Psalm 121:5 (NIV)
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
"Pilot to bombardier, you have the plane." Jeff spoke with confidence.
He had been deep in prayer before this mission, that the Lord would help him find a way to witness to his crew. Many times before taking off on a mission he would pray for their safe passage and back. Of the ten men aboard his B-17F Flying Fortress, six were saved. Perhaps that was one of the reasons for so many successful missions without even one loss of life.
"Were over the target Captain….bombs away." Came the static ridden voice of Lt. Don Martin.
Captain Jeff Lloyd, or Captain Preach as he was affectionately called, was a man of conviction. He prayed to the Lord before, during and after every mission. Back at home in Tampa Florida, he had two kids and a wonderful wife that he was praying to return to one day soon. They seemed so far away from this bombing run here in Germany.
The co-pilot Charles Wilson was also a devoted man of God that often prayed with Jeff right there in the cockpit. It was seldom these days anyone made fun of you praying since no one wanted to take a chance of making the Big Man upstairs mad. Not when you were flying a glorified paper plane with four 1200-horse power Cyclone engines on board.
Sergeant Paul Wilson, the top turret gunner, jokes a lot about not dropping a sharp pencil on the floor. The government would get pretty sore at us jabbing holes in their quarter of a million dollar toy.
Don yelled with excitement to Jeff "Captain, bandits at one o'clock high". The tail gunner continued the sentence in a shaky voice " Captain bandits at six o'clock low. My God there are too many sir."
Suddenly the fortress of fifty and thirty calibre guns came to life. Jeff spoke into the radio " Men I know that all of you do not trust in the Lord, but I am going to pray for us right now." The radio was silent for a moment then the words were heard. ""Captain pray in a hurry. Help us Jesus….bandits at three o'clock " yelled the waist gunner Sergeant John Carr.
Throughout the aircraft the bullets could be heard leaving the guns as also the enemies bullets could be heard passing through the thin skin-tight structure. Three of the bomber group had already become balls of flaming streaks, bellowing through the bright blue skies. Wave after wave of Mitsubishi fighters seemed to keep coming with little relief.
By this time the fighters were taking their toll on the massive fortress of firepower. The starboard engine was beginning to smoke as Captain Lloyd pulled the fire extinguisher switch on number one engine and feathered the prop. The crew knew the loss of even one engine would slow them down and they would lose the safety of numbers, if there were such a thing. The plane began again to shake and started a slight roll to the left. "Captain we have lost some aileron and elevator authority." Shouted Charles from the co-pilot seat.
The waist gunner called up and said there were big chunks of the aileron and elevator missing. Jeff began to whisper under his breath as he and Charles struggled to maintain control of the war ship. The second starboard engine now broke out in flames and still another fire extinguisher was engaged. Using the rudders to compensate the battle of keeping the plane in the air seemed almost an impossible feat as finally the fighters broke away.
Captain Lloyd spoke hesitantly into the radio microphone "fellows it will take a miracle of God to get us back home. We lost quite a bit of fuel when we took the hits to our starboard wing. I would say we need to all pray for God's protection until we get back to English waters."
With the aircraft shaking and moaning, Charles began to lead the crew in the Lord's prayer. "Our Father who art in Heaven, hollowed be thy name….."
Suddenly the Top Turret gunner broke through "Captain bandits at twelve o'clock high". This brought sweat to the brow of all the men on board. Of all the armament on board, the front of the aircraft was the most vulnerable. As Charles and Jeff gripped the steering yoke they prepared for the worst and continued to pray.
Sergeant Mark Parks, the radio operator began to sing "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." As suddenly as the Mitsubishi's appeared they seem to be terrified and break off their attack. Jeff and Charles thanked the Lord for his protection as they continued toward the English coast. As they lowered their landing gear and touched down, there was not a man on board not thanking God for his hand in their deliverance back home in one piece.
On the mission briefing Major Butler, walked up to Captain Lloyd and with a puzzled look ask "Captain we intercepted a transmission from enemy fighters. We have been checking codebooks but we are puzzled. This pilot said they were approaching an enemy B-17 to make the kill when they saw angels on the wings with fiery swords drawn. They immediately withdrew. Do you know what they were talking about?"
"Yes sir Major" Jeff said with a grin, "Those were just the angels God sent to protect us Major" and with a salute the young Captain walked over to where his men were sitting and sat down. The Major was still standing there scratching his head.
God’s angels are there to watch over you. Are you calling upon His name to protect and guide you?
Dear Lord, we thank You for the protection You give to each of us. We pray that we will never fail top trust You and call upon You in the good and bad times. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.