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A Kriegie's Prayer--a poem for Armistice Day

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"It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind. Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not. So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things." Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Breakfast of Champions", 1972


Ralph Hamilton in P-51 Mustang, 'Debra Dell', Duxford, England, 1944
Ralph Hamilton in P-51 Mustang, 'Debra Dell', Duxford, England, 1944
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Background: This was written by Maj. Ralph E. Hamilton, during WW2, after his P-51 Mustang was shot down by German antiaircraft fire near Crailsheim, and he ended up in a German prison camp. In a margin note he says of the poem: "I wrote this under a dim night light, on toilet paper in the camp at Moosburg (Stalag 7A). The bedbugs had chewed my wrists, neck, and ankles to a painful mass of itching misery and forced me from my bunk."


A Kriegie's Prayer

Oh, God, I ask of you in humble prayer,

As I lie in torment far from home,

Keep safe my loving family over there;

Make lighter theirs--this burden

Which they bear.

I ask not why this plan for war was lain,

Nor question your divine authority,

But couldn't you have had the flak refrain

That last time I went down to

Strafe a train?

Oh, God, just slightly overflow thy cup,

And speed me from this vermin-prison's bed.

Please, God, release me from

This land of Krupp

Before these God-damned bedbugs eat me up!


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Shawn Hamilton is a reporter and teacher in California. He began his teaching career in Taiwan in 1989 when large rallies were supporting the protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.

He returned to the relative calm of the (more...)

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