Leap of Faith: A WWII Story

Leap of Faith: A WWII Story

A World War II veteran shares the story of the harrowing six months he spent in German prison camps and his eventual triumphant return to the United States. At just 18 years old, Hjalmar Johansson went on his first WWII mission as a nose gunner in a B-24 bomber. When his squadron came under heavy fire, Hjalmar and the rest of the crew were forced to abandon their plane behind enemy lines with no help in sight.

Leap of faith

Marie-Ange Hawkins has the kind of childhood that most people dream of. Freedom, love, security in a beautiful old French château. But when Marie-Ange is just eleven, a tragic accident marks the end of her idyllic life.

Orphaned and alone, she is sent to America, to live with her great-aunt on a farm in Iowa. Bitterly resented by the old woman, cut off from everything she has known and loved, Marie-Ange is forced to work tirelessly on the farm, dreaming only of the day she can return to her beloved Château de Marmouton.

In Marie-Ange's isolated existence, only the friendship of a local boy, Billy Parker, offers comfort and hope. But her only wish is to gain an education--and escape. Then, just after her twenty-first birthday, an unexpected visitor brings startling news and an extraordinary gift: the freedom to return to France, to Château de Marmouton.

When she arrives in France, Marie-Ange learns that the château's new owner is Comte Bernard de Beauchamp, a dashing young widower who invites her into his home, then into his heart. But their magical life together, which soon includes marriage, children, and lavish homes, slowly takes an ominous turn. A mysterious woman tells Marie-Ange a shocking story, a story so chilling she doesn't want to believe it.

Not even her dear friend Billy can help her now. He is thousands of miles away. And as the darkness gathers around her, Marie-Ange must find the faith and courage to take one, last desperate step to save her loved ones and herself.

Danielle Steel's powerful novel is about being pulled into a place where nothing is what it seems. It is about being seduced and lied to and turned around, and wanting to believe the lies--until the moment comes, in one blinding instant, when survival and salvation depend on a final Leap of Faith: the only path to freedom, and life

A Leap of Faith

Does the name, Jochebed (yó-ka-bed) mean anything to you? Jochebed was the mother of Moses. She was the daughter of Levi. She married her nephew, Amram, Levi’s grandson – her brother, Kohath’s oldest son. (Exodus 6:16) She gave birth to a daughter, Miriam, and two sons, Aaron and Moses.

Hers is the story of a mother’s faith, hope and love – and her willingness to resort to extreme measures in order to protect and provide for her child. But, more than that, it’s a story of looking beyond the circumstances of the moment and trusting God to order and provide. And that’s what I want to emphasize in the sermon this morning – that, when we look to God, God can use our humility and courage to accomplish some pretty remarkable things. As we’ll see, all it takes is a leap of faith.

To begin with, let’s go back to Joseph. Joseph, you’ll remember, was the son of Jacob who wore the coat of many colors. He was the one his brothers sold into slavery and then told their father that he’d been killed by a wild animal. But Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams, and it was this ability that endeared him to the Egyptian Pharaoh. When the Pharaoh told Joseph his dream, Joseph warned him that they were in for a terrible drought. Wisely, Pharaoh made him chief overseer of all the grain in Egypt and, thanks to Joseph, they stored enough grain during the plentiful years that, when the drought came, they not only had enough to feed the Egyptians, but to sell to other countries, as well.

The drought led his brothers to come to Egypt to buy grain and when they came before the overseer, here was their long lost brother, Joseph. Surprise! Joseph and his brothers were reconciled at last. The Pharaoh welcomed Joseph’s family to settle in Egypt, and he treated them like royalty.

Their good fortune didn’t last forever. In time, the Pharaoh died, and a new Pharaoh took his place. The new Pharaoh cared nothing for Joseph or for his family – or for Jews, in general, for that matter. For one thing, they were growing more numerous and prosperous than the Egyptians, and so he saw them as a threat and began treating them as slaves. Things got so bad that the Hebrews cried out to God for deliverance, and that’s where our story for today begins. Here’s what happened.

Not long before Moses was born, Egyptian astrologers saw signs in the heavens that a child was to be born on a certain day who would set the slaves free. They warned the Pharaoh and he decreed that every male child born on that particular day should be thrown into the Nile River to drown.

Sure enough, on the seventh day of Adar in the Jewish calendar – the day the astrologers had predicted the child would be born – Jochebed gave birth to Moses. No sooner than he took his first breath, the whole house filled with a radiant light. She knew that this was no ordinary child, and that she must do everything possible to protect him from the wicked Pharaoh.

She hid him for three months, but then, you can’t hide a growing child forever. It would be only a matter of time before he was discovered. She faced a dilemma: If she kept the child, she’d lose him if she gave him up, perhaps God would save him. It was – and is – the hardest decision a parent can make – whether to hold on or let go.

Well, here’s what she did: She took a small basket and smeared it, inside and out, with tar to make it waterproof. Then she lined it with a soft blanket and laid him in the basket sound asleep. She carried the basket down to the Nile and gently set it in the water among the papyrus reeds growing along the bank. It was her way of placing him into the very hands of God. Then she went home to cry.

Little did she know, but her daughter, Miriam, had followed her to the river and had watched from a distance. When Jochebed went back to the house, Miriam stayed to see what would happen.

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It was a hot day, and the Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithya, came to bathe in the cool waters of the Nile. Her maidens dutifully stood guard on the bank. As she splashed in the water, Bithya heard a baby crying. She rushed to the shallow waters where the papyrus reeds were thick and found the basket with a baby tucked inside. She took one look at the child and, even though she knew it must be one of the Hebrew children, she vowed to keep him for herself.

She picked him up and tried to console him, but, by now, the baby was hungry, and he cried at the top of his lungs. Her maidens rushed to help, but they were as useless as she. Just then, Miriam appeared. She said, “I know a Hebrew woman who’ll take care of this child for you. In fact, she’s nursing.” Bithya thought that was a great idea, and so Miriam rushed home to get her mother. Bithya gave the child to Jochebed to take home with her and care for him. And so, in this way, Jochebed was able to nurse her baby and care for him in her home for the next two years.

Meanwhile, Bithya returned to the palace and told her father all that had happened. Then she asked permission to keep him, and he agreed. As for the earlier threat to the Pharaoh, the astrologers said that the would-be liberator of the Hebrews had been taken to the Nile and they felt sure he was now dead. When the time came for Moses to be weaned from his mother, Jochebed took him to the Pharaoh’s court, where he grew up as the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter, and the rest is history, as they say.

Jochebed wasn’t the only one in the Bible who took a leap of faith. A couple of weeks ago in the Adult Class we heard the story of Hannah and how she dedicated her son, Samuel, to the Lord. She prayed to God for a son and, in return, she vowed to give him back to the Lord. Sure enough, God heard her prayer and she gave birth to Samuel and, when he was weaned, she took him to the temple in Shiloh and left him in the care of the old priest, Eli. In letting go, she got to see him not only grow up to be a fine young man, but to become the prophet of God’s choosing to redeem the people of Israel. (1 Samuel 1-2)

If that weren’t enough, there’s more. Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac? God said,

“Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah. Offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.” (Genesis 22:2)

Talk about a leap of faith! After waiting all these years for a son, now to be asked to give him up? Who could blame Abraham if he’d feigned some excuse?

But he didn’t. He saddled his donkey and loaded it with firewood and took Isaac with him to Moriah. When they got there, he and Isaac walked up the mountain together, Isaac carrying the wood and Abraham carrying a torch and a knife.

Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Gen. 22:7-8) Little did he know.

When they got to the altar, Abraham stacked the wood and bound Isaac on top of it. Then he took his knife and was just about to cut his throat when he heard an angel call his name.

” Abraham, Abraham!” He (the angel) said, “Don’t lay your hand on the boy, neither do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And, at that very moment he heard the sound of a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. He placed the ram on the altar instead of his son, and, together, they made sacrifice and glorified God. (Gen. 22:9-13)

In time, Abraham became the model of faithfulness, not only for the Hebrews, but for the early church, as well. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)

Perhaps you’ve heard this old story: A tourist went to the Grand Canyon, got too close to the edge and fell over the side. Luckily, there was a scrub bush jutting out from the rock, and he was able to grab a limb and hold on for dear life.

