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Untold Stories: How St. Michael Saved a U.S. Marine from Korean Communists
The unknown “Marine” suddenly shone with light, and the young Marine he rescued woke to find the Communist soldiers had been killed by sword-strokes.
There are so many inspiring, beautiful stories about the great heroes of American history which are scarcely ever told. One happens on them accidentally—buried in a thick, out-of-print biography, in small print on a museum sign, casually and fleetingly mentioned in an obscure educational video. America cannot return to greatness in the future if we do not truly understand the greatness of our past. That is why I am writing an article series to tell a few of these little-known but moving or illustrative “untold stories” of American greatness. Previous articles in this series include John Callendar, the coward who became a Patriot hero; how George Washington and the Revolutionary Army celebrated St. Patrick’s Day; how the slave John Washington escaped to freedom with the help of Union soldiers; unsung military heroes who remind us that we are a nation of heroes; and the story of the first Native American Indian university graduate, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck.
Today’s story is from the Korean War in 1950. In a letter to his mother, a young U.S. Marine named Michael related his extraordinary experience with a “Marine” whom Michael believed was really his patron, St. Michael the Archangel.
Fr. Walter Muldy, who spoke to Michael, his mother, and Michael’s sergeant, confirmed the story’s truth. Since yesterday was St. Michael’s feast, it seems peculiarly appropriate to remember the miracle that occurred in Korea.
The Bible relates how St. Michael the Archangel (whose name means, “Who is like God?”) battled Satan and the devils (Rev. 12:7-9), “And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (See also Daniel 12:1.)
Because of this Scripture passage, St. Michael is considered the patron of soldiers and warriors. And in 1950, St. Michael came down to protect a U.S. Marine who had always had a particular devotion to the archangel. Below is my transcription of the letter from a recording of Capt. Fr. Muldy reading the letter, via UCatholic (there are some gaps where the recording is difficult to understand; listen for yourself below):
I wouldn’t dare write this letter to anyone but you, because no one else would believe it. Maybe even you’ll find it hard, but I’ve got to tell somebody. First off, I’m in the hospital. Now, don’t worry, do you hear me? Don’t worry. I was wounded, but I’m okay, understand? Okay. The doctor says I will be up and around in a month.
But that isn’t 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 St. Michael every day? You really didn’t have to tell me that. Ever since I can remember, you always told me to pray to St. Michael the Archangel. You even named me after him…
When I got to Korea, I prayed even harder. Remember the prayer you taught me? ‘Michael, Michael of the morning, Fresh court of Heaven adorning…’1 you know the rest of it. Well, I said it every day. Sometimes, when I was marching, sometimes resting…I even got some of the other fellows to say it.
Well, one day I was with an advance detail way up over…the front line. We were scouting for the Commies. I was plodding along in the bitter cold, and my breath was like cigar smoke…and alongside of me comes another Marine [whom] I never met before, he was bigger than any Marine I’d ever seen. He must have been 6 foot 4 [inches], and built in proportion. He gave me a feeling of security…
Anyway, there we were, trudging along, the rest of the patrol spread out. Just to start a conversation, I said, ‘Cold, ain’t it?’ Then I laughed. Here I was with a good chance of getting killed any minute and I’m talking about the weather…I heard him laugh softly. I looked at him. ‘I’ve 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.’ ‘That so?’ I said in surprise. ‘That’s my name too.’ ‘I know,’ he says, and then went on, ‘Michael, Michael, of the morning.’
I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. ‘How did you know my name?’…then I smiled to myself. Every guy in the outfit knew about me. Hadn’t I taught the prayer to anyone who would listen? Why, now and then they even referred to me as ‘St. Michael.’
Neither of us spoke for a time. Then he broke the silence, ‘We’re going to have some trouble up ahead.’ He must have been in fine physical shape…he was breathing so lightly I couldn’t see his breath. Mine poured out [like a] cloud. There was no smile on his face now. ‘Trouble ahead,’ I thought to myself. Well, with the Commies all around us, that was no revelation.
The snow began to fall in great big blobs. In a brief moment the whole countryside was blotted out…[I was marching] in wet, sticky particles. My companion disappeared. ‘Michael!’ I shouted in sudden alarm. I felt his hand on my arm…‘This will stop’…His [prediction] appeared to be correct. In a few minutes the snow stopped as abruptly as it had begun…
I looked back to the rest of the patrol. There was no one in sight. We had lost them in that 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 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. There he stood, making no effort to fire himself. He was paralyzed with fear…he stood like a bear, fascinated by a snake; at least, that’s what I thought then.
I jumped up to pull him down. That’s when I got mine. I felt a sudden flame in my chest…I remember feeling strong arms about me, arms that laid me ever so gently on the…ground. I opened my eyes for one last look. ‘I’m dying,’ [I thought,] maybe I was even dead. I remember thinking, ‘Well, this isn’t so bad.’ Maybe I was looking into the sun, maybe I was in shock, but it seemed that I saw Michael standing erect again, only this time, his face was shining with a terrible splendor.
As I say, maybe it was the sun in my eyes, but he seemed to change as I watched him. He got 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 that flashed with a million lights.
And that’s the last thing I remember, till the rest of the fellows came up and found me. I don’t know how much time had passed, but now and then I had a moment’s respite 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 that I was walking with before the snow started.’ ‘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, and I was just going to call you in when you disappeared in the snow.’ He looked at me curiously. ‘How’d you do it, kid?’ ‘How did I do what?’ I asked, half-angry despite my wound. ‘This [Marine] named Michael and I were just—’ ‘Son,’ said the sergeant kindly, ‘I picked this outfit myself. There just ain’t another Michael in it. You’re the only Michael in it!’
He paused for a moment. ‘Just how’d 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.’ I didn’t say anything. What could I say?…And then the sergeant spoke again. ‘Kid,’ he said gently, ‘every one of those seven Commies over there is killed by a sword-stroke.’
And I can tell you, Mom, as I say, it may have been the sun in my eyes, it may have been the cold…but that’s what happened.
“For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.” —Psalm 90/91:11
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Michael, Michael of the morning
Fresh court of Heaven adorning,
Keep me safe today,
And in time of temptation
Drive the devil away. Amen.