Our Amazing Journey Into Living History
My only regret is that I didn’t teach ALL my kids history this way! For years most of my kids just read in history books at their own level, good history books, to be sure. There is some point at which it is helpful for perspective to read a history text so your kids can see where things happened in the whole scheme of things. But, let’s face it! If you read a history book, there is so much information to cover that, for instance, their may be one chapter on any particular time period.
Let me tell you what we’ve been doing and how it has revolutionized our learning- I say OUR because I’ve been learning along with the kids and I’m excited about it!! I think it all started when I was doing research for my book, For You They Signed, which is about the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. I felt like I was uncovering rare treasure and grew to realize how wanting my education of history truly was! So, as I researched about the Revolutionary period, I got resources to share with my kids about the same period and consequently, we spent an entire year on the American War for Independence- studying it through the lives of those who lived it, by studying primary source documents and it was incredible what we learned!
The following year, I decided we would again do a time period. We chose World War II, as my dad had fought in the Pacific arena. We studied all the campaigns he was involved in, and as we did we studied it by reading biographies and accounts of real people who lived it. Kids remember stories! And through true stories of the lives of others, they learn the history surrounding those events in a way they will never forget.
For instance, we read about the Doolittle raiders who bombed Tokyo. We read of one of those raiders, a man named Jake DeShazer who fulfilled his mission, but then ran out of gas and was forced to crash-land over Japan-infiltrated China. He was captured by the Japanese, and tortured for almost 4 years. During the end of that time, he and his fellow captors were given 4 books to share, one being the Bible. Jake began to read it, gave his life to Christ, and shortly after was released at the end of the war. He returned to the states, went to Bible college and then returned to Japan as a missionary and shared Christ with some of the very men who had tortured him! As a result, a man named Mitsuo Fuchida, the very man who had led the raid on Pearl Harbor, came into possession of one of Jake’s tracks entitled, “I Was A Prisoner of the Japanese”. Overcome with the incredible forgiveness displayed in Jake’s testimony, he obtained a Bible, began to read it, and also gave his life to Christ. He and Jake DeShazer would often team tag and preach the gospel throughout Japan!!! Now, how’s that for a story of God’s providence and grace your kids will never forget?
To take it a step further, we began contacting a few veterans we knew who had participated in World War II, and then our vision was expanded even more! I thought maybe we’d be bugging these guys by asking if we could come to their homes and video them as they shared their experiences with us, but I continue to be amazed at how they seem to actually appreciate our asking- as if we are doing them some kind of favor. Even more than before, my kids and I are committed to showing them the honor due to them as we learn of the hardships they suffered so that we today can enjoy freedom they fought to preserve!! As time has gone on, we have felt a drive to seek out World War II vets as they are growing very old, and soon they will no longer be on this earth. Learning history from the people who lived it will never compare to just reading a history text. It is so exciting, it instills honor in our lives, and increases our ministry as we then continue developing relationships with these men (and their wives, in many cases) who have so much insight into that period of time in the history of our country.
As we met with vets and told others what we were doing, we made more and more contacts. We’ve even approached vets in the store or restaurant who are wearing World War II vet caps. As we extend our hand and offer our appreciation for their service to our country, many will become teary eyed, thanking us for thanking them!! I can’t even begin to describe how this will affect your kids and build character in their lives as they reach out to others!
Let me end by telling you just one example- We met with a man who is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis. I’d never really heard anything about that ship before. It was chosen to deliver atomic bomb parts and ½ of the uranium our country owned at the time to the island of Tinian (by the way, we also met another man, a former Marine who guarded the aircraft Enola Gay before it took off for Hiroshima). The Indy delivered her cargo in record time and was headed back to her next assignment when she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, struck twice, and consequently sunk in 12 minutes. Of the crew of over 1100 men, approx. 800 men survived the initial attack and abandoned ship, expecting the Navy to realize they were missing and come rescue them. Through a series of blunders (and I’m leaving out LOTS of incredibly interesting info), the Navy lost track of them and the men spent the next 5 nights and 4 days in the ocean in heavily shark- infested waters, most of them with no food or water except for one small rain shower.
By an act of God’s providence a pilot who was having trouble with his communications antennae descended pretty low, opened his Bombay door to reach out and try to pull his defective equipment in , when he saw an oil slick on the water. Thinking it to be a Japanese submarine, he flew down lower and saw men, black with oil floating in shark infested waters. He radioed for help, thinking the men must be Japanese since he had no reports of an American ship that was missing. The first PBY to arrive landed on the rough seas against protocol when he witnessed men being attacked by sharks and saw more sharks then men. He filled his plane with men, ran out of room, and began tying men on the wings of his plane. When he ran out of room, he piled the men on top of each other until a rescue ship finally arrived about midnight.
Three weeks ago, we traveled to NC to meet with Mr. Outland, a survivor of that ordeal! He told his story through the shedding of tears. Rick, our som Tucker, our daughters Kelley and Kasey and myself were present. I don’t think we’ll ever be the same. Yesterday we attended a presentation by another survivor’s son and then spent the entire afternoon with him as we learned about his dad’s experiences. We are now in contact with another survivor, a born again Christian who points to God’s providence in his life throughout the entire experience. We are also arranging for one of the men who was on the USS Bassett, one of the rescue ships, to come and do a presentation at our church about his experiences in rescuing many of the 317 men, who survived. Yes, only 317 out of over 800. The rest were eaten by sharks, or died from exposure or weakness.
I could tell you of Mr Overstreet, the flying ace of World War II who flew his plane underneath, yes underneath, the Eiffel Tower to shoot down a German Messerschimdt (and that’s only one exciting story- he had many to tell us)! Or of Mr Furrow, who survived a kamikaze attack on the USS Franklin, or Mr Huddleston, who was one of the Bedford boys, who providentially broke his ankle during the final days of training for the invasion on Omaha Beach and therefore survived to tell us of his experiences when the majority of his buddies were mowed down as they were the first wave onto the beach on D-Day. The list goes on and our list of vets to interview grows!
We feel compelled to press on as our time for World War II vets grows short. After that, we’ll do Korean vets, Vietnam vets, etc. I might also add, we ask their wives about life during the depression, rationing, what they did for entertainment, what it was like having their husband or fiancée gone. We pray for our new friends each night, we keep in touch with many of them and our life is enriched beyond measure. I want to keep their stories alive for the next generation. We’re working on preserving some of their stories now so we can pass them on to you and your children, but consider today to teach your kids living history! You’ll be teaching them character at the same time and you will learn to be a blessing in the lives of men who were willing to fight so you could raise your children in a free country! Teach your kids honor by honoring and blessing those who gave so much for you!!