Looking down at the great chasm below, he called out, “Help, help!” At that moment, a bearded figure peered over the side and said, “I’ll help you, friend.”

“Who are you?” the man asked. And the stranger said, “I’m the Lord. I’m here to save you.”

“Great!” said the man. “Just get me out of here.” “Sure thing,” the stranger said. “All you have to do is let go of the limb.”

“Let go of the limb?” the man cried. “Are you crazy?” “Not at all,” said the stranger, “just let go of the limb and you’ll be saved.”

The man looked at the drop-off beneath him, then to the smiling face above him. He thought for a moment and then he called out, “Is anyone else up there?”

Søren Kierkegaard first coined the term, “leap of faith,” in a thesis he wrote in 1846 to describe one’s willingness to believe in God without being able to prove that God even exists. He believed that the only way to bridge the gap between us and God to take a leap of faith.

The term stuck, and we still use it today in both religious and non-religious ways. To take a leap of faith is simply to do something without knowing for sure what the outcome will be. For example, to get married is to take a leap of faith. So is to invest in the stock market or start a new business. To take a leap of faith is to invite success and to risk failure: You never know until you try.

Going back to the Old Testament lesson for today, had Bithya not come along when she did, Moses could’ve easily died of dehydration before anyone found him. Samuel could’ve become a nameless worker in the temple at Shiloh. Abraham could’ve gone home with Isaac’s blood on his hands. When you take a leap of faith, there’s no guarantee where you’ll land.

We take a leap of faith because we believe that the possibilities outweigh the risks. And if we’re acting in faith, we believe that, if it’s in accordance with God’s will, all things are possible.

This is what former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair did recently. On May 30, he announced the creation of a foundation in his name “…dedicated to proving that collaboration among those of different religious faiths can help address some of the world’s most pressing social problems.” (Time, May 28, 2008)

Specifically, Blair believes God is calling us to work together across traditional faith lines to achieve world peace. And you know what that means – Christians and Jews and Muslims will have to take each other seriously. They’ll have to listen and respect each others’ points of view. They’ll have to check their arrogance at the door and be willing to negotiate and compromise.

It won’t be easy. Take our own country, for example. I was born after World War II. In my lifetime we’ve gone to war four times, not counting the invasion of Grenada and bombing places like Syria and Bosnia. It’d take a huge leap of faith for us to give up our “Big Stick” policy and sit down at the same table with our enemies.

Still, Blair is optimistic. He says, “‘Faith is part of our future, and faith and the values it brings with it are an essential part of making globalization work.'” (ibid)

Closer to home, we’ve just heard from Angie Taylor, and how she and a handful of others have launched a new initiative called, “Restoring Hope to Hope.” They’re addressing some of the root problems of our community – juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, the high dropout rate at Hope High School. They’re hoping to inspire folks like you and me to get involved – to tutor children after school or be a mentor.

Will it work? Who knows? It’s a leap of faith. But, like Tony Blair, Angie’s optimistic. She believes this is what God is calling her to do, and she’s willing to commit her time and effort and expertise in the hope that, working together, we can make a difference.

Here’s the bottom line: To take a leap of faith takes raw courage and a willingness to trust. Bithya placed her child into the hands of God. So did Hannah. So did Abraham. If we’re to experience the fullness of God’s amazing grace and love, so must we.

Our youth group in Nashville used to play a little game that brought this home to me. They’d stand in a tight circle with one person in the center. Then they’d blindfold the person and turn him/her around several times. His job was to stand rigid with both hands at his side, then fall backward into the arms of whoever was behind him.

I watched as several kids took their turn. “O.K.,” I thought. “That’s nice.” Then one of them said, “It’s your turn.” I tried to crawfish my way out of it. “We’ll catch you,” she said. I could see myself breaking my back.

Reluctantly, I took my place in the center of the circle, put on the blindfold, and turned around until I had no idea who was standing behind me. I stiffened my body and leaned back. In no time, I was passed the point of no return. Just when I thought my head was about to crack open on the concrete floor, I felt a dozen arms or more cushion my fall. It was a piece of cake.

To know the feeling, you’ve got to experience it for yourself. Hearing about it doesn’t count. You have to take a leap of faith. Bruce Springsteen put it this way:

“It takes a leap of faith to get things going
It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
In your heart you must trust”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Philip W. McLarty. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible.

American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith

What happens when a people decide to govern themselves? America’s national treasures come to life in this compelling exhibition that examines the bold experiment to create a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith explores the history of citizen participation, debate, and compromise from the nation’s formation to today. Through objects such as Thomas Jefferson’s portable desk, used to draft the Declaration of Independence the inkstand Lincoln used to draft the Emancipation Proclamation and the table on which Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, the exhibition focuses on the changing political ideals and principles of the nation, citizenship in a pluralistic society, and political participation and engagement.

Visitor Guide

A self-guided highlights tour is available online in the following languages:

Exhibition Website

Can't visit the museum to see American Democracy? Explore the historic objects and dive into the history on the exhibition website.

Traveling Exhibition

Beginning in 2019, a touring version of American Democracy integrates national collections and themes with regional stories and artifacts, supplemented by engaging multimedia experiences.


Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr. was born on March 6, 1927, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, [1] the only child of Leroy Gordon Cooper Sr. and his wife Hattie Lee née Herd. [2] His mother was a school teacher. His father enlisted in the United States Navy during World War I, and served on the presidential yacht USS Mayflower. After the war, Cooper Sr. completed his high school education Hattie Lee was one of his teachers, although she was only two years older than him. He joined the Oklahoma National Guard, flying a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, despite never having formal military pilot training. He graduated from college and law school, and became a state district judge. He was called to active duty during World War II, and served in the Pacific theater in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. [3] He transferred to United States Air Force (USAF) after it was formed in 1947, and was stationed at Hickham Air Force Base, Hawaii Territory. He retired from the USAF with the rank of colonel in 1957. [4]

Cooper attended Jefferson Elementary School and Shawnee High School, [4] where he was on the football and track teams. During his senior high school year, he played at halfback in the state football championship. [5] He was active in the Boy Scouts of America, where he achieved its second highest rank, Life Scout. [6] His parents owned a Command-Aire 3C3 biplane, and he learned to fly at a young age. He unofficially soloed when he was 12 years old, and earned his pilot's license in a Piper J-3 Cub when he was 16. [4] [7] His family moved to Murray, Kentucky, when his father was called back into service, and he graduated from Murray High School in June 1945. [2]

After Cooper learned that the United States Army and Navy flying schools were not taking any more candidates, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. [5] He left for Parris Island as soon as he graduated from high school, [2] but World War II ended before he saw overseas service. He was assigned to the Naval Academy Preparatory School as an alternate for an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, but the primary appointee was accepted, and Cooper was assigned to guard duty in Washington, D.C. He was serving with the Presidential Honor Guard when he was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1946. [5]

Cooper went to Hawaii to live with his parents. He started attending the University of Hawaii, and bought his own J-3 Cub. There he met his first wife, Trudy B. Olson (1927–1994) of Seattle, through the local flying club. She was active in flying, and would later become the only wife of a Mercury astronaut to have a private pilot license. They were married on August 29, 1947, in Honolulu, when both were 20 years old. They had two daughters. [2] [4] [8]

At college, Cooper was active in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), [8] which led to his being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in June 1949. He was able to transfer his commission to the United States Air Force in September 1949. [9] He received flight training at Perrin Air Force Base, Texas and Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, [4] in the T-6 Texan. [8]

On completion of his flight training in 1950, Cooper was posted to Landstuhl Air Base, West Germany, where he flew F-84 Thunderjets and F-86 Sabres for four years. He became a flight commander of the 525th Fighter Bomber Squadron. While in Germany, he attended the European Extension of the University of Maryland. He returned to the United States in 1954, and studied for two years at the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in Ohio. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering there on August 28, 1956. [4] [10]

While at AFIT, Cooper met Gus Grissom, a fellow USAF officer, and the two became good friends. They were involved in an accident on takeoff from Lowry Field on June 23, 1956, when the Lockheed T-33 Cooper was piloting suddenly lost power. He aborted the takeoff, but the landing gear collapsed and the aircraft skidded erratically for 2,000 feet (610 m), and crashed at the end of the runway, bursting into flames. Cooper and Grissom escaped unscathed, although the aircraft was a total loss. [10]

