If there are no atheists in foxholes, it’s likely there were few among the tens of thousands of Allied troops preparing to exit the landing crafts in the face of heavy German gunfire on the beaches of Normandy June 6, 1944 – D-Day.
That evening, as anxious families huddled around radios listening to news of the invasion of Western Europe, they were interrupted by President Frankin D. Roosevelt who led the country in prayer for “our sons, pride of our nation.” Surprisingly, FDR’s prayer, handwritten by the president and originally entitled “Let Our Hearts Be Stout,” is not included among the displays at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
To remedy that oversight, Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican, introduced legislation this past week urging Congress to support the World War II Memorial Prayer Project – sponsored by the Ohio Christian Alliance – and pass the legislation that would allow its inclusion at the memorial.
“President Roosevelt’s prayer gave solace, comfort and strength to our nation as we fought against tyranny and oppression,’ said Johnson. “Those words should be included among the tributes to the Greatest Generation memorialized on the National Mall. We’re humbled and grateful for the service of the men and women who fought in World War II. It is a fitting tribute to them to add onto their memorial the words Americans used to pray for their safe return home.”
The World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2011, co-sponsored by Reps. Steve Stiver Tim Ryan, both of Ohio, would require the Secretary of the Interior to place a plaque or inscription at the World War II Memorial this prayer. Discretion would be left up to the Department of the Interior on final placement. The cost for the plaque or inscription would be paid for by private donations from individuals.
Although new commemorative displays on the National Mall have been prohibited since 2003, plaques commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, historic speech at the Lincoln Memorial and Sen. Bob Dole’s efforts to build the World War II Memorial have been added in recent years.
‘This is just a way of paying honor and tribute to the great Americans who gave their lives in World War II,’ Johnson told the Columbus Dispatch.
The entire speech can be heard, here, or read, below:
My Fellow Americans:
Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest – until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them – help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too – strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment – let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace – a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.