Thursday, January 08, 2015

Plane crash, war hero and God

No, this isn’t about Louis Zamperini, featured in the movie “Unbroken”.

In her 1944 book “The great answer” popular American author Margaret Lee Runbeck (1905-1956) writes about Eddie Rickenbacker’s 24 day ordeal in 1942 when the WWI hero was touring bases during WWII and the plane went down leaving the crew to drift for 24 days in the Pacific.  Runbeck writes about millions of people praying for him as a personal experience (very moving), “We waited and we did see.  Some of us almost gave up. But not the taxi-driver, nor the boy with the shoe-shine box, nor Joe who sells papers, nor Mrs. McGinty.  Nor Mrs. Rickebacker.  Nor I.”  She tells about the thrill and excitement when the newspapers reported the rescue and then reading down the column, “Four paragraphs down it was, in my newspaper, that word occurred.  “God.”  You don’t often meet it in a newspaper.  It gave you a funny feeling.  And more than that.  A strange excited feeling, as if something good had happened to all of us.”  She goes on to tell his story (with 6 witnesses) that Rickenbacker told of a gull lighting on his head, and his catching and killing it for the starving men to eat. 

"And this part I would hesitate to tell, except that there were six witnesses who saw it with me. A gull came out of nowhere, and lighted on my head -- I reached up my hand very gently--I killed him and then we divided him equally among us. We ate every bit, even the little bones. Nothing ever tasted so good."

She says everyone was talking about it, that gull and Eddie. Then after a few weeks he went on a speaking tour and something happened to the story. When it came to God’s part, or the millions praying, that had all been toned down and Rickenbacker had new, more sophisticated explanation for what had happened. Runbeck says she was very disappointed with the story that later ran in Life magazine. However, years later, after her death,  Billy Graham includes Rickenbacker’s story in his book Angels and says Rickenbacker became a Christian through the experience and told Graham God had sent an angel (p. 4).

Billy Graham also is featured in the Zamperini story, although not in the movie Unbroken.  The conversion story is left out of the movie.

From comments at a website selling old books, about The Great Answer by Runbeck.

“The Great Answer was a book that had come to me in a pile of books belonging to someone who had "moved on". I was riveted with the humility, the sincerity of each character in the book. This was a time when I was a pre-teen, and in the face of devastating bombing attacks on ships, on London, and on English country towns, people were saved from death and destruction by their simple trust in God. Their prayers and steadfast dedication in praying in the middle of the worst of the German attacks on England over a period of years, was very humbling. Sometimes the house the person lived in was reduced to rubble, to dust! But they walked away without harm. One woman walked out of concentration camp in Germany under the very eyes of the two guards on duty! People, clinging to pieces of planks,floated in the sea for three weeks before being picked up, but all were saved by the prayers of an older woman who had worked as a missionary. This book should be on the shelves of every home in every country.”

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