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August's Verse

Late in the afternoon of June 20, 1944, Admiral Mitscher of the US Navy had dispatched a bombing mission against the fleeing Japanese fleet during what became known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Aboard the USS Yorktown, Captain Jennings sat looking out into the darkness in front of the bow. It was pitch black and pilots’ fuel supplies were running dangerously low. First one plane and then another dropped into the sea from lack of fuel. At last the remaining planes approached the carriers. But in the darkness, the pilots could not make out which ships were carriers and which were not. Unless something was done many good men were going to be killed trying to landing the darkness. Slowly Admiral Mitscher got up from his seat and gave the order, "Turn on the lights."

These four words were deadly in meaning. Lighting up the fleet would enable the American pilots to find their way home, but it would also help Japanese pilots and submarines to find the US Fleet. Still, the Admiral believed that it was worth the risk. He had promised he would get the pilots home safe, and he was going to keep his word.

The ships quickly turned on all their lights. High in the air the pilots could not believe their eyes. One returning flyer described the scene as a “Hollywood premier, Chinese New Year's, and Fourth of July all rolled into one.” Here below them were dozens of ships with thousands of men aboard endangering their lives to save slightly over two hundred men and planes. Incredulous, but grateful, the pilots looked for their respective aircraft carriers, but it was confusing. This time Admiral Mitscher broke another rule. He sent the message, "Land on any carrier."

Quickly, pilots jockeyed for landing positions. Still planes had to ditch into the sea for lack of fuel. One pilot approached the USS Yorktown and as his plane caught the arresting wire and came to a stop, it died from lack of fuel.

Of the 40 planes the Yorktown had sent out on June 20th to attack the Japanese fleet, 14 made it back to their own ship, 13 landed on other ships, 11 landed in the sea nearby and their crews were picked up. 38 of the 40 had made it back to the ship. Figures were similar for the other aircraft carriers. All because of Admniral Mitscher’s order to “Turn on the lights”.

When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12)—this is something like what he was getting at. Except, he went one better. We live in a world where there are no safe places to land. He came and, instead of putting himself at risk to guide people home, he gave his life to guide people home, to give us a safe place to land. He took all the enemy fire so that there would be none directed at us.

Perhaps you feel like a pilot running low on fuel, and you are desperately searching for a place to land. Jesus says to you, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”