From "Grace Under Fire: Letters of Faith in Times of War" edited by Andrew Carroll.

Only days after being liberated from a German POW camp, Private First Class James F. Norton writes a jubilant letter to his parents proclaiming "by the grace of my Lord and Savior I am here today."


"Dearest Mom and Dad," Private First Class James F. Norton began a letter to his parents back in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 15, 1945. "This is the second happiest moment of my life," the nineteen-year-old soldier continued, at last a chance to write home. "The happiest moment came a few days ago when the greatest army in the world liberated me. Things have been happening so fast to me since I've been liberated, my head is still spinning. As much as I've cussed the army, I love it now, and I've never seen a more smooth working, efficient organization."


Norton especially wanted his parents to know that the experience of being wounded and captured, as terrible as it had been, had one positive effect—it had made him a more religious man. He went on to write:


Gosh, there's so much to say, I don't even know how to start, and to tell the truth I don't know what I'm allowed to write or not.


I'm back in a huge, beautiful hospital in France, so I guess it won't be very hard for you to guess where I am. I've received nothing but the greatest of kindness from every one, and I never could put it in words what it feels like to be treated as a human being again. I am so happy I don’t known whether to laugh or cry. Today we had the meal I've been dreaming about for 4 months—steak and French fries, and how—how I've been eating."


I'll never forget as long as I live when I saw that first Yank. I always said I'd kiss the first one I saw who liberated us, even if it were a 2nd Looie, and you guessed it, he was. He was more surprised than I, and I imagine it's the first time in history an officer has ever been kissed by an enlisted man. Then they gave us chocolate bars and cigarettes and I went wild. From there to here it has been a smooth job of evacuation.


I was shot and taken prisoner on the memorable day—Dec. 16, the first day of the terrific German breakthrough in the Ardennes, when all hell broke loose. The next four months I will tell about when I get home, and will describe them now in two words, Living Hell.


My leg is just about well now, and I'm here more of less to be built up. It will only be a short stay and I should be back in the States soon, Mom, and when I do get home, I'll probably never get farther than the back porch, as I've had all the excitement and adventure to last me a lifetime.


This is a small world. I never saw Bob Muyre from the day I got captured until now, and I often wondered what happened to him, and here we run into each other in the same ward of the huge hospital, and we both came in the same day. He was also shot in the leg but went to a different place and was also liberated a few days ago. Gosh, were we happy to see each other. Now my biggest concern is what happened to Red Deal, the best friend I ever had, and a lot of my other buddies. There's a million things I want to learn now that I'm back in contact again.


My biggest concern and something that has always been on my mind is how you two are and how the Missing in Action affected you. But you are both brave, strong parents so I'm sure everything is all right.


We were all saddened very much yesterday by the death of our great leader and a real buddy to every G.I. Joe, President Roosevelt. But it was God's will, and I hope that President Truman can fill his shoes.


Death has faced me many times in the past months and by the grace of my Lord and Savior I am here today to write this letter. I always considered myself a good Christian until I was captured, and then I learned what a fool I had been and what it really means to have faith and the power of prayer. I pray day and nite [sic],  and these prayers were heard with the result that today I can really call myself a good Catholic and a firm believer in the will of God.


I could fill up pages, but there's so much I'd rather tell than write, and so much more I want to know about you, Johnny and Bill. This is a poor attempt for my first letter, but I find it much more difficult than I expected. I hope to be in the States before I get an answer. To see your faces again will be the happiest moment of my life. I love you both and thank God every day I have such wonderful parents.


Your loving son, Jim

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