Monday, December 06, 2004

America's Enemies - Past and Present

Here's a story I heard last night. You can read the full text in the Deseret News. Here's the main story:

....Several months later on Christmas Eve, I had just celebrated my 20th birthday on Dec. 21. We were on our way home from the Mediterranean approaching the Straits of Gibraltar on our way to the North Atlantic. We were happily bound for the East Coast of the good old USA. It was a stormy night that Christmas Eve, and I was once again on watch at the bow of the ship.

The sea was covered in white caps, which make it almost impossible to see "turkey feathers," a term we used to describe the white plume that flows behind a submarine's periscope when it is close to the surface. Understandably all of our thoughts were of home and of Christmas and of hopes of soon being with our families.

The past days had been unremarkable, and the sights, sounds and smell of the ocean lulled me into a sense of well-being. Then it all seemed to happen in an instant. I saw the plume of a periscope appear off the port side of our ship. It couldn't have been more than 100 yards away. I had no chance to ring the bridge this time. They must have seen the periscope at the same time I did because the ship was suddenly alive with alarms and shouts of men scurrying to their battle stations.

But there was no time to ready ourselves for a fight. There was no time to protect ourselves in any way. The submarine was already on us, rising up out of that choppy sea. The enemy had us dead to rights. I'll never forget what happened next.

There was a flashing. Dash dash, dot dot dash dot. I mouthed the letters as I saw the German submarine blinking its Morse code message. I couldn't believe what was I was seeing. M-E-R. Could I be reading it correctly? Another "R" and then, dash dot dash dash, a "Y." It was happening so fast as the second word flashed to us in the darkness. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. Then it was over. As fast as the U-boat had appeared it sank back into the blackness of the sea and was gone.

We all stood transfixed. No one moved for several seconds as we recovered from our shock and surprise. We had escaped death before by a twist of fate or maybe luck.

But on this Christmas Eve we had been given a gift. As the reality of what had just transpired and the words "Merry Christmas" took hold in our minds and then our hearts, we unitedly sent up a cheer. A cheer of relief, and of joy and true celebration.

I have had many wonderful Christmases since that Christmas Eve in 1944. I was able to marry and spend 56 years with my lovely wife and help to raise our three children.

Each consecutive Christmas has been surrounded by grandchildren and now, great-grandchildren. None of these memories would have ever been possible if it wasn't for that fortuitous night when the "enemy" gave a ship full of men the gift of peace and one of their best Christmas memories possible.

World War II has been described by many as the last good war. Here we had an enemy that was truly evil. They were bent on world domination and killed indiscriminately for no better reason than ethnic heritage and prejudices. Yet things like this happened. I've also heard stories of battlefields becoming quiet (though this may have been World War I) on christmas eve and enemies sharing a brief moment of peace together. How does this compare with our current enemy of radical Islam? Would something comparable to this happen in our current conflict? Could something like this happen? Give me your thoughts in the comments section.