Cooper and Grissom attended the USAF Experimental Flight Test Pilot School (Class 56D) at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 1956. [10] After graduation Cooper was posted to the Flight Test Engineering Division at Edwards, where he served as a test pilot and project manager testing the F-102A and F-106B. [2] He also flew the T-28, T-37, F-86, F-100 and F-104. [11] By the time he left Edwards, he had logged more than 2,000 hours of flight time, of which 1,600 hours were in jet aircraft. [10]

Project Mercury Edit

In January 1959, Cooper received unexpected orders to report to Washington, D.C. There was no indication what it was about, but his commanding officer, Major General Marcus F. Cooper (no relation) recalled an announcement in the newspaper saying that a contract had been awarded to McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, Missouri, to build a space capsule, and advised Cooper not to volunteer for astronaut training. On February 2, 1959, Cooper attended a NASA briefing on Project Mercury and the part astronauts would play in it. Cooper went through the selection process with another 109 pilots, [12] and was not surprised when he was accepted as the youngest of the first seven American astronauts. [13] [14]

During the selection interviews, Cooper had been asked about his domestic relationship, and had lied, saying that he and Trudy had a good, stable marriage. In fact, they had separated four months before, and she was living with their daughters in San Diego while he occupied a bachelor's quarters at Edwards. Aware that NASA wanted to project an image of its astronauts as loving family men, and that his story would not stand up to scrutiny, he drove down to San Diego to see Trudy at the first opportunity. Lured by the prospect of a great adventure for herself and her daughters, she agreed to go along with the charade and pretend that they were a happily married couple. [15]

The identities of the Mercury Seven were announced at a press conference at Dolley Madison House in Washington, D.C., on April 9, 1959: [16] Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. [17] Each was assigned a different portion of the project along with other special assignments. Cooper specialized in the Redstone rocket, which would be used for the first, sub-orbital spaceflights. [18] He also chaired the Emergency Egress Committee, responsible for working out emergency launch pad escape procedures, [19] and engaged Bo Randall to develop a personal survival knife for astronauts to carry. [20]

The astronauts drew their salaries as military officers, and an important component of that was flight pay. In Cooper's case, it amounted to $145 a month (equivalent to $1,287 in 2020). NASA saw no reason to provide the astronauts with aircraft, so they had to fly to meetings around the country on commercial airlines. To continue earning their flight pay, Grissom and Slayton would go out on the weekend to Langley Air Force Base, and attempt to put in the required four hours a month, competing for T-33 aircraft with senior deskbound colonels and generals. Cooper traveled to McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee, where a friend let him fly higher-performance F-104B jets. This came up when Cooper had lunch with William Hines, a reporter for The Washington Star, and was duly reported in the paper. Cooper then discussed the issue with Congressman James G. Fulton. The matter was taken up by the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Within weeks the astronauts had priority access to USAF F-102s, something that Cooper considered a "hot plane", but which could still take off from and land at short civilian airfields but it did not make Cooper popular with senior NASA management. [21] [22]

After General Motors executive Ed Cole presented Shepard with a brand-new Chevrolet Corvette, Jim Rathmann, a racing car driver who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1960, and was a Chevrolet dealer in Melbourne, Florida, convinced Cole to turn this into an ongoing marketing campaign. Henceforth, astronauts would be able to lease brand-new Corvettes for a dollar a year. All of the Mercury Seven but Glenn soon took up the offer. Cooper, Grissom and Shepard were soon racing their Corvettes around Cape Canaveral, with the police ignoring their exploits. From a marketing perspective, it was very successful, and helped the highly priced Corvette become established as a desirable brand. Cooper held licenses with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). He also enjoyed racing speedboats. [23] [24]

Mercury-Atlas 9 Edit

Cooper was designated for the next mission, Mercury-Atlas 9 ( MA-9 ). Apart from the grounded Slayton, he was the only one of the Mercury Seven who had not yet flown in space. [27] [24] Cooper's selection was publicly announced on November 14, 1962, with Shepard designated as his backup. [28]

Project Mercury had begun with a goal of ultimately flying an 18-orbit, 27-hour mission, known as the manned one-day mission. [29] On November 9, senior staff at the Manned Spacecraft Center decided to fly a 22-orbit mission as MA-9 . Project Mercury still remained years behind the Soviet Union's space program, which had already flown a 64-orbit mission in Vostok 3. When Atlas 130-D , the booster designated for MA-9 , first emerged from the factory in San Diego on January 30, 1963, it failed to pass inspection and was returned to the factory. [30] For Schirra's MA-8 mission, 20 modifications had been made to the Mercury spacecraft for Cooper's MA-9 , 183 changes were made. [30] [31] Cooper decided to name his spacecraft, Mercury Spacecraft No. 20, Faith 7. NASA public affairs officers could see the newspaper headlines if the spacecraft were lost at sea: "NASA loses Faith". [32]

After an argument with NASA Deputy Administrator Walter C. Williams over last-minute changes to his pressure suit to insert a new medical probe, Cooper was nearly replaced by Shepard. [33] This was followed by Cooper buzzing Hangar S at Cape Canaveral in an F-102 and lighting the afterburner. [33] Williams told Slayton he was prepared to replace Cooper with Shepard. They decided not to, but not to let Cooper know immediately. Instead, Slayton told Cooper that Williams was looking to ground whoever buzzed Hangar S. [34] According to Cooper, Slayton later told him that President John F. Kennedy had intervened to prevent his removal. [33]

Cooper was launched into space on May 15, 1963, aboard the Faith 7 spacecraft, for what turned out to be the last of the Project Mercury missions. Because MA-9 would orbit over nearly every part of Earth from 33 degrees north to 33 degrees south, [35] a total of 28 ships, 171 aircraft, and 18,000 servicemen were assigned to support the mission. [35] He orbited the Earth 22 times and logged more time in space than all five previous Mercury astronauts combined: 34 hours, 19 minutes, and 49 seconds. Cooper achieved an altitude of 165.9 miles (267 km) at apogee. He was the first American astronaut to sleep, not only in orbit, [2] [36] but on the launch pad during a countdown. [37]

There were several mission-threatening technical problems toward the end of Faith 7 ' s flight. During the 19th orbit, the capsule had a power failure. Carbon dioxide levels began rising, both in Cooper's suit and in the cabin, and the cabin temperature climbed to over 130 °F (54 °C). The clock and then the gyroscopes failed, but the radio, which was connected directly to the battery, remained working, and allowed Cooper to communicate with the mission controllers. [38] Like all Mercury flights, MA-9 was designed for fully automatic control, a controversial engineering decision which reduced the role of an astronaut to that of a passenger, and prompted Chuck Yeager to describe Mercury astronauts as "Spam in a can". [39] "This flight would put an end to all that nonsense," Cooper later wrote. "My electronics were shot and a pilot had the stick." [40]

Turning to his understanding of star patterns, Cooper took manual control of the tiny capsule and successfully estimated the correct pitch for re-entry into the atmosphere. [41] Precision was needed in the calculation small errors in timing or orientation could produce large errors in the landing point. Cooper drew lines on the capsule window to help him check his orientation before firing the re-entry rockets. "So I used my wrist watch for time," he later recalled, "my eyeballs out the window for attitude. Then I fired my retrorockets at the right time and landed right by the carrier." [42]

Faith 7 splashed down four miles (6.4 km) ahead of the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge. Faith 7 was hoisted on board by a helicopter with Cooper still inside. Once on deck he used the explosive bolts to blow open the hatch. Postflight inspections and analyses studied the causes and nature of the electrical problems that had plagued the final hours of the flight, but no fault was found with the performance of the pilot. [43]

On May 22, New York City gave Cooper a ticker-tape parade witnessed by more than four million spectators. The parade concluded with a congratulatory luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria attended by 1,900 people, where dignitaries such as Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and former president Herbert Hoover made speeches honoring Cooper. [44]

