Eddy was a fundamentalist who saw my conversion to Christianity as one of his life's sweeter goals. Thus, he inundated me with letters over the years, witnessing his evangelical faith. In the early 90's, he sometimes mailed me as many as three letters a week. After and before the early 90's, his letters were more intermittent. These particular letters were written between 2004 and 2006.
In particular, Eddy disdained Evolutionary Theory, and like many other fundamentalists, he favored a rather cartoonish version of recent European intellectual history that starts with Charles Darwin's:
- Theory of Evolution, which leads to;
- Social Darwinism, which leads to;
- Eugenics, which leads to;
- Naziism, which leads to;
Now, I finally opened these letters, and I read one that seemed unusually churlish, even for Eddy. My father had served as an artilleryman in the U.S. Army in Europe in WWII, as Eddy notes:
Marc: Social Darwinism is a demonic order that has violently claimed millions of lives. Ironic that your father fought to restore the moral order only to have a son who repudiates it. The shame shall be yours alone to bear. Repent!First, nations do not go to war to restore another nation's moral order. Plenty of nations have disordered moral orders, but we don't war against them. Nations might go to war to restore another nation's political order, however. America wasn't interested in the fact that bad Germans existed: there have always been bad Germans, and there always will be bad Germans. Instead, America went to war against Nazi Germany because it had become obvious that the Nazis were far too aggressive and dangerous to tolerate peaceably.
But then, I began to wonder, what did America's soldiers who fought in WWII think about what they were doing? What would my father have thought at the time? What did America's soldiers believe about why they were going to war?
As it turns out (as I've blogged before), there is a memoir, "Charlie of 666 - A Memoir of World War II", written by a soldier who served in a similar capacity as my father.
Corporal Nathan Blumberg was in Charlie Company of the 666th Field Artillery Battalion. My father, Marcial Valdez, served in Baker Company, which flanked Charlie Company in General Patton's Army. Blumberg was thus within a few miles of my dad's location the entire time they were in Europe, and thus Blumberg's memoir is an excellent proxy for what dad would have thought at the time.
But first, there was the striking number "666" to deal with.
So, the first question the artillerymen had to answer was: Why were they numbered 666, 'The Sign Of The Beast', and what did it mean? Corporal Blumberg relates:
My jubilation was enhanced by the striking irony that accompanied the new assignment: I was to be in a new outfit whose number is 666 "the sign of the Beast." My four assignments in the Army had provided overwhelming evidence that the military moves in mysterious ways, and we discussed the mystery. Was the choice of "666" the result of a rare example of military sense of humor, or an even rarer military sense of irony, or a premeditated military decision or simply another baffling military accident? Was Freud right when he said there are no "accidents"? Could it be one of those "coincidences" Jung insisted did not exist?Blumberg then mentions:
On a subsequent weekend pass I went to the library in Brownwood (Texas) to refresh my memory of the "Beast" described in the Book of Revelation in the King James version of the Holy Bible. There among its prophecies, was one telling of a great beast coming out of the earth, speaking as a dragon, with two sheep's horns - or, in some interpretations, two rays - emerging from its head (Rev. 13:11). As a new artilleryman, I was taken with the prophecy that "he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men" (Rev. 13:13). And: "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and
Ah, but then I noted this is the second great beast of prophecy, following an even more blasphemous and powerful beast that arose from the sea. "If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword" (Rev. 13:9,10).
On reading that my head was spinning. The sharp memory returned:
It was 1934 and I was 12 years old, hawking Saturday night editions of the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Sunday papers to people in their cars awaiting the change of stoplights at West Colfax Avenue and Federal Boulevard. I picked up spending money by the customary practice of newsboys, paying the delivery man six cents a copy and selling them for ten cents. On the front page of one issue of the Post was an editorial cartoon portraying Adolf Hitler with a huge military machine behind him. The caption was "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword." I had never seen that quotation before, so I asked my learned father, who said it was based on a sentence in the New Testament. Already schooled in the Old Testament, I promptly traced the quotation to its source. Years later, in the Brownwood library, I was astonished by the remembrance that brought my childhood and my life as a soldier full circle.
But then more questions arose: Were we of 666 to be a part of the biblical Antichrist that has haunted religious history? Were we an agent of a satanic force, deceiving the faithful and even fighting on the side of evil? Were we so designated in the belief that we would strike terror in the hearts of the enemy as deputies of Satan? (I suggested that we were headed for Europe rather than the Pacific on the slim evidence that the Japanese would not be familiar with the biblical reference.) One man in Charlie Company believed literally in Revelation's descriptions and that we were in the turmoil before the approach of Armageddon. We talked about that, unaware at the time that each of us was headed toward a personal Armageddon.
A corporal in Headquarters Battery, citing the words, "let him that hath understanding." asked us to understand that starting with "A" as 100, "B" as 101, etc., we achieve the following:
sum = 666
Us against Hitler. That sounded right.
At the time I saw no significance in Rev. 13:5:"And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months." But many years after the war, I read that passage with the advantage of hindsight: Forty-two months covers the period in which Hitler was in power from the entrance of the United States into the war to V-E Day.So, it looks pretty clear to me: the soldiers of 666 were a great beast: a second beast replying in kind to the greater first beast. Like the rest of America's soldiers, they had the task of removing Hitler and his Nazis. Reforming Germany's moral order might be beyond an artilleryman's skill. But ripping the Nazi heart out of Germany? Working with others, that they could do....
And so they did....
Reading on, I noticed Eddy signed one of his cards with:
Such shall be when Christ returns. Be ready for his return. It will happen in our lives -- our lifetime. Be ready.Alas, Christ didn't return in Eddy's lifetime. It may happen in my lifetime, but I doubt I'll be ready. Stubborn agnostic that I am, I'll probably be in the Bisti Badlands of New Mexico, sifting through anthills and collecting dinosaur bones, when the hosts of Armageddon gather....