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June 07, 2021

Heart Shield Bibles

John Phillips received a government-issue pocket Bible before he shipped off to Europe during World War II. On patrol, trudging through knee-deep snow in the Battle of the Bulge, Phillips found himself in the middle of an ambush. In a burst of gunfire he was shot five times. Lying in the snow he instinctively reached for his heart. What he found was his Bible — with a bullet lodged in it. Phillips survived, most likely due to the Bible shielding his heart. Many American soldiers were issued Bibles. Some came with a metal cover. Because they were often carried in shirt pockets, they are known as “Heart Shield Bibles.” Inside the front cover of these Bibles was a note from President Franklin Roosevelt. “As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible … Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration.” The Heart Shield Bibles were a durable edition made for the battlefield — and the source of encouragement for many GIs. Even the metal-covered editions were unlikely to stop a bullet. But in an extraordinary case, like that of John Philips, this Bible made the difference between life and death.

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