17 FEB 43: Saving Just One Life, In War or From Abortion

Opinion   |   Robert Morrison   |   Feb 15, 2013   |   6:39PM   |   Washington, DC

My Pop did not tattoo that date—17 FEB 43—on my chest. Or even give me a bracelet with the date engraved. But we knew growing up how important that date was. Leslie Morrison and some fifty of his crew members on the S.S. Deer Lodge were torpedoed by a German U-Boat 60 miles due east of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on that fateful day. Before that sinking, my cousin tells me, “Uncle Les” had a full head of curly brown hair. After that, Leslie Morrison’s hair was thin and straight. He blamed it on the oil from the sinking ship.

Four years ago, I met Manual Dias, one of my late father’s shipmates. Manny told me that my dad was a true hero. He told me Pop had run around the deck of the sinking vessel unlatching the pelican hooks that secured the rubber boats, enabling them to float free as the ship went under. Manny said that was not Pop’s assigned duty: He just knew it had to be done.

No less amazing was the story of KvtKpt Gerhard Wiebe, the skipper of the U-516. My dad had always waved away any hostility I expressed toward the U-boat’s captain. “It was war,” he said mildly. Manny showed me that Captain Wiebe was more than a brave warrior; he was very humane. He waited until all the men had scampered off the sinking American vessel before sending in his second torpedo. If he had ordered Fire One! Fire Two! in quick succession, dozens might have died.

Wiebe doubtless knew the Americans’ boast: “We can build ships faster than Hitler can sink them.” That was true. So it made more sense, in brute logic, to kill the seamen. Captain Wiebe didn’t do it. Even more remarkable, he brought his U-boat alongside the men in the boats. He asked them: “Do you need First Aid? Water? Food? Charts?” Counting U.S. Navy submariners among my closest friends, I’ve never heard of one of our WWII diesel boat skippers doing something like that.

That fateful night is now seventy years ago. Les Morrison’s son is a grandfather of three. His daughter, a grandmother of three. We all owe our lives to the humanity of that German skipper. And to our Pop’s own undaunted courage. Above all, we owe our lives to God’s mercy.

Every time I hear of a life saved, I think of that line from the Talmud: “He who saves a single life, it’s as if he saved the world entire.” When Newtown becomes our town, when we face a daily deluge of murder and casual death, it’s too easy to become discouraged, to want to withdraw within and to escape from this veil of tears.

We cannot. Recently, I was assigned to write a booklet for Family Research Council. It’s called I See You: Telling The ICU Mobile Story. This Akron-based ministry is led by Sylvia Slifko. This visionary Christian pro-lifer wanted to outfit RVs as mobile ultra-sound units. Then, the Image-Clear Ultra-Sound trained volunteers and staffers would park the units next to abortion facilities—carrying the message of life to the very gates of death.

Michael Homula works for ICU Mobile as Executive Director. Michael’s birth mother was raped but she chose life for him. And now Michael is a rescuer of many endangered little ones.

Just this week, Michael reported on a young life saved by an ICU Mobile team working in Huntsville, Alabama. We can see this story in light of that Talmudic truth: Unborn Child’s Life Spared: World Saved in Huntsville.

TIME Magazine’s columnist, Joe Klein, spoke truth when he wrote: “Sonograms have made it impossible to deny that that thing in the womb is a human being.” God bless him for that powerful statement. Still, modern liberalism is based on that impossible denial.

Modern liberalism agrees with NARAL founder Lawrence Lader. He said: “Abortion is central to everything in life and how we want to live it.” Deny reality. Deny. Deny. Deny. But truth, though crushed to the ground will arise.

Truth, though sunk in the sea, will surface. The Second World War was the most terrible ever, we learn, in countless history books, endless TV and movie dramas and documentaries.

Why so? Because it resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths, we are taught. But is it not the case that today’s war on the unborn results in as many human deaths every year as we saw in that World at War? Josef Stalin spoke for today’s media when he cynically said: “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is…a statistic.”



We deny the Hitlers and the Stalins their cruel victories when we stand for life, and especially life in the womb. Last year, America lost 1,200,000 of her future citizens to abortion. But in Alabama this week, the world was saved.

LifeNews Note:  Robert Morrison writes for the Family Research Council. Morrison was educated in New York Public schools and earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia. He has also done graduate work in education at Hofstra University and in history and communications at the University of Washington.  Since coming to Washington in 1984, Bob has served at the U.S. Department of Education with Gary Bauer under then-Secretary William Bennett. He was the first full-time Washington, D.C. representative of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.