In 2016, Ernest Albert Andrews Jr. passed away. Hundreds gathered in Montreat, North Carolina to pay their respects to the World War II veteran, who was 92 years old.
Andy Andrews’ son Al recounted his father’s story to Fox News Digital: “He was an elderly man who lived in this small community in the mountains. And about 700 people attended his memorial service.” It was wild and crazy.
Andy Andrews, then 20 years old, was part of the third wave to land at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on D-Day 6 June 1944. He would continue to fight in key battles of the conflict such as the Battle of Aachen and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, as well the Battle of the Bulge.
Andrews’ war memoir published last summer, titled “A Machine Gunner’s War” and titled “From Normandy to Victory With the 1st Infantry Division In World War II,” describes in detail his experiences as a U.S. Army Machine Gunner, a position that has a seven-minute life expectancy in combat.
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“Faith and humanity”
David B., author and historian Andrews’ extensive war memories were compiled into a book by Hurt, who worked with him for 15 years.
Hurt stated that Andy’s experience as a soldier was shaped by his Christian faith. Hurt spoke to Fox News Digital. “In this sense, the central theme of the book is Andy’s determination to keep his faith and humanity alive amidst the horrors and brutalizations of war.”
Andrews was born July 27, 1923 in Chattanooga (Tennessee). He was the fourth child of six. Andrews’ first book details his Christian faith upbringing. He credits it with keeping him alive through the war. Andrews was awarded four Purple Hearts as well as four Bronze Stars. He also had several close calls, including when his glasses were removed from his face.
Hurt identified several parts of the book in which Andrews’ faith, humanity and perseverance shined in the midst of World War II darkness.
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Andrews was directed to fire a grenade at a machine gun nest.
Andrews heard the children sobbing as he approached the dugout. He discovered that three German boys, no more than 7, were pulling a rope to keep their machine gun commin’. As they fled, the Nazis ordered the children to keep that position. He offered chewing gum to the boys and embraced them, assuring that they would be taken care of by the Americans.
Andrews also disobeyed an order from a lieutenant to shoot down 10 Germans that waved a white flag indicating surrender. Andrews said to him, “You can go down to hell.” “You can find someone to do the dirty work for your. It’s not hard to do, but I won’t.
Andrews speculated that the lieutenant was extremely angry after being wounded with shrapnel. He later calmed down.
‘I Christian too!’
Andrews’ most harrowing, and poignant battle was on Nov. 18-19, 1944 when his unit was assigned to maintain a small piece of high ground called Hill 232 outside Hamich.
All but five Americans were killed by the enemy when they attacked. Andrews was forced to shoot the Germans in the head with the pistol he had as they crested the Bluff.
Andrews’ best friend was killed in the head during that battle. Andrews gasped for air as blood dripped from his nose, ears, and mouth.
Andrews was given the task of taking over the machine gun after the four previous gunners had been shot in their faces. After throwing a grenade at the German soldier, Andrews shot at him.
Andrews thought that the soldier had died for about 30 minutes. Then, in the middle of the night darkness, a white handkerchief appeared.
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“May I surrender? “Please, can I surrender?” Andrews heard the bloodied soldier cry out in broken English as Andrews crawled over to them.
Andrews told how he picked Erich up and asked his name. Andrews was concerned that Erich, a German soldier, would be killed. Erich was 17 years of age, Andrews learned. Andy told Erich that he wouldn’t murder anyone because he was a Christian and Erich replied, “I Christian too!” Both of them were both injured by the other and walked together to the nearest station.
Andy was presented by Erich with a small gold cross that he would keep for the rest his life.
“Look for God’s goodness”
Andrews married Hellon after he returned from war and they had two children, Al (and Sarah). Al Andrews stated that his father struggled all his life to reconcile the terrible violence he experienced as a teenager with his faith.
Al Andrews stated, “Back then, you had to go to war if you were called up.” He was talking about it and I felt like he was doing the right thing because of the horrors war brings. It is not clear if he ever reconciled it. He felt a sense of tension, just as any other person of faith would.
Al Andrews visited Normandy with his father in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary. He recalled Andy weeping among the German graves and asking for forgiveness.
Andy’s son observed, “It was just as moving to me because his deepest sorrow was not what was done — and he suffered many injuries — but what he did for them.”
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Andy Andrews would continue to work in Christian youth ministry for many years, a calling he noticed when he met the young German boys in a machine gun nest.
Andrews’ memoir concludes with his reflections on the healing that he received by telling his war stories to different audiences over the years. He encouraged other veterans to do so.
He wrote that many ex-soldiers don’t believe audiences can grasp the terror of combat or the horrors they witnessed on the battlefield. Other veterans might believe that they are not heroes, and therefore have no stories to relate.
Andrews encouraged these veterans overcome their reticence.
He said, “By helping bring to light the terrible sufferings and horrors that invariably accompany wars, I also believe veterans can possibly prevent history from repeating itself.”
Al Andrews, speaking at the father’s memorial service, said that “Dad was always unable to hear and see but God is good.” He told us to find God’s goodness in the midst pain and trials. It’s always there.”
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Al Andrews said, “As he went about his hopeful, gentle and joy-filled day, caring for all he encountered, he taught me that people will see Christ if they love.”