Project Gemini Edit

MA-9 was the last of the Project Mercury flights. Walt Williams and others wanted to follow up with a three-day Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission, but NASA HQ had already announced that there would be no MA-10 if MA-9 was successful. [32] Shepard in particular was eager to fly the mission, for which he had been designated. [45] He even attempted to enlist the support of President Kennedy. [46] An official decision that there would be no MA-10 was made by NASA Administrator James E. Webb on June 22, 1963. [43] Had the mission been approved, Shepard might not have flown it, as he was grounded in October 1963, [47] and MA-10 might well have been flown by Cooper, who was his backup. [45] In January 1964 the press reported that the Democratic Party of Oklahoma discussed running Cooper for the United States Senate. [48]

Project Mercury was followed by Project Gemini, which took its name from the fact that it carried two men instead of just one. [49] Slayton designated Cooper as commander of Gemini 5, an eight-day, 120-orbit mission. [47] Cooper's assignment was officially announced on February 8, 1965. Pete Conrad, one of the nine astronauts selected in 1962 was designated as his co-pilot, with Neil Armstrong and Elliot See as their respective backups. On July 22, Cooper and Conrad went through a rehearsal of a double launch of Gemini atop a Titan II booster from Launch Complex 19 and an Atlas-Agena target vehicle from Launch Complex 14. At the end of the successful test, the erector could not be raised, and the two astronauts had to be retrieved with a cherry picker, an escape device that Cooper had devised for Project Mercury and insisted be retained for Gemini. [50]

Cooper and Conrad wanted to name their spacecraft Lady Bird after Lady Bird Johnson, the First Lady of the United States, but Webb turned down their request he wanted to "depersonalize" the space program. [51] Cooper and Conrad then came up with the idea of a mission patch, similar to the organizational emblems worn by military units. The patch was intended to commemorate all the hundreds of people directly involved, not just the astronauts. [52] Cooper and Conrad chose an embroidered cloth patch sporting the names of the two crew members, a Conestoga wagon, and the slogan "8 Days or Bust" which referred to the expected mission duration. [53] Webb ultimately approved the design, but insisted on the removal of the slogan from the official version of the patch, feeling it placed too much emphasis on the mission length and not the experiments, and fearing the public might see the mission as a failure if it did not last the full duration. The patch was worn on the right breast of the astronauts' uniforms below their nameplates and opposite the NASA emblems worn on the left. [53] [54]

The mission was postponed from August 9 to 19 to give Cooper and Conrad more time to train, and was then delayed for two days due to a storm. Gemini 5 was launched at 09:00 on August 21, 1965. The Titan II booster placed them in a 163 by 349 kilometers (101 by 217 mi) orbit. Cooper's biggest concern was the fuel cell. To make it last eight days, Cooper intended to operate it at a low pressure, but when it started to dip too low the Flight Controllers advised him to switch on the oxygen heater. It eventually stabilized at 49 newtons per square centimetre (71 psi)—lower than it had ever been operated at before. While MA-9 had become uncomfortably warm, Gemini 5 became cold. There were also problems with the Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System thrusters, which became erratic, and two of them failed completely. [55]

Gemini 5 was originally intended to practice orbital rendezvous with an Agena target vehicle, but this had been deferred to a later mission owing to problems with the Agena. [56] Nonetheless, Cooper practiced bringing his spacecraft to a predetermined location in space. This raised confidence for achieving rendezvous with an actual spacecraft on subsequent missions, and ultimately in lunar orbit. Cooper and Conrad were able to carry out all but one of the scheduled experiments, most of which were related to orbital photography. [57]

The mission was cut short by the appearance of Hurricane Betsy in the planned recovery area. Cooper fired the retrorockets on the 120th orbit. Splashdown was 130 kilometers (81 mi) short of the target. A computer error had set the Earth's rotation at 360 degrees per day whereas it is actually 360.98. The difference was significant in a spacecraft. The error would have been larger had Cooper not recognized the problem when the reentry gauge indicated that they were too high, and attempted to compensate by increasing the bank angle from 53 to 90 degrees to the left to increase the drag. Helicopters plucked them from the sea and took them to the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain. [57]

The two astronauts established a new space endurance record by traveling a distance of 3,312,993 miles (5,331,745 km) in 190 hours and 56 minutes—just short of eight days—showing that astronauts could survive in space for the length of time necessary to go from the Earth to the Moon and back. Cooper became the first astronaut to make a second orbital flight. [58]

Cooper served as backup Command Pilot for Gemini 12, the last of the Gemini missions, with Gene Cernan as his pilot. [59]

Project Apollo Edit

In November 1964, Cooper entered the $28,000 Salton City 500 miles (800 km) boat race with racehorse owner Ogden Phipps and racing car driver Chuck Daigh. [60] They were in fourth place when a cracked motor forced them to withdraw. The next year Cooper and Grissom had an entry in the race, but were disqualified after failing to make a mandatory meeting. Cooper competed in the Southwest Championship Drag Boat races at La Porte, Texas, later in 1965, [61] and in the 1967 Orange Bowl Regatta with fire fighter Red Adair. [62] In 1968, he entered the 24 Hours of Daytona with Charles Buckley, the NASA chief of security at the Kennedy Space Center. The night before the race, NASA management ordered him to withdraw due to the dangers involved. [63] Cooper upset NASA management by quipping to the press that "NASA wants astronauts to be tiddlywinks players." [63]

Cooper was selected as backup Commander for the May 1969 Apollo 10 mission. This placed him in line for the position of Commander of Apollo 13, according to the usual crew rotation procedure established by Slayton as Director of Flight Crew Operations. However, when Shepard, the Chief of the Astronaut Office, returned to flight status in May 1969, Slayton replaced Cooper with Shepard as Commander of this crew. This mission subsequently became Apollo 14 to give Shepard more time to train. [2] [64] Loss of this command placed Cooper further down the flight rotation, meaning he would not fly until one of the later flights, if ever. [65]

Slayton alleged that Cooper had developed a lax attitude towards training during the Gemini program for the Gemini 5 mission, other astronauts had to coax him into the simulator. [66] However, according to Walter Cunningham, Cooper and Scott Carpenter were the only Mercury astronauts who consistently attended geology classes. [67] Slayton later asserted that he never intended to rotate Cooper to another mission, and assigned him to the Apollo 10 backup crew simply because of a lack of qualified astronauts with command experience at the time. Slayton noted that Cooper had a slim chance of receiving the Apollo 13 command if he did an outstanding job as backup commander of Apollo 10, but Slayton felt that Cooper did not. [68]

Dismayed by his stalled astronaut career, Cooper retired from NASA and the USAF on July 31, 1970, with the rank of colonel, having flown 222 hours in space. [2] Soon after he divorced Trudy, [69] he married Suzan Taylor, a schoolteacher, in 1972. [69] They had two daughters: Colleen Taylor, born in 1979 and Elizabeth Jo, born in 1980. They remained married until his death in 2004. [70]

After leaving NASA, Cooper served on several corporate boards and as technical consultant for more than a dozen companies in fields ranging from high performance boat design to energy, construction, and aircraft design. [58] Between 1962 and 1967, he was president of Performance Unlimited, Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of racing and marine engines, and fiberglass boats. He was president of GCR, which designed, tested and raced championship cars, conducted tire tests for race cars, and worked on installation of turbine engines on cars. He served on the board of Teletest, which designed and installed advanced telemetry systems Doubloon, which designed and built treasure hunting equipment and Cosmos, which conducted archeological exploration projects. [58]

As part owner and race project manager of the Profile Race Team from 1968 to 1970, Cooper designed and raced high performance boats. Between 1968 and 1974 he served as a technical consultant at Republic Corp., and General Motors, Ford and Chrysler Motor Companies, where he was a consultant on design and construction of various automotive components. He was also a technical consultant for Canaveral International, Inc., for which he developed technical products and served in public relations on its land development projects, and served on the board of directors of APECO, Campcom LowCom, and Crafttech. [58]

Cooper was president of his own consulting firm, Gordon Cooper & Associates, Inc., which was involved in technical projects ranging from airline and aerospace fields to land and hotel development. [58] From 1973 to 1975, he worked for The Walt Disney Company as the vice president of research and development for Epcot. [58] In 1989, he became the chief executive of Galaxy Group, Inc., a company which designed and improved small airplanes. [71] [72]

