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No Atheists
Father William Cummings became a military chaplain by accident. He was teaching school in Manila when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1942. When his school was ...

No Atheists

Father William Cummings became a military chaplain by accident. He was teaching school in Manila when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1942. When his school was destroyed, he hitched a boat ride across Manila Bay to join the American and Filipino soldiers fighting on the Bataan Peninsula. All through the siege of Bataan and the final days of Corregidor he ministered to the beleaguered troops around him and became a source of comfort and inspiration to many. He felt that spiritual support was more critical than ever in a combat situation, articulating to a war correspondent his belief that, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” This now-famous comment took on a life of its own when the correspondent flashed the quote across the seas to America and the rest of the world.

The ordeal for Cummings and many other U.S. servicemen would follow with the eventual surrender of Corregidor and imprisonment by the Japanese. Under the most inhumane conditions imaginable, he said, “There are so many men here. I cannot help them all, but if I can help a few, then maybe God will feel my life justified. When I worry about their suffering, I don’t have time to think of myself.”

Father Cummings’ last days were spent on a Japanese prison ship. He died in the arms of one of his beloved soldiers reciting the Lord’s Prayer. He is memorialized on Chaplains Hill in Arlington National Cemetery.

For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

—1 Corinthians 10:33–11:1


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