On Saturday, March 25th, North Carolina native Oscar Davis Jr. finally received the Purple Heart he earned during WWII exactly 72 years, one month and two weeks ago. Davis had been assigned to “Animal” Company of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was wounded while serving as a radiotelephone operator during the Battle of the Bulge.
Pvt. Davis was knocked down by a piece of German shrapnel while his unit was under shellfire. The radio on his back protected him from immediate death. The shells struck a nearby tree, which fell on Davis, causing a spinal injury that paralyzed him from the waist down for three weeks. Once Davis recovered, he rejoined his unit in Germany.
Davis had been told years ago that he would receive the Purple Heart, an award that recognizes troops wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States. Unfortunately, the paperwork for the award was never signed.
The medal ceremony took place in a dining room at Heritage Place in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The 92 year-old veteran was smiling as Lt. Col. Marcus Wright, commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, pinned it to his jacket. “This has been some day,” said Davis. “I couldn’t believe all this was going to happen. I just want to thank the Lord.”
Family and friends of Davis’ attended the ceremony, along with soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 82nd Airborne Division.
“All I can say about this is ‘Wow’,” Lt. Col. Wright said. “I’m absolutely honored to be here today.” Wright presided over the whole event.
After the medal was awarded, soldiers from A Company presented Davis with a unit coin and a shirt. Dozens of people lined up to shake Davis’ hand. The medal ceremony was the result of almost two years of work undertaken by the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based organization that helps veterans receive the awards that are owed to them. Volunteers searched an entire archive of war reports for proof of Davis’ injuries, said foundation director John Elscamp. In 2015, the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation helped Davis receive the Bronze Star and other awards that he had earned but never collected.
When Nazi forces occupied Austria in 1938, George Weidenfeld had only just turned eighteen. Without the help and generosity of Christians during World War II, Weidenfeld would probably not have lived to see his 95th birthday this year.
One of many other Jewish youths, Weidenfeld was evacuated from Nazi-occupied Austria through Christian-led programs and sent to England. Upon arriving in England, Weidenfeld was given food and clothing and help finding a place to live.
With Christian persecution on the rise all over the globe, Weidenfeld is making an effort to repay the kindnesses done to him during World War II. Weidenfeld has started a new program, the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund, aimed to rescue persecuted Christians from the Middle East.
Over the next two years, the program plans to rescue a projected 2,000 Christians from Iraq and Syria.
In an interview with The Times of London, Weidenfeld stated, “I had a debt to repay. It applies to so many young people who were brought on the Kindertransports. It was the Quakers and other Christian denominations who brought those children to England. It was (a) very high-minded operation, and we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians.”
The program has already completed its first rescue, transporting 150 Syrian Christians to Poland on a privately chartered plane.
Mary Doyle Keefe, model for Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” poster was a symbol of power for American women on the homefront during World War II.
Last Tuesday, Keefe passed away in her home in Connecticut at the age of 92. Her daughter told the press she suffered from a brief illness before her death.
Keefe met Rockwell in her hometown of Arlington, Vermont. At age 19, Keefe worked as a telephone operator. Rockwell paid her 10 dollars to sit and model for the painting for two sessions.
The image was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943.
Keefe was petite as a teenager, so Rosie’s burly figure is mostly the product of Rockwell’s artistic embellishment.
“Other than the red hair and my face, Norman Rockwell embellished Rosie’s body,” said Keefe in an interview in 2012. “I was much smaller than that and did not know how he was going to make me look like that until I saw the finished painting.”
Keefe received a letter from Rockwell twenty-four years after she modeled, telling her she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and apologizing for the burly body in the painting.
“I did have to make you into a sort of a giant,” he wrote.
The painting was used in the 1940s as propaganda to sell war bonds. Today, the painting is on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.
According to an obituary, Keefe graduated from Temple University with a degree in dental hygiene, worked as a hygienist in Vermont where she lived with her husband of 55 years, Robert Keefe. The two had four children together. Keefe spent the last eight years of her life in a retirement community in Connecticut.
“I want you to know that what’s being offered to you is not just a film, this is a life changer,” actor Shia LaBeouf recalled director David Ayer telling him. “We’re going to push it all the way to the edge. I want you to make this movie like you’ll never make another movie. You’re going to die on this set.”
The next day, LaBeouf began preparations for the film, “Fury.” Through National Guard training, the actor learned to work as a medic, a gunner, and shadowed an army chaplain.
He also embraced a radical spiritual conversion.
“I found God doing ‘Fury,’” LaBeouf told Interview Magazine. “I became a Christian man.”
In the WWII action melodrama — rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout — LaBeouf plays Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan. Serving in a tank squadron under the command of Brad Pitt’s character, Don “Wardaddy” Collier, Swan’s Christian faith often sets him apart from the other men.
“I could have just said the prayers that were on the page,” LaBeouf said. “But it was a real thing that really saved me . . . . It’s a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control. And while there’s beauty to that, acting is all about control. So that was a wild thing to navigate.”
