Years ago, I experienced a series of events that made me feel that God had a plan for me.
The first event occurred many years ago, during World War II, when I was an 18 year old United States Marine, awaiting in a Guard Company at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, to be shipped out to a combat unit somewhere in the Pacific. Often, I found myself walking a lonely post either late at night or in predawn darkness.
I hated these duties; the truth was that I was afraid of the dark, and becoming a Marine had not changed me into the tough, fearless superman that I somehow thought it would. I was still the same 140 pound, five foot nine, scared of the dark kid that I had always been, the only difference being that I was now dressed in a Marine uniform and carrying, slung on my shoulder, a cheaply made submachine gun derisively called a grease gun, that bore, stamped on its barrel, the name of the same manufacturer that had made the BB gun that I had left at home, THE DAISY AIR RIFLE COMPANY.
On the night of this first event, I found myself at 2 AM walking between towering stacks of lumber that created narrow alley like paths between their high walls. The thick, cold bay fog closed in, and the soft moan of a foghorn sounded from the distance. From time to time a full moon would briefly peek out of the high overhead fog.
Something was moving in the fog ahead of me. As it drew closer it took on the form of a large, heavyset man slowly advancing. The night before someone had fired on one of our guards, and an attempt had been made to sabotage a destroyer being repaired to be sent back into combat in the Pacific. Aware of these events, I summoned up my best imitation of a tough Marine’s voice and, still sounding like a scared teenager, called out “Halt!” The form in the darkness kept advancing. “Halt, Halt or I’ll shoot.” The form kept advancing.
As if possessing a mind of its own, the submachine gun slipped from my shoulder and assumed the firing position, aimed directly at the advancing man’s chest, and my hand, as it had been trained to do, began to squeeze with the trigger finger firmly in position. Now, it was as if a millisecond became an eternity and from somewhere far in the distance of my mind I heard the words, “Thou shall not kill.” As if summoned by those words, the entire scene was suddenly bathed in soft white light as the moon came into a clearing in the fog, and I saw the figure of an old man with a wire running from his ear to his shirt pocket. I realized that the old fellow was wearing a hearing aid that he had failed to turn on, and my trigger finger relaxed. He was now no longer a millisecond from death.
I permitted the man to advance and as he came closer I summoned my best Marine Corps voice and said, “Don’t ever walk around here with your hearing aid turned off. I almost shot you.” Apparently he had turned it on, as when he turned to leave he called out, “I’m going now sonny, don’t shoot me.”
A short time later I was shipped out to Guadal Canal and Bougainville. When the war ended my unit was placed on a slow moving LST, Landing Ship Tank, and sent via New Guinea and the Philippines, to North China, where we took part in the repatriation of the Japanese troops in that area while keeping the rail lines open for General Stillwell’s troops coming up from Burma, to oppose the Chinese Communists. In reality it was an opening gun in the Cold War.
When we stopped for two weeks on the Island of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, I found myself, late one night returning from the bombed out ruins of the town of Zamboango, where I had dodged rocks thrown by the monkeys that clambered over the destroyed buildings.
Foolishly, I had chosen to return alone by way of a jungle trail. As I jogged along the trail, I became aware that someone whose footsteps made no sound was following me. I saw the glow of a lit cigarette and the dim shape of a man who did not respond to my hail. Sensing danger, I increased my speed only to have my pursuer increase his. I maneuvered to the right and the left with my every move being copied. Relief flooded over me as, up ahead in a clearing I saw the familiar gull shape of the wings of our Marine Fighter Planes. There would be a Marine guard. There would be protection. As I jogged in between the planes and saw the cigarette glow fade into the darkness, a soft but commanding voice called, “Halt, don’t move, don’t move.” A Marine guard approached and said, “I had this carbine trained on you temple and the trigger half pulled. This is not my carbine. I drew the wrong carbine tonight for the first time since I’ve been in the Marines. My own carbine has a hair trigger.”
“What saved me?” I asked.
“The Moon came out just as I was about to take up the slack in the trigger and I saw the globe and anchor on your cap. Stay out of this area. The Japs don’t care about the war being over. They are coming in here at night and tossing grenades into the cockpits of these planes. I have orders to shoot to kill.”
Mail had failed to catch up with us for some time while we were in China. I was sent back to the United States before I could learn that my mother had died of cancer, my father had taken his own life, my young first wife had left me, and that my home had been sold. I almost gave in to the feeling that I should start drinking and toss everything, but I was saved by the feeling that God must have had a reason to spare my life.
I survived the war to return, attend college, teach school, and to now be employed as a private tutor to Japanese citizens, the children of Flight Instructors for Japan Air Lines, here in Napa, California, or that I have been happily married for 55 years and am the father of 4 wonderful grown children all of whom are college graduates and involved in socially useful employment, or have a grandson who is describe by his physic professor as the most talented student he has ever encountered, or another grandson who has the skill, intelligence, talent, drive and desire to become a heart surgeon. I survived to tutor the son of a Spanish speaking Farm Laborer who is now attending Stanford on a scholarship, or that Jota Miayzaki, a Japanese boy who was not considered intelligent enough to attend college, was at my insistence given the chance that placed him currently in college in Tokyo.
I am now 76 years old and have lived through two major cancer operations.
Perhaps God still requires my services.