Michael's Story

In Honor of Saint Michael, the Archangel
Feastday, September 29th

What follows is a letter written by a young Marine to his mother while he was hospitalized, after being wounded on a Korean battlefield, in 1950. It came into the hands of a Navy Chaplain, who read the letter before five thousand Marines at a San Diego Naval Base, in 1951. The Navy Chaplain had talked to the young man, to his mother, and to the sergeant in charge of the patrol. This Navy Chaplain, Father Walter Muldy, assures anyone who asks, that this is a true story. This letter was read once a year, in the 1960's, over a Midwestern radio station at Christmas time. The letter follows.

Dear Mom,

I wouldn't dare write this letter to anyone but you, because no one else would believe it. Maybe even you will find it hard, but I have to tell somebody. First off, I am in a hospital. Now don't worry; you hear me, don't worry! I was wounded but I'm okay. The doctor says that I will be up and around in a month. But that is not what I want to tell you.

Remember, when I joined the Marines last year--remember when I left, how you told me to say a prayer to Saint Michael every day? You really didn't have to tell me that. Ever since I can remember, you always told me to pray to Saint Michael the Archangel. You even named me after him. Well, I have always prayed to Saint Michael. When I got to Korea, I prayed even harder. Remember the prayer you taught me? "Michael, Michael of the morning, Fresh corps of Heaven adorning . . ." You know the rest of it. Well, I said it every day--sometimes when I was marching, or sometimes resting, but always before I went to sleep. I even got some of the other fellas to say it.

Well, one day I was with an advance detail way up over the front lines. We were scouting for Commies. I was plodding along in the bitter cold; my breath was cigar smoke. I thought I knew every guy in the patrol, when alongside of me comes another Marine I never met before. He was bigger than any other Marine I'd seen. He must have been over six feet four inches, and built in proportion. It gave me a feeling of security to have such a body near me.

Anyway, there we were trudging along. The rest of the patrol spread out. Just to start a conversation I said, "Cold, ain't it?" And then I laughed. Here I was, with a good chance of getting killed any minute, and I am talking about the weather! My companion seemed to understand. I heard him laugh softly. I looked at him. "I have never seen you before. I thought I knew every man in the outfit." "I just joined at the last minute," he replied. "The name is Michael." "Is that so," I said, surprised. "That's my name, too." "I know," he said, and then went on: "Michael, Michael of the morning . . ." He said the whole prayer.

I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. How did he know my name, and a prayer that you had taught me? Then I smiled to myself, every guy in the outfit knew about me. Hadn't I taught the prayer to anybody who would listen? Why, now and then, they even referred to me as "Saint Michael." Neither of us spoke for a time, and then he broke the silence. "We are going to have some trouble up ahead." He must have been in fine physical shape, for he was breathing so lightly I couldn't see his breath. Mine poured out in great clouds. There was no smile on his face now. Trouble ahead, I thought to myself. Well, with the Commies all around us, that was no great revelation. Snow began to fall in thick globs. In a brief moment the whole countryside was blotted out and I was marching in a white fog of wet sticky particles. My companion disappeared. "Michael!" I shouted in sudden alarm. I felt his hand on my arm; his voice was rich and strong. "This will stop shortly." His prophecy proved correct. In a few minutes, the snow stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun was a hard shining disc. I looked back for the rest of the patrol. There was no one in sight. We have lost them in the heavy fall of snow. I looked ahead as we came over a little rise. Mom, my heart stopped. There were seven of them--seven Commies in their padded pants and jackets and their funny hats. Only there wasn't anything funny about them now. Seven rifles were aimed at us. "Down, Michael!" I screamed, and hit the frozen earth. I heard those rifles fire almost as one. I heard the bullets. There was Michael, still standing. Mom, those guys couldn't have missed--not at that range. I expected to see him literally blown to bits. But there he stood, making no effort to fire himself. He was paralyzed with fear. It happens, sometimes, Mom, even to the bravest. He was like a bird fascinated by a snake. At least, that was what I thought then.

I jumped up to pull him down and that was when I got mine. I felt a sudden flame in my chest. I often wondered what it felt like to be hit. Now I knew. I remember feeling strong arms about me, arms that laid me ever so gently on a pillow of snow. I opened my eyes, for one last look. I thought I was dying. Maybe I was even dead. I remember thinking, well, this is not so bad. Maybe I was looking into the sun. Maybe I was in shock. But he seemed to change as I watched him. He grew bigger, his arms stretched out wide; maybe it was the snow falling again, but there was a brightness around him, like the wings of an angel. In his hand was a sword. A sword that flashed with a million lights.

Well, that is the last thing I remember until the rest of the fellas came up and found me. I do not know how much time passed. Now and then, I had but a moment's rest from the pain and fever. I remember telling them of the enemy just ahead. "Where's Michael?" I asked. I saw them look at one another. "Where's who?" Asked one. "Michael. Michael, that big Marine I was walking with just before the snow squall hit us." "Kid," said the sergeant, "you weren't walking with anyone. I had my eyes on you the whole time. You were getting too far out. I was just going to call you in, when you disappeared in the snow." He looked at me curiously. "How did you di it, kid?" "How did I do what?" I asked half angrily, despite my wound. "This Marine named Michael and I were just . . . "

"Son," said the sergeant kindly, "I picked this outfit myself, and there just ain't another Michael in it. You're the only Mike in it." He paused for a minute. "Just how did you do it, kid? We heard shots. There hasn't been a shot fired from your rifle. And there isn't a bit of lead in them seven bodies over the hill, there." I didn't say anything. What could I say? I could only look open-mouthed with amazement. The sergeant spoke again. "Kid," he said gently, "every one of those seven Commies was killed by a sword stroke."

That is all I can tell you, Mom. As I say, it may have been the sun in my eyes; it may have been the cold or the pain. But that is what happened.


Prayer to Saint Michael