LaBeouf described the film’s writer and director, Ayer, as “a full subscriber to Christianity.”
Having served in the military, Ayer strived to depict the spiritual and emotional struggles soldiers face — both in WWII and the wars of today.
In an interview with Relevant, Ayer described the paradox of warfare as “the nobility of knowing what you’re going to see and expose yourself to and the moral hazards that you’re going to experience in undertaking your duty with honor and with pride.”
“There’s great nobility in that,” he said. “I don’t know if people understand those things, and I want people to get a little insight into that.”
In addition to tackling the moral struggles defining military service, “Fury” illuminates the challenges faced by Christian soldiers.
“It was important to me to show how someone can lean on Scripture and their relationship with Christ in an environment where they’re seeing this much inhumanity and destruction,” Ayer said.
Ayer utilized LaBeouf’s character to depict the persevering strength flowing from a foundational Christian faith.
“It’s fascinating that, because of his faith, [the character is] not unafraid of dying, but he’s able to accept it and doesn’t see it as the end of the road,” Ayer said. “It’s hard to bring Scripture to life in a realistic and impactful way in film.”
It remains to be seen whether LaBeouf’s new faith will transform the celebrity’s lifestyle — recently tarnished by his arrest for criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, and harassment.
“I’m trying to find a way to have some control over my actions, my behavior, my ideas, my thoughts, my path in life,” LaBeouf said. “But it’s very new for me.
“My work in my film and my work in my life have influenced who I’ve become. Life imitates art. And so a lot of my choices, these characters that I’ve been playing, have actually built a person, they’ve raised me. So I’ve just been more careful about my choices. I’ve taken control back. After calamity comes hope. And I do feel a deep hopefulness in my life and in my work.”
Ayer wanted “Fury” to reflect this hope. “I’m a big believer that, no matter who you are, there’s redemption for you, and there is forgiveness,” Ayer said.
“Fury” hit theaters on October 17. Described as a “war horror film” by the New Yorker, the film was praised for its accurately traumatic, though graphic, depiction of WWII.
For more information and showtimes, click here.
In December 1938, Nicholas Winton, a 29 year old stockbroker, was planning a ski trip when his friend contacted him saying, “I’m in Prague. I have a most interesting assignment and I need your help. Don’t bother bringing your skis.”
Upon arrival in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Winton witnessed the horror of the treatment of Jewish families by the Nazi Gestapo. He began to work alongside his friend at a refugee camp for Jews fleeing annexed Western Czechoslovakia.
Winton was particularly disturbed by the treatment of Jewish children and, feeling the inevitably impending war, began to fundraise and organize a means of evacuating the children from Czechoslovakia to England.
For the following nine months, Winton assisted in operating the Czech Kindertransport. A total of eight trains carried children from Czechoslovakia through Germany into Holland. From there, the children were transported by ship to England and placed in foster homes in London.
Winton recorded the names and photos of 669 children whom he safely placed in the hands of English homes, away from Nazi violence in Czechoslovakia.
However, the last train to be sent out of Czechoslovakia on September 1, 1939, carrying 251 children, was intercepted by the Gestapo due to Nazi armies closing the nation’s borders. The children were never again seen. This devastating circumstance tormented Winton, and he never spoke of his involvement with the Kindertransport for the next 50 years.
In 1988, Winton’s wife, Grete, discovered his scrapbook containing all the information regarding his involvement in the Kindertransport. Upon this discovery, Winton’s friends and family convinced him to appear on the BBC program “That’s Life” to tell his story.
Winton was unknowingly seated surrounded by approximately 80 of “his children”—those whose lives he saved in his work during WWII. Click here to watch the video.
Since the world heard Nicholas Winton’s touching story, he received international recognition and honor. These awards include but are not limited to: Order of the British Empire (1983), Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Class IV (1998), Knight Bachelor (UK) (2002), Pride of Britain Awards (2003), Recognition H.R.538 from U.S. House of Representatives (2007), Cross of Merit of the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic, Grade I (2008), Nobel Peace Prize nomination (2008), British Hero of the Holocaust (2010), and the Golden Goody Award for Social Good (2013).
Winton has been recognized through media not only through the “That’s Life” special, but also in an Emmy-winning documentary entitled “Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good” (2002), narrated by one of “Winton’s kids” Joe Schlesinger, and also the 2011 documentary “Nicky’s Family.”
In honor of the 70th anniversary of the last Kindertransport mission, on September 1, 2009, the dedicated “Winton Train” made a voyage from the Prague Main Railway Station toward London via the original Kindertransport route. Several “Winton children” and their descendents were on board for the journey. At this time, Winton’s statue was also unveiled at the station.
Today, Winton’s scrapbook can be found at the Yad Vashem in Israel. On May 19, 2014, Winton celebrated his 105th birthday. He wears a ring given to him by the Winton children, inscribed with a line from the Talmud which reads, “Save one life, save the world” as a token of the appreciation for the gift of life Winton’s courageous acts provided for so many.