THAT WILL BE MORE THAN ENOUGH
The B-17 Flying Fortress was America’s workhorse heavy bomber during World War II.
Before Germany and Japan surrendered, 12,731 of the planes dropped more than 1.5 million tons of bombs.
Among the young men on those bombing runs were actors Clark Gable and James Stewart; NFL coach Tom Landry; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry; and future presidential candidate George McGovern, who piloted 35 missions in the “other Boeing,” the B-24.
The Flying Fortress had a reputation for toughness. It could withstand incredible damage, yet remain airborne.
Even so, the B-17’s and their 10-man crews were often sitting ducks for enemy fighters and flak.
Between 1942 and 1945, more than 40,000 American airmen never made it back home.
Elmer Bendiner, who would one day become a writer and journalist, served as navigator in the B-17 Tondelayo.
On a bombing run over Kassel, Germany, multiple shells ripped into the bomber. One of them hit the fuel tank.
Bendiner and the rest of the crew braced for the explosion that would bring their lives to a fiery end.
But it never happened. None of the other shells exploded, either.
In his book The Fall of Fortresses, Bendiner remembers, “Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 mm shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple.”
The morning after the bombing run, Fawkes had gone to the crew chief in the hope of retrieving a good-luck souvenir – the shell that had lodged in the fuel tank but failed to detonate.
All of the “duds” that had hit the Tondelayo, including the one in the fuel tank, had already been sent to the armorers to be defused.
There they made an astonishing discovery. They were empty – “clean as a whistle and just as harmless,” Fawkes told his navigator.
But one of them was not quite empty.
Inside was a piece of paper. There was a message on it, written in the Czech language. After a brief search, an American intelligence officer found someone who could read it.
It said, “This is all we can do for you now.”
Somewhere in a munitions factory – presumably in Nazi-occupied Czech territory, and presumably staffed by forced labor – someone had made a quiet, audacious decision.
One or more of the bomb-makers had decided not to arm their bombs. In the midst of a conflict that was tearing the world apart, and threatening the futures of millions of people, this was the one humble thing they could do.
And it saved 10 lives.
We can do the same.
Even if you’re not in a position of public authority today, you can be a servant. A few quiet acts of selflessness have more power to transform human hearts than a myriad of commands.
Even if you’re not rich, you can be, in the words of Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, a “smile millionaire.” Your willingness to smile can turn an uncertain conversation into an offer of friendship.
Even if you’re in the midst of major conflict, you don’t have to arm that bomb you were thinking of using. “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” says Proverbs 15:1.
Servanthood. Gentleness. Humility. Maybe that’s all you can do right now.
But that will be more than enough.
— Authored by Glenn McDonald
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