By Dan Wooding
WHITTIER, CA (August 8, 2000) -- Lt. Col. George Russell Barber, the last living chaplain who was at the Omaha Beach, Normandy, landing on D-Day, says that "war is hell", but that doesn't stop him from proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ that points people towards heaven.
"War is hell. War is ugly," he said in a recent interview. "We pointed our guns in the air and shot at everything and anything. We need to remember the price we paid for freedom."
Now in his mid-eighties, this sprightly chaplain who still wears his elegant uniform, says that during the Normandy Invasion, he held dying soldiers in his arms. The next day he says he said he was the sad witness to more than 1500 bodies scattered about the beach from the previous day's casualties.
One of Barber's most vivid memories of that day that changed the world was watching an American troopship full of soldiers, exploding after colliding with and detonating a mine."
ATTENDS OPENING OF D-DAY MUSEUM IN NEW ORLEANS
Barber, 85, who lives in Whittier, California, was in June able to join many celebrities, including new anchor Tom Brokaw, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks - "Saving Private Ryan" -- Viscount Montgomery from England, for the opening of the $25 million, 70,000 square foot D-Day Museum in New Orleans. He delivered the opening prayer at the museum's opening and spoke at four other events. The D-Day Museum is the only museum in the nation that is dedicated to the single-most decisive event of the 20th century, the invasion of Normandy by Britain, Canada and the United States. It is America's tribute to the men who made the invasion possible. The website for the museum can be found at www.ddaymuseum.org.
"I'm proud to have served my God and my country. Today's it's important to keep patriotism, freedom and liberty alive in our world. I'd like to see us solve the problems of the world so we no longer have hunger, poverty, or war, so anyone can become an entrepreneur and pull themselves out of poverty.
He went on to say that there is a lesson in the World War II campaign for both young and old. "We need to remember the price we paid for freedom," said Barber.
HOW HIS CAREER BEGAN
Chaplain Barber began his military service in October 1941, with the 11th Horse Calvary, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place on December 7, 1941. He was the youngest chaplain on active duty in all branches of the service. After the horse cavalry, he was with General George Patten as he built two tank divisions. In 1943, Chaplain Barber served with 1,500 black troops, a full five years before integration was achieved in the U.S. armed forces. He was one of four chaplains to make the De-day landing on Omaha Beach and later he helped to choose the site for the first U.S. cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.
He was also at the bloody Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945), the last German offensive in the west during World War II, where he had his Jeep torn apart from a German Artillery shell. Two of his assistants were killed in battles in Europe and later, at the end of the war in Europe, he found himself in Czechoslovakia, face to face with Russian troops. Here he was able to rescue several European ministers, nuns and priests from the Russians and get them to safety.
AT THE START OF WORLD VISION
Barber later served for two years as a chaplain in Japan and Korea in the Korean War, where he helped Bob Pierce to rescue 100,000 orphans and helped start World Vision.
Barber pastored two churches for 45 years in Southern California. Included in this service was 13 years at the Whittier Drive-in Theater. "This was the prototype that the Rev. Bob Schuller followed before forming the Crystal Cathedral," he said. He retired from pastoring in 1981.
With abounding enthusiasm, however, he continues, up until today, to serve around the world as a consultant to humanitarian groups in the fields of health, food, clean water, shelter, education and how to lift one's self out of poverty.
He says his credo and goal has always been "to help people to have a spiritual relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit" and also "to live a life of love and service to all." He adds, "My message to the free world today is 'the truth can set you free!'"