My War Story, Lyndel C. Barnes, CH(LTC), DMin, USA Ret.
“AND THEY OVERCAME HIM (SATAN) BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB, AND BY THE WORD
OF THEIR TESTIMONY, AND THEY LOVED NOT THEIR LIVES EVEN TO THE DEATH,”
Rev 12. 11. This, then, is my testimony in war time.
You might have heard me tell at least part of my testimony about God’s wonderful protection during the Korean and Vietnam wars. I have never put it all down on paper, so here it is:
I entered the Navy the day after Christmas, 1950. I had graduated from High-School that Spring and turned 17 yrs old Aug 5. Boot camp was at Great Lakes Naval Training Center for 9 weeks, then to San Francisco and Treasure Island to await my ship, the USS Henderson, DD 785 which was on its way back from the Inchon invasion on the west coast of South Korea. I “struck” for the rank of Gunner’s Mate after I got aboard. My first tour of that war was Feb 1952. We arrived in Japan the week that the Peace Treaty was signed and became effective. That meant that the Japanese no longer bowed and deferred to us as our defeated enemy as we met them on the streets, as they previously had to our military men.
During the 6 months of that deployment, our ship was part of Task Force 95(?) which served in Korean waters and Task Force 77 patrolling the Shimonaseki (?) straits between China and Formosa in support of the National Chinese who had retreated there after the Communists conquered the mainland. We were fired upon by shore batteries, but by no naval or air forces. I remember being in Wonsan Harbor several times. We received enemy fire occasionally.I was on the bridge at my duty station as the “sound powered” telephone operator for the Officer of the Deck when several shells came our way. Shrapnel peppered the bulkhead around me, but none were injured. I remember not experiencing any fear or apprehension about it.
My second tour was about the same time of year in 1952. Soon after we arrived, we heard that the USS Brush, DD745 had been hit. One round hit a forward mount, one of two, a five inch 38 caliber twin gun mount on the foc’s’l, and that the wounded men included a couple of Gunner’s Mates. The call for replacements came to the Henderson, and I was chosen to be one of them. I had run afoul of the executive officer, and he decided that, that “was a good time to get rid of Barnes.” There was a blessing attached to that “Shanghai”, as I called it. I was one of only two who were promoted in the gunnery section on the Brush. I would not have been if I had remained on the Henderson. That is a testimony to the fact that all things work together to the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. I was far from loving God at that point, and did not then know that I was one called according to His purpose. But I later saw the truth of the fact.
My time for discharge was two months early, so I was transferred from the Brush which was being deployed to Korea again, to the USS Mason, DD 852 for two months before discharge. I was serving what was called a “Skivvie Cruise” which means that one enlists at age 17, and serves until he is 21 yrs old. My time was 3 yrs, 9 months and 13 days. I had attained the rank of Gunner’s Mate 2d Class (pay grade E-5). Once home, I decided along with other veterans, to use the GI Bill and go to school. Sou. Ill. Univ. was close to home, so I went there from 1954-1958.
During that time, I was influenced by my uncle Lawrence Radcliffe and his family to return to the church. I had been saved at age of 11. I soon was tempted as was Jesus after His baptism. I was too young and weak spiritually to know how to overcome that testings of my faith and had no encouragement from family or church members, so when I could no longer take the demeaning taunts of my brother and cousin, I cursed them. I thought I had lost my salvation and that there was no use to return to church meetings. But after returning to the church (Davis Prairie Crab Orchard Baptist Church near Maron IL, I soon realized a call to the Gospel Ministry, and was licensed in March, 1956. After graduation from
Golden Gate Baptist Seminary in Mill Valley, California, in 1961, I volunteered for the Army as a Baptist Chaplain. My first assignment after Basic Chaplain School in Ft Slocum NY, was Ft Carson CO. That is
where I met Brenda Painter, who was to become Mrs. Barnes. She was a summer missionary with the Sou. Baptists serving churches in Colorado Springs and related areas. We were married 15 Dec 1963 and were soon in Germany in 1964 for three years, then to Homestead AFB in 1967.
