General Wainwright’s Thanksgiving Prayer

After General Douglas MacArthur, over his fiery objections, was ordered to leave Bataan during the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright was left in command, putting up a heroic fight until forced to surrender his starving, diseased ridden force.  Wainwright was the only American general to be captured by the Japanese and he endured the hell on earth that was Japanese prison camps, where some 37% of Allied prisoners died of starvation and the brutality of their captors.  Wainwright insisted on sharing the privation of his men, and risked his life many times to intervene on behalf of his fellow prisoners with their captors.

After he was liberated, he was a walking skeleton.  Douglas MacArthur gave him the signal honor  of featuring prominently in the surrender ceremony by which Imperial Japan capitulated.

After he returned home he was promoted to four star rank and retired to a successful business career.  He received the Medal of Honor as a tribute to the heroic leadership he displayed during the battle for Bataan.  In the fall of 1945 he wrote the following Thanksgiving Prayer:

Oh, God, our Father, today we give Thee thanks for the things we take for granted, for freedom, for security of life, for food and shelter, and the presence of loved ones…. We thank Thee that once again men may have hope, opportunity to work and plan for a better future, a chance to secure peace, and an ampler life for themselves and their children.  

Keep us humble in the day of victory, make us wise in the presence of great problems, strong and brave in the face of any danger, and sympathetic and generous as we face the appalling need of a war-torn world.  

In gratitude for all those who paid the price of victory we now ask Thy guidance as we dedicate ourselves to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion. Lord of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget!

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  1. His decision to surrender Bataan(including Corregidor) had to be one of the most difficult ever. The Japanese were furious that he didn’t have a sword to surrender–their customary evidence of the process. His being on the “Big Mo” as the Japanese surrender in defeat had to be a bittersweet experience.

  2. Among all the many things I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving is
    that my country has had men like General Wainwright in its service. We
    are only free and prosperous today because of the service of men like him.
    “Lord of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget!”, indeed.

  3. As usual, Don McClarey, well done, exceedingly well done.

    Reading your blog is like listening once again, fascinated, to my inordinately well-read late father (the highest compliment I can pay one), a veteran of the Pacific Theater in WWII, and a huge MacArthur and Wainwright fan, and his voluminous knowledge of the Paul Harvey hidden “rest of the story”, for the insight, depth, and ever-timeliness of your “historic” observations. Though often trenchant, your observations are inevitably uplifting.

    Happy Thanksgiving, and “food for Thanksgiving thought.”

  4. I sometimes wonder, if MacArthur had had his way and allowed himself to be captured by the Imperial Japanese Forces, if that would have been their worst nightmare. His sheer power of intellect, force of character, and indomitable determination would have been the end of them, far earlier than 1945.

  5. I’ve read that Wainwright was worried he might undergo a court martial for surrendering at Corregidor. That would have been a monstrous injustice–he deserved the ticker-tape parade he received.

  6. He was shocked after his release from captivity to learn that he was regarded as a hero. He thought he would be damned forever in the minds of the American people for having surrendered, not realizing that most Americans understood the impossible situation he was faced with.

  7. It is because of posts like these that make Mr. McClarey’s blog one of the best Catholic blogs out there. Mr. McClarey has a knack for finding relevant information that a lot of others lack.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Mr. McClarey. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts here and continue being the rock that weathers the storms, especially the current hurricane eminating from Vatican City.

  8. Thanks Don for being a part of our 1st, inaugural, Thanksgiving Prayer service at Bay Ridge. We used two of your posts. The Red Skelton Pledge of Allegiance and General Wainwright’s prayer. Also included; Tobit12:6
    1st Thessalonians 5:18. Philippians 4:6. and Psalm 106:1

    We ended it with the hymn Let All Things Now Living.

    Your contribution was deeply appreciated.

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