrow Wilson gave the order, January 20, 1918:

“The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, following the reverent example of his predecessors, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service of the United States.

The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.

Such an observance of Sunday is dictated by the best traditions of our people and by the convictions of all who look to Divine Providence for guidance and protection,

and, in repeating in this order the language of President Lincoln, the President is confident that he is speaking alike to the hearts and to the consciences of those under his authority.”

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson wrote the foreword to a pocket Bible given out by the thousands to American soldiers heading to France and Belgium during World War I:

“The Bible is the Word of Life. I beg that you will read it and find this out for yourselves … When you have read the Bible you will know it is the Word of God, because you will have found in it the key to your own heart …
-(signed) Woodrow Wilson.”

General John J. Pershing wrote a Preface of the New Testament & Book of Psalms, August 10, 1917:

“To the American Soldier aroused against a nation waging war in violation of all Christian principles …

Hardships will be your lot, but trust in God will give you comfort; temptation will befall you, but the teachings of our Savior will give you strength.
-(signed) Pershing, Comdg.”

In 1917, former President Theodore Roosevelt inscribed the foreword to a pocket New Testament & Psalms given to World War I soldiers, published by the New York Bible Society:

“The teachings of the New Testament are foreshadowed in Micah’s verse (Micah vi. 8): ‘What more does the Lord require of thee than to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’

Do Justice; and therefore fight valiantly against the armies of Germany and Turkey, for these nations in this crisis stand for the reign of Moloch and Beelzebub on this earth.
-(signed) Theodore Roosevelt.”

At the beginning of World War II, on January 25, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote the prologue of a special Gideons’ edition of the New Testament & Book of Psalms distributed to millions of soldiers:

“As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States …
-(signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

In December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, General George M. Patton had Chaplain Fr. James O'Neil compose a prayer. It was printed on on a quarter of a million cards and distributed to the soldiers of the Third Army:

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle.

Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.”

Five Star General Douglas MacArthur, who was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific during World War II, told West Point cadets, May 1962:

“The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training-sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those Divine attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in His own image …

No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.”

When FDR died in office, his Vice-President, Harry S Truman, swore in the next President with his hand upon a Gideons Bible on April 12, 1945.

Truman, who had served in the military as a captain in World War I, oversaw the end of World War II, and, with the intention of preventing future wars, the formation of the United Nations.

On August 28, 1947, President Harry S Truman wrote of America to Pope Pius XII:

“As the chosen leader of the people of the United States I am privileged to pledge full faith to you once again to work with Your Holiness and with every agency of good the world over for an enduring peace.

An enduring peace can be built only upon Christian principles. To such a consummation we dedicate all our resources, both spiritual and material, remembering always that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it …’”

Truman continued:

“Your Holiness, this is a Christian Nation. More than a half century ago that declaration was written into the decrees of the highest court in this land.

It is not without significance that the valiant pioneers who left Europe to establish settlements here, at the very beginning of their colonial enterprises, declared their faith in the Christian religion and made ample provision for its practice and for its support.

The story of the Christian missionaries who in earliest days endured perils, hardship–even death itself in carrying the message of Jesus Christ to untutored savages is one that still moves the hearts of men …”

He added:

“As a Christian Nation our earnest desire is to work with men of good will everywhere to banish war and the causes of war from the world whose Creator desired that men of every race and in every clime (region) should live together in peace, good will and mutual trust

I believe that the greatest need of the world today, fundamental to all else, is a renewal of faith.

I seek to encourage renewed faith in the dignity and worth of the human person in all lands, to the end that the individual’s sacred rights, inherent in his relationship to God and his fellows, will be respected in every land.

We must have faith in the inevitable triumph of truth and decency; faith that mankind shall live in freedom, not in the chains of untruth nor in the chains of a collectivist organization …”

Truman concluded:

“Through faith, the purposes of God shall be carried out in the hearts and deeds of Man.

I believe with heartfelt conviction that those who do not recognize their responsibility to Almighty God cannot meet their full duty toward their fellow men.”

In 1947, during the Truman Administration, the U.S. Corp of Cadets required:

“Attendance at chapel is part of a cadet’s training; no cadet will be exempted. Each cadet will receive religious training in one of the three particular faiths: Protestant, Catholic or Jewish.”

In 1949, the U.S. Naval Academy required:

“All Midshipmen, except those on authorized outside church parties, shall attend Sunday services in the chapel.”

President Dwight Eisenhower had served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War II.

On August 17, 1955, he authorized the code of conduct for U.S. soldiers, which stated:

“I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life.

I am prepared to give my life in their defense … If captured … I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy …

I will never forget I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.

I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”

The Missing Man Table to remember Prisoners of War has traditionally had a Bible placed on it to represent the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

President Eisenhower referred to four chaplains (2 Protestant, 1 Catholic, and 1 Jewish) who gave life-jackets to to save four sailors when the U.S.A.T Dorchester was hit by a Nazi torpedo, February 3, 1943. The chaplains were last seen together in prayer as the ship sank.

Eisenhower stated February 7, 1954:

“And we remember that, only a decade ago, aboard the transport Dorchester, four chaplains … willingly sacrificed their lives so that four others might live …

Our common faith in God is a common bond among us … ‘In God is Our Trust.’”

President Eisenhower stated December 24, 1953, lighting the National Christmas Tree:

“George Washington long ago rejected exclusive dependence upon mere materialistic values.

In the bitter and critical winter at Valley Forge, when the cause of liberty was so near defeat, his recourse was sincere and earnest prayer …

As religious faith is the foundation of free government, so is prayer an indispensable part of that faith.”

Eisenhower broadcast from the White House for the American Legion’s Back-to-God Program, February 7, 1954:

“As a former soldier, I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives.

In battle, they learned a great truth - that there are no atheists in the foxholes. They know that in time of test and trial, we instinctively turn to God for new courage.”

President Dwight Eisenhower stated at the opening of the White House Conference of Mayors, December 14, 1953:

“I want to point out something about fighting - about war … The winning of war - the effectiveness in such things - is in the heart, in the determination, in the faith.

It is in our beliefs in our country, in our God, everything that goes to make up America.”

President Eisenhower, February 20, 1955, stated for the American Legion Back-To-God Program:

“The Founding Fathers … recognizing God as the author of individual rights, declared that the purpose of Government is to secure those rights …

But in many lands the State claims to be the author of human rights … If the State gives rights, it can - and inevitably will - take away those rights.

Without God, there could be no American form of Government, nor an American way of life.

Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first — the most basic — expression of Americanism. Thus the Founding Fathers saw it, and thus, with God’s help, it will continue to be …

Veterans realize, perhaps more clearly than others, the prior place that Almighty God holds in our national life.”

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