I received orders for Vietnam in late spring or early summer, 1968, while stationed at Homestead Air Force base with the 2nd Bn, 15th Artillery, a Hawk Anti Aircraft missile unit. It was there for the Cuba crisis. My Chaplain’s Assistant had volunteered to go to VN as a door gunner on helicopters, and I knew I would soon follow. I began to pray, asking the Lord for two things: 1) was He still protecting those who called upon Him, and 2) that I could receive scripture promises for my own protection. Soon, I found a Church news letter named the EVANGEL. There was a story of a young Holy Spirit-filled Christian soldier who was a soul winner and a prayer warrior.
He was urging five of his fellow soldiers to listen to his testimony and to give their lives to Christ. Getting nowhere and probably being laughed at and even mocked he decided to retreat to his bunker, a large culvert-half covered with sandbags which was used for that purpose, and pray for them. As I remember his story, as soon as he was there, one shell came in and killed all five of his friends. But it told me that God was still looking after His own. Therefore, my first prayer was answered.
As I searched for assurances from the Bible, I found two passages: Psalm 34. 7, “THE ANGEL OF THE LORD ENCAMPETH ROUND ABOUT THEM THAT FEAR HIM AND DELIVERETH THEM.” Verse 1 says, ” I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” I believe that is an
important verse to obey/follow in relation to verse 7. The second promise I received was: Ps 91.7 , “A THOUSAND SHALL FALL AT THY SIDE AND TEN THOUSAND AT THY RIGHT HAND; BUT IT SHALL NOT COME NIGH THEE.” The first and second verses of that Psalm are also important in relation to verse 7, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the almighty, I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.” The Lord’s promises in that chapter are many and trustworthy. I recommend close study of Psalm 34 and 91, verse by verse.
I flew over 300 air hours over territory that could have Viet Cong enemy who could fire at us at will, but verse 11 and 12 promise that the angels have charge and ” shall bear thee up in their hands, ‘lest thou dash
thy foot against a stone’ (even).” I flew in helicopters and fixed wing artillery spotter planes on combat support missions as a Chaplain, and not once did I know of a possibility of a crash or enemy fire.
In claiming those promises, I asked the Lord’s angels to surround me wherever I went, and to surround our compound as well. We had no troops to protect us, except for normal guard duty, and the guards were not allowed to have ammo in their guns those days. Even their rifles were locked up and not available except on orders. It was a nutty situation. I was assigned to the 54th Artillery Group, which was a part of the II Field Force. It had five battalions of artillery that ringed Saigon and supported other combat units to include the Mekong Delta, the 9th Infantry Division’s area of operations, the 101st Air Assault Division ,
units of South Vietnam which would need help while operating in the field, and any other US unit needing general and direct artillery support.
It was a privilege to know some of the Vietnamese Pastors and American missionaries, especially two Southern Baptist missionaries ( I was there as a Southern Baptist Chaplain.) The head of their mission was Sam James, but I forget the other man’s name. I didn’t see him as often as Sam. I’ll always remember Sam’s testimony. One day he was asked to go to a school some distance from Saigon. While driving his V W Micro bus (van), he rounded a long winding curve and came upon a roadblock. He knew what it
was. He had lost some friends at such a road block a few days previous. He had not wanted to go to that school. The road was not secure, and he would have no protection there and back. As he argued with himself about it, however, he knew he had come to Vietnam to tell about the Lord Jesus, and that was a school where no known Christians were. So he went. He said that as he saw that roadblock, immediately he felt great fear. Beginning to tremble greatly, he still had to think about his situation.
He of course thought about his family, his work in Vietnam, and home.
He looked to the right, while trying to brake the vehicle. No help there. It was a rubber plantation, and in those trees would be the Viet Cong. He looked to the left–a rice paddy. No possible escape route. Yet, he
decided , as he shook from fear, to try stopping at east one car length from the one other car that had already stopped in case there was some chance….Just as the car dipped as he braked to a stop, he saw to his left a trail going down into the rice paddy. It could be a worse situation; a trail with no possibility of getting out of the paddy; but just as the car dipped, he made that split second decision–I think it was a Holy Spirit nudge, which a Christian gets at times–and wheeled on to the trail. Lo and behold, the trail quickly went back up onto the road!
