He was still a teenager when he enlisted in the army. He was one of twelve children, and he recognized his chance to make something of himself. He couldn’t know the United States would be at war within a matter of months.
At eighteen, he found himself in the thick of battle defending the Philippines against the onslaught of Japanese attack. One day he lay behind a log and watched as enemy soldiers overran his position by the hundreds. His capture marked the beginning of a three-and-a-half year nightmare. He became a prisoner of war.
The grim realities of prison camp quickly decimated the young man’s health. He’d survived the grueling Bataan death march only to be wracked with malaria and dysentery. In prison camp those who were gravely ill or incapable of labor were shot or perhaps buried alive.
He struggled to make himself useful enough to avoid execution but it was no good. Frail as he was, it was a losing battle.
Then the day came when he found himself lying beneath a thatch roof hut with several other prisoners, as his buddies were dragged from the shelter in pairs to a nearby rice paddy. The bonds were cut from their hands, and they were summarily bayoneted to death or shot in the head.
He watched as his friends died two by two, knowing his time would soon come. As evening approached, he and a fellow soldier were wrenched from beneath the hut and dragged into the rice paddy. Kneeling in the mud, he waited in terror for the inevitable. There was another shout from the hut—then an explosion in his head. He fell forward into the filthy water.
He hadn’t been shot. He’d been struck with the butt of a rifle. The sun had gone down, and the Japanese didn’t conduct executions after sundown. As he regained his senses, he knew this would be his last night on earth. As sure as the sun would rise in the morning, the executions would continue.
Huddled sleeplessly that night, his life flashed before him. He saw the face of his mother. He thought of his brothers, some of them fighting for their country in theaters of war across Europe. With muddy tears streaming from his face he whispered his farewells.
He also remembered his sins. Every sin he’d committed, from minor indiscretion to shameful transgression, flashed before his eyes. Yet his guilt gave way. It vanished in a great wave of peace that rose up and flooded his soul. The faith he’d placed in Christ years ago, as a small boy, was suddenly present and potent. He was reminded of another sacrifice that was made for him. He was forgiven.
By the time the sun rose, a miracle had taken place. Facing certain death, he felt no fear. He’d made his peace with God, and he was emotionally overwhelmed with grace and forgiveness. The cool silence of dawn was shattered by the call of the executioner. He heard the approaching boots of the guards. They yanked him to his feet. Then they led him back to his buddies.The executions had halted.
This young man would live to return from one of history’s bloodiest conflicts. On the day of liberation, he was little more than a skeleton. Sick and half-starved, his weight was 85 pounds. He was so weak that he needed assistance to step over a two-inch board at the back of the truck bound for freedom.
This is a story I know by heart. Its hero is my father, Ken Davis Sr.
The medics examined my father and concluded he would not live to old age. Certainly, they told him, he couldn’t have children.
He had FIVE!
They underestimated my dad. He lived into his eighties!
I’m one of the five children he didn’t have.
I cling to one lesson from the fascinating stories of Dad’s POW experience. In those dark, horrible moments when death confronted him, my dad had an authentic supernatural encounter with God. Peace reigned; fear was cast out. Those moments changed his life and he never stopped sharing God’s love.
My father was finally forever set free on April 18th 2006. He lives with the One he loved so much. A fellow hero who understands the price of freedom.
Thank you for telling me about Jesus!
Is there a hero in your family?
A deeper view of Dad’s character, his sacrifice and his influence can be read in my sister’s book, “Forged By War” I highly recommend it.