In Cooper's autobiography, Leap of Faith, co-authored with Bruce Henderson, he recounted his experiences with the Air Force and NASA, along with his efforts to expose an alleged UFO conspiracy theory. [73] In his review of the book, space historian Robert Pearlman wrote: "While no one can argue with someone's experiences, in the case of Cooper's own sightings, I found some difficulty understanding how someone so connected with ground breaking technology and science could easily embrace ideas such as extraterrestrial visits with little more than anecdotal evidence." [74]

Cooper claimed to have seen his first UFO while flying over West Germany in 1951, [75] although he denied reports he had seen a UFO during his Mercury flight. [76] On May 3, 1957, when Cooper was at Edwards, he had a crew set up an Askania Cinetheodolite precision landing system on a dry lake bed. This cinetheodolite system could take pictures at one frame per second as an aircraft landed. The crew consisted of James Bittick and Jack Gettys, who began work at the site just before 08:00, with both still and motion picture cameras. According to Cooper's accounts, when they returned later that morning they reported that they had seen a "strange-looking, saucer-like" aircraft that did not make a sound either on landing or take-off. [77]

Cooper recalled that these men, who saw experimental aircraft on a regular basis as part of their job, were clearly unnerved. They explained how the saucer hovered over them, landed 50 yards (46 m) away using three extended landing gears, and then took off as they approached for a closer look. He called a special Pentagon number to call to report such incidents, and was instructed to have their film developed, but to make no prints of it, and send it in to the Pentagon right away in a locked courier pouch. [78] As Cooper had not been instructed to not look at the negatives before sending them, he did. Cooper claimed that the quality of the photography was excellent, and what he saw was exactly what Bittick and Gettys had described to him. He expected that there would be a follow-up investigation, since an aircraft of unknown origin had landed at a classified military installation, but never heard about the incident again. He was never able to track down what happened to those photos, and assumed they ended up going to the Air Force's official UFO investigation, Project Blue Book, which was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. [78]

Cooper claimed until his death that the U.S. government was indeed covering up information about UFOs. He pointed out that there were hundreds of reports made by his fellow pilots, many coming from military jet pilots sent to respond to radar or visual sightings. [42] In his memoirs, Cooper wrote he had seen unexplained aircraft several times during his career, and that hundreds of reports had been made. [42] In 1978 he testified before the UN on the topic. [79] Throughout his later life Cooper repeatedly expressed in interviews that he had seen UFOs, and described his recollections for the 2002 documentary Out of the Blue. [42]

[80] Cooper died at age 77 from heart failure at his home in Ventura, California, on October 4, 2004. Cooper was the last American to have flown a solo mission in space until, on June 21, 2004, Mike Melvill piloted SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 100.1 kilometers (62.2 mi) on its first spaceflight. [81] [70]

A portion of Cooper's ashes (along with those of Star Trek actor James Doohan and 206 others) was launched from New Mexico on April 29, 2007, on a sub-orbital memorial flight by a privately owned UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL sounding rocket. The capsule carrying the ashes fell back toward Earth as planned it was lost in mountainous landscape. The search was obstructed by bad weather, but after a few weeks the capsule was found, and the ashes it carried were returned to the families. [82] [83] [84] The ashes were then launched on the Explorers orbital mission on August 3, 2008, but were lost when the Falcon 1 rocket failed two minutes into the flight. [84] [85]

On May 22, 2012, another portion of Cooper's ashes was among those of 308 people included on the SpaceX COTS Demo Flight 2 that was bound for the International Space Station. [84] This flight, using the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and the Dragon capsule, was unmanned. The second stage and the burial canister remained in the initial orbit that the Dragon C2+ was inserted into, and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere a month later. [86]

Seeing the Unseen

We learn a lesson regarding this from Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus caused a stir when He forgave the sins of a paralytic. As the scribes noted, forgiving sins was God’s privilege, not man’s. Further, how could anyone know if Jesus was telling the truth? It’s easy to make claims about an invisible realm that can’t be tested.

Jesus understood this, so He gave the people some tangible evidence. He said, “‘In order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic—‘I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.’” (Mk. 2:10–11)

This supernatural healing was an historical event, what Jesus’ biographers called an “attesting miracle.” Jesus gave them something they could see in the physical realm to substantiate a claim He was making about something they couldn’t see in the spiritual realm. History proved religion. Facts substantiated faith.

The historical record in the Hebrew Bible serves the same purpose. The great redemptive act in the history of the Jews was their escape from slavery in Egypt. In the writings of Moses we find an historical record of the events leading up to this exodus.

If we could show that these events took place largely as described in this account—that ten plagues culminating in the death of the firstborn of Ramses II shook the foundation of the greatest nation on earth at the time, and that the Hebrews then escaped across the Red Sea with the Egyptian army destroyed in its wake—wouldn’t it be fair to say this history has “religious” significance?

The record itself claims as much. In Exodus 9:14 we find this statement: “For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth.” 5 Once again, a series of observable, historical events (plagues) were meant to verify unobservable, spiritual truths.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth serves the same purpose in the New Testament. If, using the accepted cannons of historical research, we demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead—as four different detailed records of Jesus’ life claim—wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that this fact has something to do with the veracity of the Christian faith?

The apostle Paul thought so. He said that if Jesus had not risen from the dead, then Christians, of all people, ought to be pitied. 6 The truthfulness of Christianity, just like the truthfulness of ancient Judaism, is necessarily tied to historical events. These redemptive claims cannot be separated from the facts of history, because history is a record of the redemptive acts themselves.

Caprock Chronicles: South Plains Movie History: “Leap of Faith” Part Two

Editor's Note: Jack Becker is the editor of Caprock Chronicles and is a librarian at Texas Tech University Libraries. He can be reached at [email protected] Today&rsquos article about movies of West Texas is the second of a two-part series by Chuck Lanehart, Lubbock attorney and historian. In Part One, several movies shot or set on the South Plains and West Texas were examined.

&ldquoLeap of Faith,&rdquo a 1992 comedy-drama starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger, tells the story of a corrupt faith healer stranded in the fictional drought-stricken town of Rustwater, Kansas. Shot in Plainview, Groom, Claude, Happy and Tulia, South Plains residents were recruited as extras for the movie.

Minor roles in the film were played by little-known actors who would rise to stardom: Liam Neeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lukas Haas. Rock star Meat Loaf played a bus driver.

Several Plainview scenes were filmed at what was then called the Quick Lunch Cafe, now known as the Broadway Brew. According to location manager Bill Bowling, the cafe was chosen for its &ldquofeeling of interest. It has architectural integrity of the period. It is not plastic. It is one of a kind.&rdquo

One scene was filmed at Plainview&rsquos Granada Theater. Morning film dailies were reviewed at the Jimmy Dean Museum auditorium. The monarch butterfly scene was shot in Tulia, and a tent revival scene was shot in Groom.

In 2017, at the 25th anniversary celebration of the filming of the movie in Plainview, director Richard Pearce said the area was chosen &ldquonot only because of its photogenic big sky West Texas landscape but also because it seemed to sit at the literal epicenter of one of the country&rsquos driest agricultural regions. Plainview would be the perfect place to set this fictional story of a small town experiencing a devastating drought.

&ldquoThe only problem was that by the time we arrived to actually shoot the movie, the town of Plainview had had one of the wettest springs that anyone in the town could remember. The result was that no matter where you looked, the fields around Plainview were bright florescent green with the &lsquomiracle&rsquo of dryland agriculture.&rdquo

Lubbock lawyer Helen Liggett was chosen as Winger&rsquos photo double. Helen&rsquos eight-year-old daughter Anna appeared as the blonde girl being held up in the final scene of the movie

Helen said, &ldquoSteve Martin was very gracious, but ironically I never met Debra Winger.&rdquo Liggett gushed, &ldquoI got to meet Meat Loaf! Way cool for me as I am a huge &lsquoRocky Horror Picture Show&rsquo fan.&rdquo

Helen took vacation time and spent about eight days filming over two weeks in Plainview. She remembers being paid, but not how much, and she was a bit annoyed she did not get a screen credit. &ldquoThe only scene I really recall was the one filmed from atop a silo of the truck being driven by Mike Martin&mdashSteve Martin&rsquos double &mdash with me as the passenger: not very exciting.&rdquo

Lubbock architect Michael Martin heard children and adults were wanted as extras and took his two kids to Plainview for tryouts. With bushy white hair and a similar build, Michael could easily pass for Steve Martin. He found himself in a waiting room of Steve Martin and Debra Winger look-alikes, called in one-by-one for auditions.