At that moment, Sam said, I experienced such a peace that I can not remember ever having! The Bible describes such a peace as ” Peace that passeth all understanding.” Can you imagine the relief of which he spoke? So he continued down the road to the school, and spoke to the students about his being in Vietnam to tell them about God and the only Savior of all mankind. Some students received his message, he said, though I never knew how he was to be able to follow up on them, or how native pastors might do so.
So later in the afternoon, he asked that five of the VN boys might ride back down the road with him, and as they stopped before the road block, they went to investigate while Sam waited. They found that 25 people had lost their lives there that morning. Surely the Angels had charge over him and delivered him. Praise the name of the Lord!
About half way through my one-year tour, I realized that the Lord had indeed surrounded me with angels, as he also did our Group HQs compound which also had one of the Arty Bns’ HQs in it. About that time, a young trooper, Willie____, came to one of my chapel meetings at our Group HQS. His Bn was there temporarily. Our HQs had moved from Xuan Loc, north of our then present location. Xuan Loc is on VN Rte One. We had moved during the second month I was there, to a place called “the widows village” area, which I understood had been built for VN war widows. It had been a Hawk Missile Hqs Compound, but they were leaving VN at that same time, since the US had air superiority, so we inherited their area–much nicer. They had a swimming pool also, and were closer to Saigon—Our Group ringed Saigon as part of our area of artillery support. Willie prayed to be saved, and told me that he had always been afraid of being hurt or killed.
I told him about those promises I believed, encouraged him to follow through with his new life in Christ, and set a time for him to be baptized the next week.
He didn’t make it to be baptized, and I never saw him again until a few weeks later. I had gone to an area where about 35 artillery men and 4-5 guns were supporting a South Vn unit. Willie talked to me again about being afraid to die, so I told him, “Willie, first of all a Christian does not die. He simply changes vehicles. He steps out of this body into another one to be with the Lord, ” and I reminded him of my Bible
promises. I caught the last Chinook CH 47 helicopter out of there that evening, about dark. Lo and behold, that area was attacked that night with rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and perhaps other fire. I heard
about it that night. Here I had told Willie to claim those promises, and I thought, what if God doesn’t come through?
The next day, I searched the casualty lists. Half of those 35 men had been wounded, but I didn’t see Willie’s name on the lists, so I went to the two hospitals we had, but, thankfully, didn’t find him. I saw him the next Saturday. His Bn had pulled back to support the units guarding a large supply depot just north of Saigon. I was glad to see him, so the first thing I did was to give him a big bear hug. It might have
embarrassed him, but I was glad to see him. “Willie, did you claim those promises?” “I sure did, when those rounds started coming in, I asked the Lord to cover my whole hooch,” his culvert-half bunker, “No round came within 25 meters of me.” Another young soldier was standing by, and he said, “I also prayed, and none came within 15 meters of me.” Hallelujah, our God reigns!
My next prayer was upon the realization of God’s faithfulness in answering my prayers about protection. He had indeed surrounded me and our HQS compound with angels, so I prayed, “Lord, if you can do that,
surround all of the 18 fire support basis where our units are in place.” I can say that from that time until I left VN, none of them were attacked again. Before that, one of the compounds in Xuan Loc, near where
our Hqs compound used to be, was hit with Rocket propelled grenades, mortars, small arms fire, and a ground attack. Fourteen men were killed and a 15th, a Lt., was badly wounded. He was pronounced dead three times, I heard. I asked the Lord for his life. He had a sucking chest wound, the tip of his nose was gone, and other wounds. When I saw him at the hospital, he was breathing through a trachea. His flack jacket, he said later, laying tightly around his chest, acted as a compress for his chest wound. He praised the company that made the jacket, I read later in the Stars and Stripes newspaper.
The Dr. in that Bn was a young Jewish man, Dr. Singer, who once asked me what Christianity was about, and attended one of my chapel services. We spoke several times as friends. When the Bn was attacked, he ran out of the dispensary with his camera, I heard, and was caught in the open when a sapper with a satchel charge came into a gun position. He dived in to the position, and was killed. I later organized a memorial service for our honored dead. The whole unit attended, if not on gun watch.
