WW2 Steel-Cover NT a “Racket”?

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WW2 Gold-plated, steel-covered New Testament (photo courtesy Chaplain Bob Nay)

We’ve probably all heard stories of Soldiers’ lives saved by that New Testament with a steel cover kept in the breast pocket, given to them by their wife or mother before they left for war. While we can’t be certain those stories are true, we can be certain those Bibles and other “rackets” practiced during World War Two raised suspicion at the time, as being “schemes” to prey on the fears and misfortunes encountered during war. Here is a news article from a 1944 Stars and Stripes warning about some of them:

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Rackets Breed on War Misery1

Sales of ‘Armored’ Bibles For Protection in Combat Just One of Schemes

WASHINGTON, July 30, 1944 (UP)–Authorities are clamping down on racketeers who are making fortunes out of the misfortunes of others during the war.

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Steel-covered New Testament given to Seaman 2nd Class Richard M. Chernich by Chaplain J. F. Moore of the U.S.S. Baxter (author’s collection)

A ‘Bible racket’ which trades on the anxiety of families and friends of men in the services is an example. Thousands of Bibles, prayer books, and other religious books are being sold with light steel covers as ‘heart protectors.’

‘Far from saving a soldier’s life,’ said Miss Patricia Lochridge, Washington correspondent of the Woman’s Home magazine, ‘the books may actually cause more serious damage. The ordinary rifle bullet becomes virtually a dum-dum bullet upon striking an armored book.’

Another new racket is the person who listens to enemy shortwave broadcasts and takes down the names of prisoners. He then calls on the relatives and offers to repeat the messages for sums ranging from $3 to $100.

Another racket is for letters to be sent to relatives of men whose names have appeared in casualty lists asking for the return of money which the write claims to have lent the soldier.

With increasing numbers of casualties returning, rackets involving the wounded are also flourishing. One organization collected funds for ambulances. In its pamphlet the organization claimed that ‘the government does not provide ambulance equipment for its soldiers. The government policy is to let the Army depend upon the civilian population for ambulances.’

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1“The Stars and Stripes,” Vol. 4, No. 231, July 31, 1944, pg. 3.

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Original article from The Stars and Stripes, 31 July 1944, pg 3 (author’s collection)

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About Daryl Densford

I am an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene serving as an active-duty Army Chaplain. I am currently the Chaplain Resource Manager at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

Posted on 29 December 2017, in History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. While I haven’t come across a verified instance of an “Armored NT” stopping a bullet, I have met several WWII vets who considered them treasured keepsakes. I believe they were tested and found not to be capable of stopping an 8mm bullet. however, they made soldiers and their loved ones feel just a little better. I do know of one instance where a non-armored Bible stopped a 7.62 round in Korea. It hit and lodged in the spine.

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  2. The shortcomings of humans who do not follow the scriptures are prevalent in every decade, it seems.

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