Michael was chosen as Steve Martin&rsquos photo double and describes the experience as &ldquoa prolonged whirlwind,&rdquo working 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, with all meals provided, during an eight-week period in the summer.

&ldquoI worked with several stand-ins for Debra Winger, but I recall one special day working with Helen Liggett,&rdquo said Michael. &ldquoWe were waiting for a camera to be carried up to the top of a grain elevator. Several kids approached us for our autographs. I&rsquom not sure that they believed we were the &lsquoreal&rsquo Steve and Debra. I whispered to Helen, &lsquoLet&rsquos just give them the autographs. I&rsquoll sign my own name. You sign Debra Winger and it will raise her esteem in the community.&rsquo

&ldquoThe first day I met Steve Martin, I was placed in front of the Hale County Sheriff's Office. The director instructed me to exit the building, get in the truck and drive off. I rehearsed it several times. They radioed Steve to the set. We introduced ourselves and the director gave him instructions. They called &lsquoAction!&rsquo Steve tried what I had been doing, but the director didn&rsquot like his driving. Steve hopped in the passenger side and said &lsquoOkay, Mike, show me how you did it!&rsquo&rdquo

Michael remembered shooting an opening scene of the movie on his last day to work. &ldquoIt was just about dawn as I loaded up with the latest Debra stand-in for a parade through Happy. I&rsquom not sure what the population of Happy was at the time, but all of them and more lined the highway and waved ecstatically, as the cameras rolled. We repeated the same thing several times.

&ldquoI know where I appear in the movie, but that is a show business secret. If I told you, I would have to kill you,&rdquo Michael joked. &ldquoThe movie didn&rsquot achieve perfection, but everyone in the area, including myself, enjoyed its making.&rdquo

Leap of faith

The phrase is commonly attributed to Søren Kierkegaard however, he never used the term, as he referred to a qualitative leap. A leap of faith according to Kierkegaard involves circularity insofar as the leap is made by faith. [1] In his book Concluding Unscientific Postscript, he describes the core part of the leap of faith: the leap. “Thinking can turn toward itself in order to think about itself and skepticism can emerge. But this thinking about itself never accomplishes anything.” Kierkegaard says thinking should serve by thinking something. Kierkegaard wants to stop "thinking's self-reflection" and that is the movement that constitutes a leap. [2] He is against people's thinking about religion all day without ever doing anything but he is also against external shows and opinions about religion. Instead, Kierkegaard is in favor of the internal movement of faith. [3] He says, "where Christianity wants to have inwardness, worldly Christendom wants outwardness, and where Christianity wants outwardness, worldly Christendom wants inwardness." [4] But, on the other hand, he also says: "The less externality, the more inwardness if it is truly there but it is also the case that the less externality, the greater the possibility that the inwardness will entirely fail to come. The externality is the watchman who awakens the sleeper the externality is the solicitous mother who calls one the externality is the roll call that brings the soldier to his feet the externality is the reveille that helps one to make the great effort but the absence of the externality can mean that the inwardness itself calls inwardly to a person - alas - but it can also mean that the inwardness will fail to come." [5] The "most dreadful thing of all is a personal existence that cannot coalesce in a conclusion," [6] according to Kierkegaard. He asked his contemporaries if any of them had reached a conclusion about anything or did every new premise change their convictions.

David F. Swenson described the leap in his 1916 article The Anti-Intellectualism of Kierkegaard using some of Kierkegaard's ideas.

H2 plus O becomes water, and water becomes ice, by a leap. The change from motion to rest, or vice versa, is a transition which cannot be logically construed this is the basic principle of Zeno's dialectic, and is also expressed in Newton's laws of motion, since the external force by which such change is effected is not a consequence of the law, but is premised as external to the system with which we start. It is therefore transcendent and non-rational, and its coming into existence can only be apprehended as a leap. In the same manner, every causal system presupposes an external environment as the condition of change. Every transition from the detail of an empirical induction to the ideality and universality of law, is a leap. In the actual process of thinking, we have the leap by which we arrive at the understanding of an idea or an author. [7]

This is how the leap was described in 1950 and then in 1960.

Kierkegaard agreed with Lessing, a German dynamist, that truth lies in the search for an object, not in the object sought. It is another case of “act accomplishing itself.” If God held truth in one hand and the eternal pursuit of it in the other, He would choose the second hand according to Lessing. Religious truth concerns the individual and the individual alone, and it is the personal mode of appropriation, the process of realization, the subjective dynamism that counts. Of Lessing, Kierkegaard writes approvingly. But if we are constantly occupied in the immanent striving of our own subjectivity, how are we to ascend to knowledge of a transcendent God whom traditional thought declares to be known even by reason. Lessing and Kierkegaard declare in typical fashion that there is no bridge between historical, finite knowledge and God’s existence and nature. This gap can only be crossed by a “leap.” Faith is a completely irrational experience, and yet it is, paradoxically, the highest duty of a Christian. Though as Thomte observes, it is not a spontaneous belief, faith is nevertheless something blind, immediate, and decisive. It has the character of an “act of resignation.” It is unmediated and a-intellectual, much like Kant’s proof for the existence of God. Nature makes no leaps, according to the maxim of Leibniz. But faith, according to Kierkegaard must do so in a radical way. [8]

Like Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, who plays an important role in the spiritual struggle for meaning on the part of the modern writer, cast off the bondage of logic and the tyranny of science. By means of the dialectic of "the leap," he attempted to transcend both the aesthetic and the ethical stages. Completely alone, cut off from his fellow-men, the individual realizes his own nothingness as the preliminary condition for embracing the truth of God. Only when man becomes aware of his own non-entity — an experience that is purely subjective and incommunicable — does he recover his real self and stand in the presence of God. This is the mystique which has been rediscovered by twentieth-century man, the leap from outwardness to inwardness, from rationalism to subjectivity, the revelation, that is ineffable, of the reality of the Absolute. [9]

Kierkegaard describes "the leap" using the famous story of Adam and Eve, particularly Adam's qualitative leap into sin. Adam's leap signifies a change from one quality to another, mainly the quality of possessing no sin to the quality of possessing sin. Kierkegaard maintains that the transition from one quality to another can take place only by a "leap". [10] When the transition happens, one moves directly from one state to the other, never possessing both qualities. "The moment is related to the transition of the one to the many, of the many to the one, of likeness to unlikeness, and that it is the moment in which there is neither one nor many, neither a being determined nor a being combined." [11] "In the Moment man becomes conscious that he is born for his antecedent state, to which he may not cling, was one of non-being. In the Moment man also becomes conscious of the new birth, for his antecedent state was one of non-being." [12]

Kierkegaard felt that a leap of faith was vital in accepting Christianity due to the paradoxes that exist in Christianity. In his books, Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard delves deeply into the paradoxes that Christianity presents. Moses Mendelssohn did the same thing when Johann Kaspar Lavater demanded he discuss why he didn't want to become a Christian. Both Kierkegaard and Mendelssohn knew the difficulties involved when discussing religious topics:

"As I so sedulously sought to avoid an explanation in my own apartment amidst a small number of worthy men, of whose good intentions I had every reason to be persuaded, it might have been reasonably inferred that a public one would be extremely repugnant to my disposition and that I must have inevitably become the more embarrassed when the voice demanding it happened to be entitled to an answer at any rate." [13]

Kierkegaard's use of the term "leap" was in response to "Lessing's Ditch" which was discussed by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) in his theological writings. [14] Kierkegaard was indebted to Lessing's writings in many ways. Lessing tried to battle rational Christianity directly and, when that failed, he battled it indirectly through, what Kierkegaard called, "imaginary constructions". [15] Both may be indebted to Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Rousseau used the idea in his 1762 book Emile like this:

If I relate the plain and simple tale of their innocent affections you will accuse me of frivolity, but you will be mistaken. Sufficient attention is not given to the effect which the first connection between man and woman is bound to produce on the future life of both. People do not see that a first impression so vivid as that of love, or the liking which takes the place of love, produces lasting effects whose influence continues till death. Works on education are crammed with wordy and unnecessary accounts of the imaginary duties of children but there is not a word about the most important and most difficult part of their education, the crisis which forms the bridge between the child and the man. If any part of this work is really useful, it will be because I have dwelt at great length on this matter, so essential in itself and so neglected by other authors, and because I have not allowed myself to be discouraged either by false delicacy or by the difficulties of expression. The story of human nature is a fair romance. Am I to blame if it is not found elsewhere? I am trying to write the history of mankind. If my book is a romance, the fault lies with those who deprave mankind.

