4 min read

On June 6, world leaders and aging veterans gathered in France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. Officially called “Operation Overlord,” the D-Day invasion was the largest amphibious operation in history, bringing together land, air, and sea forces. The Allies assembled 2,876,000 troops in southern England with more than 4,000 American, British, and Canadian ships and 1,200 planes. It was a costly invasion but also a turning point in the war, allowing the Allies to begin reclaiming France and Europe and ending Hitler’s reign.

Just two days before American troops invaded the beaches of Normandy, Chaplain George Russell Barber held services on 11 different ships and distributed pocket-sized Service Testaments provided by The Gideons International. According to The Gideons International website, Barber said the men were anxious to get a Bible. “Remember your mother, your father, your brothers, your sisters. They all love you. They are praying for you, too,” Barber told the soldiers.

Many of these Bibles contained this message from the President:

To the Armed Forces:

As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Figure 1: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's message in this pocket New Testament. Image © Museum of the Bible. All rights reserved.

Take a closer look at this message and more here.

Museum of the Bible has a collection of Bibles from several wars, including Bibles given to soldiers during WWII. One such Bible has a cover that includes a metal shield and which became known as Heart Shield Bibles because soldiers kept it in the pocket over their hearts. Check out Museum of the Bible’s Collections page to see this Bible and others.

Glenn Simpson’s WWII Heart Shield Bible

Glenn Simpson received this Bible from his wife as he entered the United States Naval Training Center in Sampson, New York, in October 1943. It was passed down to their son, Glenn Simpson Jr., who also served in the military until his discharge in 1965.

Learn more about this artifact here.

Figure 2 & 3: The metal front cover of Glenn Simpson's Heart Shield Bible and signed presentation card in the Bible. Image © Museum of the Bible. All rights reserved.

Major Charles Hearn’s WWII Heart Shield Bible

Major Charles A. Hearn was given this Bible by Lottie Bille. Accompanying this Bible is also an identification card for Major Hearn signed by the issuing officer, John Rostic, Major CMP.

Learn more about this artifact here.

Figures 4 & 5: The metal front cover of Major Charles Hearn's Heart Shield Bible and signed presentation card in the Bible. Image © Museum of the Bible. All rights reserved.

The Bible has been present throughout America’s martial history, from the Revolution to our last war in Afghanistan. We encourage you to learn more about these Bibles in our Collections as we commemorate the service and sacrifice of our veterans and current armed forces.

By: Judy Hilovsky, Copywriter and Copyeditor

Published June 27, 2024

4 min read