That compound had a Hqs Co., a Bn with 105 mm cannons, and one with 155 mm guns. The perimeter was ringed with Claymore mines, and the cannon were loaded with “Bee-hive” rounds. Those that were fast enough, and located properly, were able to fire several of those rounds. The fletch-ettes in those rounds mowed down the grass, and the Viet Cong along with it. “You could hear them screaming,” one gunner told me. From the time I was in Germany and our units there were being emptied of
Lts, copter pilots and other available men to be sent to VN, when the US began to send more and more troops, and many became casualties, I watched the casualty list in the Army Times, noting those men I had known. “Did I have an opportunity to tell them how to be saved?” Some I could say yes, some, no. I had testified as I could to the men of those units, and now there were 14 who were dead. I wish I knew whether they knew the Lord and were saved from their sin. I later organized a memorial service for our
dead comrades in Xuan Loc. The entire unit, those not on duty with their guns, came. What could I say about the 14, were they saved?
One thing I am sure of, The Bible talks of governments and nations being God’s sword bearers. That translates to the military of those governments also being God’s sword bearers. I am sure there is a reward for such servants, saved or not. Such serve their fellow man, and thus our God. By that, I mean that if not saved, the reward will be in the form of less punishment in eternity, and if saved, the reward will be in the form of a servants reward when we are with Jesus. They all also served. I’m sure of it. I’ve conducted funerals for service men , especially VN soldiers, and I found that I could always find a good word for a fellow soldier. You might have seen the movie, We Were Soldiers, with Col. Moore’s unit being the featured troops. As I remember, He was in Germany when I was. But the fact is that there is something about soldiers, and other military men and women. Col. Moore said, “We were there for each other.”
Back to my time in VN: The other Baptist Missionary I knew there was visiting and speaking at our chapel one day. I was telling him about how God had surrounded our compounds with angels. He then spoke up and said, “have you heard about this village, (where as I recall him saying,) here are Christians who pray? They have never been attacked, though there are no troops, not even self-help village guards. Some of the local guerrillas were captured, and asked why they never attacked that village. ‘We attempted to several times, but could NEVER GET PAST THOSE SOLDIERS IN WHITE.” When he told that, I recalled the story of Rachel Saint, a missionary to the Auca Indians (in Peru?) Her brother, Nate Saint, about
whom the book NATE SAINT, JUNGLE PILOT was written. Nate and four other missionaries were killed by superstitious and fearful natives as the missionaries were waiting by their airplane which they had landed on the beach of a stream, hoping some of the Indians would come and they could
try to reach them for Jesus.
Rachel went back to the jungle after that and was able to lead many natives to a knowledge of God and salvation. One of them was one of the Auca Indians who had joined in killing her brother and the others. She took him to the Billy Graham World Congress of Evangelism in Germany several years ago. She learned one day that a group of Indians led by a witch doctor was looking for her to take her life. She was able to talk to one of them at a later time: “Why did you not come up the tree where I was sleeping that night? Nothing or no one could have prevented you.” She was told, “Those men in white would not let us pass!” Hallelujah for the King of Kings! “Surrounded by angels that no harm can come….”
Back to VN: One thing I have found, having been in both the Korean and VN wars; a few men would pray to be saved, but some, when they saw that they did not get killed right a way, apparently began to think that their worry was in vain and then yielded to the fleshly temptations that plague men. There were large dumps of trash in VN and the prostitutes set up shop even in cardboard boxes. I observed steady streams of trucks dropping off one group of GI’s and picking up the ones ready to leave. Others who went on RR returned to brag about their exploits. Though I knew it was futile, I remember telling a young 19 yr old helicopter pilot that he would regret his behavior as he got older. The Drs. told me that the sexually transmitted diseases were so bad that there was really no medicine, no vaccine that would kill the strains. I was told the same thing 5-years later while in Korea a third time. Otherwise, these soldiers were great guys. They were my buddies. We were fellow military comrades and enjoyed each others company and camaraderie.
Now, the question: why tell this story? Perhaps so you who read this will know that there is reality in being a child of God that one can never really experience if just “knowing about God,” as Job admitted, but never experiencing the truth of what it can mean to have genuine, even though just a shallow, faith in Him. If it is reality and genuine experiential knowledge of Jesus that is your desire, perhaps this
testimony will serve to give you hope and assurance that our God reigns and interferes in the affairs of men, especially if asked. In fact, I’m convinced that He is ready to do so and to bless us at the slightest
opportunity. And the beat goes on.