This is supported by another reason we are not dealing with a youth given over from childhood to fear, greed, envy, pride, and all those passions which are the common tools of the schoolmaster we have to do with a youth who is not only in love for the first time, but with one who is also experiencing his first passion of any kind very likely it will be the only strong passion he will ever know, and upon it depends the final formation of his character. His mode of thought, his feelings, his tastes, determined by a lasting passion, are about to become so fixed that they will be incapable of further change.

Emile by Jean Jacques Rousseau, Foxley translation [16]

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) used the term in his 1784 essay, Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment? Kant wrote:

Dogmas and formulas, these mechanical tools designed for reasonable use--or rather abuse--of his natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting nonage. The man who casts them off would make an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch, because he is not used to such free movement. That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds. It is more nearly possible, however, for the public to enlighten itself indeed, if it is only given freedom, enlightenment is almost inevitable. There will always be a few independent thinkers, even among the self-appointed guardians of the multitude. Once such men have thrown off the yoke of nonage, they will spread about them the spirit of a reasonable appreciation of man's value and of his duty to think for himself. [17]

Lessing said, "accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason." Kierkegaard points out that he also said, "contingent truths of history can never become the demonstrations of necessary truths of reason." [18] Kierkegaard liked Lessing because he "had a most uncommon gift of explaining what he himself had understood. With that he stopped in our day people go further and explain more than they themselves have understood." [19]

We all believe that an Alexander lived who in a short time conquered almost all Asia. But who, on the basis of this belief, would risk anything of great permanent worth, the loss of which would be irreparable? Who, in consequence of this belief, would forswear for ever all knowledge that conflicted with this belief? Certainly not I. Now I have no objection to raise against Alexander and his victory: but it might still be possible that the story was founded on a mere poem of Choerilus just as the twenty year siege of Troy depends on no better authority than Homer's poetry. If on historical grounds I have no objection to the statement that Christ raised to life a dead man must I therefore accept it as true that God has a Son who is the same essence as himself? [20]

Lessing opposes what I would call quantifying oneself into a qualitative decision he contests the direct transition from historical reliability to a decision on an eternal happiness. He does not deny that what is said in the Scriptures about miracles and prophecies is just as reliable as other historical reports, in fact, is as reliable as historical reports in general can be. But now, if they are only as reliable as this why are they treated as if they were infinitely more reliable-precisely because one wants to base on them the acceptance of a doctrine that is the condition for an eternal happiness, that is, to base an eternal happiness on them. Like everyone else, Lessing is willing to believe that an Alexander who subjugated all of Asia did live once, but who, on the basis of this belief, would risk anything of great, permanent worth, the loss of which would be irreparable? [21]

Kierkegaard has Don Juan in Either/Or escort young girls "all in the dangerous age of being neither grown-up nor children" to "the other side of the ditch of life" as he, himself, "dances over the abyss" only to "instantly sink down into the depths." [22] He has Don Juan "preach the gospel of pleasure" to Elvira and seduces her from the convent and wonders if there is a priest who can "preach the gospel of repentance and remorse" with the same power as Don Juan preached his gospel. [23] Both Lessing and Kierkegaard are discussing the agency one might use to base one's faith upon. Does history provide all the proofs necessary to cross that "ugly, broad ditch"? [24] Or is there "no direct and immediate transition to Christianity". [25] Does one become a Christian "in the fulness of time" as Kierkegaard puts it [26] or is "there only one proof of spirit and that is the spirit’s proof within oneself. Whoever demands something else may get proofs in superabundance, but he is already characterized at spiritless." [27]

He also writes about this in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript:

If naked dialectical deliberation shows that there is no approximation, that wanting to quantify oneself into faith along this path is a misunderstanding, a delusion, that wanting to concern oneself with such deliberations is a temptation for the believer, a temptation that he, keeping himself in the passion of faith, must resist with all his strength, lest it end with his succeeding in changing faith into something else, into another kind of certainty, in substituting probabilities and guarantees, which were rejected when he, himself beginning, made the qualitative transition of the leap from unbeliever to believer - if this is so, then everyone who, not entirely unfamiliar with learned scientificity and not bereft of willingness to learn, has understood it this way must also have felt his hard-pressed position when he in admiration learned to think meanly of his own insignificance in the face of those distinguished by learning and acumen and deserved renown, so that, seeking the fault in himself, he time and again returned to them, and when in despondency he had to admit that he himself was in the right. . When someone is to leap he must certainly do it alone and also be alone in properly understanding that it is an impossibility. … the leap is the decision. . I am charging the individual in question with not willing to stop the infinity of reflection. Am I requiring something of him, then? But on the other hand, in a genuinely speculative way, I assume that reflection stops of its own accord. Why, then, do I require something of him? And what do I require of him? I require a resolution. And in that I am right, for only in that way can reflection be stopped. But, on the other hand, it is never right for a philosopher to make sport of people and at one moment have reflection stop of its own accord in the absolute beginning, and at the next moment taunt someone who has only one flaw, that he is obtuse enough to believe the first, taunts him so as to help him in this fashion to the absolute beginning, which then occurs two ways. But if a resolution is required, presuppositionlessness is abandoned. The beginning can occur only when reflection is stopped, and reflection can be stopped only by something else, and this something else is something altogether different from the logical, since it is a resolution. [28]

The implication of taking a leap of faith can, depending on the context, carry positive or negative connotations, as some feel it is a virtue to be able to believe in something without evidence while others feel it is foolishness. It is a hotly contested theological and philosophical concept. For instance, the association between "blind faith" and religion is disputed by those with deistic principles who argue that reason and logic, rather than revelation or tradition, should be the basis of the belief "that God has existed in human form, was born and grew up". Jesus is the "paradox", the "absolute paradox". [29] When Christianity becomes a scholarly enterprise one tends to "reflect oneself into Christianity" but Kierkegaard says, one should "reflect oneself out of something else and become, more and more simply, a Christian." [30]

Kierkegaard was concerned that individuals would spend all their lives trying to define Christianity, love, God, the Trinity, sin, et cetera, and never get to the business of "actually" making a decision in time to become a Christian who could then act on the basis of that decision. He discussed the inner and the outer relationship existing in belief. "Compared with the Hegelian notion that the outer is the inner and the inner the outer, it certainly is extremely original. But it would be even more original if the Hegelian axiom were not only admired by the present age but also had retroactive power to abolish, backward historically, the distinction between the visible and invisible Church. The invisible Church is not a historical phenomenon as such it cannot be observed objectively at all, because it is only in subjectivity." [31] There has to be a balance between objective and subjective knowledge. Hegel went to the extreme objective side so Kierkegaard decided to go to the extreme subjective side.

The decision rests in the subject the appropriation is the paradoxical inwardness that is specifically different from all other inwardness. Being a Christian is defined not by the “what” of Christianity but by the “how” of the Christian. This “how” can fit only one thing, the absolute paradox. Therefore there is no vague talk that being a Christian means to accept and accept, and accept altogether differently, to appropriate, to have faith, to appropriate in faith altogether differently (nothing but rhetorical and sham definitions) but to have faith is specifically qualified differently from all other appropriation and inwardness. Faith is the objective uncertainty with the repulsion of the absurd, held fast in the passion of inwardness, which is the relation of inwardness intensified to its highest. This formula fits only the one who has faith, no one else, not even a lover, or an enthusiast, or a thinker, but solely and only the one who has faith, who relates himself to the absolute paradox. [32]

Even some theistic realms of thought do not agree with the implications that this phrase carries. For instance, C. S. Lewis argues against the idea that Christianity requires a "leap of faith," (as the term is most commonly understood). One of Lewis' arguments is that supernaturalism, a basic tenet of Christianity, can be logically inferred based on a teleological argument regarding the source of human reason. Nonetheless, some Christians are less critical of the term and do accept that religion requires a "leap of faith".

