A letter from a young Marine named Michael who was wounded during the Korean War. Runs 10 minutes. Transcript below.
Merry Christmas everybody! My name is Lee Allan, and the story you are
about to hear has become a Christmas tradition. It's been broadcast for
over 25 years on radio stations all over America. The story was given
to me by Ed Harding, news director of a radio station much like this
one. It was a copy of a letter, written by a young Marine named
Michael, who was hospitalised after being wounded on a Korean
battlefield. The letter was written home to his mother, but it was
first seen and read by a Navy Chaplin. In the letter, Michael describes
what happened to him on that lonely, frozen battlefield. When the
Chaplin first saw the letter, he talked with the boy's mother, the
sergeant in charge of the boy's patrol, and the patrolled members
themselves. Privately, they will all still tell you that what you are
about to hear is a true story. Recently read the letter at Christmas
time and let it stand on its own merit. The sergeant, the patrol
members, and Michael are real people. The story is a letter, a copy of
the original. A letter from Michael.
I wouldn't dare write this letter to anyone but you because no one else
will believe it. Maybe even you will find it hard. But I've got to
tell somebody. First off, I'm in a hospital. Now don't worry. You
hear me? Don't…don't worry. I…I was wounded, but I'm okay. You
understand? Okay. The doctor says I'll 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 everyday? You really didn't have to tell me that.
Ever since I can remember, you always told me to pray to St. Michael
the Arc Angel. You even named me after him. Well I always have. 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."
You know the rest of it. Well I said it everyday. Sometimes when I was
marching. 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 forward, in the front lines. I was plotting
along, in the bitter cold. My breath was like cigar smoke. I thought I
knew every guy on the patrol, but along side of me comes another Marine
I had never met before. He was bigger than any Marine I had ever seen.
He must have been six foot four, and built in proportion. It gave me a
feeling of security to have such a buddy near. Anyway, there we were,
trudging along, 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'm talking about
the weather. My companion seemed to understand. 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." "Is that so?" I said. "That's my
name, too." "I know," he said. "And then we're on, "Michael, Michael
of the morning." I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. How
did he know my name? And the prayer that you had taught me. Then I
smiled to myself. "Heh". Every guy in the outfit knew about me. Hadn't
I taught the prayer to anyone who'd listen? Why now and then, they
even referred to me as St. Michael. Neither of us spoke for a time, and
then he broke the silence. "We're gonna have some trouble up ahead.
He must have been in some fine physical shape, for he was breathing so
lightly, I couldn't see his breath. Mine poured out in grape clouds.
There was no smile on his face now. Trouble ahead, I thought to myself.
Well, with the enemy all around us, that's no great revelation. Snow
began to fall, in great 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 to be correct.
In a few moments 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 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 and their padded pants and jackets and funny
little 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.
But 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
paralysed with fear. It happens sometimes, mom, even to the very
bravest. He was…he was like a bird, fascinated by a snick. At least,
that's what I thought then. I jumped up to pull him down, and felt a
sudden flame in my chest. I often wondered what it felt like to be hit.
Now I know. I remember feeling strong arms above me. Arms that laid
me, ever so gently, on a pillow of snow. I opened my eyes for one last
look. I was dying. 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 I saw Michael standing erect again, only this
time, his face was shining with terrible splendour. As I say, maybe it
was the sun in my eyes, 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. And that’s the last thing I remember until the rest of the
fellas 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. I remember
telling them that the enemy was 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 just before that big
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 gonna call you in when you disappeared in the
snow." He looked at me, curiously. "How'd you do it kid?" "How'd I do
what?" I asked, half angry, despite my wound. "This big Marine named
Michael and I were just…" "Son," said the sergeant kindly. "I picked
this outfit out myself, and there just ain't another Michael in it.
You’re the only Mike 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
there. I didn't say anything. What could I say? I could only look,
open-mouthed, with amazement. It was then the sergeant spoke again.
"Kid," he said gently. "Every one of those seven bodies over the hill
there was killed, by a sword stroke." That's all I could 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’s what happened.