Seventy-two years ago today, Lt. Col. Robert Lee Wolverton, commander of the American 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, assembled his men in preparation for their D-Day jump over Normandy. This is what he told them.
“Men, I am not a religious man and I don’t know your feelings in this matter, but I am going to ask you to pray with me for the success of the mission before us. And while we pray, let us get on our knees and not look down but up with faces raised to the sky so that we can see God and ask his blessing in what we are about to do:
God almighty, in a few short hours we will be in battle with the enemy. We do not join battle afraid. We do not ask favors or indulgence but ask that, if You will, use us as Your instrument for the right and an aid in returning peace to the world.
We do not know or seek what our fate will be. We ask only this, that if we must die, that we die as men would die, without complaining, without pleading and safe in the feeling that we have done our best for what we believed was right.
Oh Lord, protect our loved ones and be near us in the fire ahead and with us now as we pray to you.”
Not long after he and his men jumped, the 29-year-old Wolverton was dead, killed by German machine gun fire before his boots even landed on French soil.