What is often missed is that Kierkegaard himself was an orthodox, Scandinavian Lutheran in conflict with the liberal theological establishment of his day. His works built on one another and culminated with the orthodox Lutheran conception of a God that unconditionally accepts man, faith itself being a gift from God, and that the highest moral position is reached when a person realizes this and, no longer depending upon her or himself, takes the leap of faith into the arms of a loving God. In a Lutheran context, the leap of faith becomes much clearer.

Suppose that Jacobi himself has made the leap suppose that with the aid of eloquence he manages to persuade a learner to want to do it. Then the learner has a direct relation to Jacobi and consequently does not himself come to make the leap. The direct relation between one human being and another is naturally much easier and gratifies one’s sympathies and one’s own need much more quickly and ostensibly more reliable. It is understood directly, and there is no need of that dialectic of the infinite to keep oneself infinitely resigned and infinitely enthusiastic in the sympathy of the infinite, whose secret is the renunciation of the fancy that in his God-relationship one human being is not the equal of another, which makes the presumed teacher a learner who attends to himself and makes all teaching a divine jest, because every human being is essentially taught solely by God. [32]

Jacobi, Hegel, and C.S. Lewis wrote about Christianity in accordance with their understanding but Kierkegaard didn't want to do that. He felt that it was too dangerous to put in writing what was most holy to himself. He said, "Not even what I am writing here is my innermost meaning. I cannot entrust myself to paper in that way, even though I see it in what is written. Think what could happen! The paper could disappear there could be a fire where I live and I could live in uncertainty about whether it was burned or still existed I could die and thus leave it behind me I could lose my mind and my innermost being could be in alien hands I could go blind and not be able to find it myself, not know whether I stood with it in my hands without asking someone else, not know whether he lied, whether he was reading what was written there or something else in order to sound me out." Kierkegaard was of the opinion that faith is something different from other things: unexplainable and inexplicable. The more a person tries to explain personal faith to another, the more entangled that person becomes in language and semantics but "recollection" is "das Zugleich, the all-at-once," that always brings him back to himself. [33]

The world has perhaps always had a lack of what could be called authentic individualities, decisive subjectivities, those artistically permeated with reflection, the independent thinkers who differ from the bellowers and the didacticizers. The more objective the world and individual subjectivities become, the more difficult it becomes with the religious categories, which are precisely in the sphere of subjectivity. That is why it is almost an irreligious exaggeration to want to be world-historical, scholarly-scientific, and objective with regard to the religious. But I have not summoned Lessing in order to have someone to appeal to, because even wanting to be subjective enough to appeal to another subjectivity is already an attempt to become objective, is a first step toward getting the majority vote on one’s side and one’s God-relationship transformed into a speculative enterprise on the basis of probability and partnership and fellow shareholders is the first step toward becoming objective. [34]

Kierkegaard stuck to his concept of Christianity as an inner struggle where the single individual stands before God rather than before others. Because standing before God is where the decisive struggle occurs for each single individual. Each single individual who has an "interest" in becoming a Christian has a God-relationship which is different from any other individual. The more we look to "others" for our God-relationship, the more we have a simulated, mediated relationship with an idea. The idea, or ideal, isn't the highest. But getting the idea off the paper or the drawing board and putting it to use in life is the absolute for the Christian. In Works of Love (1847) he wrote, "Love for the neighbor does not want to be sung about, it wants to be accomplished." [35] He put it this way in Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions (1845), in Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846), in Works of Love (1847), and in Sickness Unto Death (1849).

Ah, it is much easier to look to the right and to the left than to look into oneself, much easier to haggle and bargain just as it is also much easier to underbid than to be silent-but the more difficult is still the one thing needful. Even in daily life everyone experiences that it is more difficult to stand directly before the person of distinction, directly before his royal majesty, than to move in the crowd to stand alone and silent directly before the sharp expert is more difficult than to speak in a common harmony of equals-to say nothing of being alone directly before the Holy One and being silent. [36]

Where is the boundary for the single individual in his concrete existence between what is lack of will and what is lack of ability what is indolence and earthly selfishness and what is the limitation of finitude? For an existing person, when is the period of preparation over, when this question will not arise again in all its initial, troubled severity when is the time in existence that is indeed a preparation? Let all the dialecticians convene-they will not be able to decide this for a particular individual in concreto. [37]

The lowest form of offense, humanly speaking the most innocent, is to leave the whole issue of Christ undecided, to pronounce in effect: 'I don't presume to judge the matter I do not believe, but I pass no judgement." . The next form of offense is the negative, but passive form. Certainly it feels it cannot take no notice of Christ, leaving this business of Christ in abeyance and carrying on a busy life is something it is incapable of. But believing is something it cannot do either so it stays staring at one and the same point, at the paradox. . The final stage of offense is the positive form. It declares Christianity to be untruth and a lie. It denies Christ (that he has existed and that he is the one he claims to be) either Docetically or rationalistically, so that either Christ does not become a particular human being, but only appears to do so, or he becomes only a particular human being. [38]

But when it is a duty to love, then no test is needed and no insulting foolhardiness of wanting to test, then love is higher than any test it has already more than stood the test in the same sense as faith “more than conquers.” Testing is always related to possibility it is always possible that what is being tested would not stand the test. Therefore, if someone wanted to test whether he has faith, or try to attain faith, this really means he will prevent himself from attaining faith he will bring himself into the restlessness of craving where faith is never won, for “You shall believe.” [39]

Suppose that there were two men: a double-minded man, who believes he has gained faith in a loving Providence, because he had himself experienced having been helped, even though he had hardheartedly sent away a sufferer whom he could have helped and another man whose life, by devoted love, was an instrument in the hand of Providence, so that he helped many suffering ones, although the help he himself had wished continued to be denied him from year to year. Which of these two was in truth convinced that there is a loving Providence that cares for the suffering ones? Is it not a fair and a convincing conclusion: He that planted the ear, shall he not hear.(Psalms 94:9). [40] But turn it around, and is the conclusion not equally fair and convincing: He whose life is sacrificing love shall he not trust that God is love? Yet in the press of busyness there is neither time nor quiet for the calm transparency which teaches equality, which teaches the willingness to pull in the same yoke with other men, that noble simplicity, that is in inner understanding with every man. There is neither time nor quiet to win such a conviction. Therefore, in the press of busyness even faith and hope and love and willing the Good become only loose words and double-mindedness. Or is it not double-mindedness to live without any conviction, or more rightly, to live in the constantly and continually changing fantasy that one has and that one has not a conviction!

In this fashion feeling deceives the busy one into double-mindedness. Perhaps after the flaming up of the contrition of repentance, if this turns into emptiness, he had a conviction, at least so he believed, that there is a mercy that forgives sins. But even in the forgiveness he strongly denied any implication that he had been guilty of anything. Hence he had, so he thought, believed in a conviction that such a mercy exists, and yet in practice he denied its existence in practice his attitude seemed designed to prove that it did not exist. Suppose that there were two men, that double-minded one, and then another man who would gladly forgive his debtor, if he himself might only find mercy. Which of these two was in truth convinced that such a mercy exists? The latter had indeed this proof that it exists, that he himself practices it, the former has no proof at all for himself, and only meets the contrary proof which he himself presents. Or the double-minded one perhaps had a feeling for right and wrong. It blazed strongly in him, especially if someone would describe in a poetical manner the zealous men, who by self-sacrifice in the service of truth, maintained righteousness and justice. Then some wrong happened to this man himself. And then it seemed to him as if there must appear some sign in heaven and upon earth since the world order could no more sleep than he until this wrong was put right again. And this was not self-love that inflamed him, but it was a feeling for justice, so he thought. And when he obtained his rights, no matter how much wrong it had cost those around him, then once again he praised the perfection of the world. Feeling had indeed carried him away, but also it had so enraptured him that he had forgotten the most important of all: to support righteousness and justice with self-sacrifice in the service of the truth. For which of these two is really convinced that justice exists in the world: the one that suffers wrong for doing the right, or the one that does wrong in order to obtain his right? [41]

Kierkegaard questioned how a person changes. Some, like Hegel and Goethe, believed that an external event was required for a new epoch to begin. Kierkegaard disagreed because something might never happen in an external way that would cause a person to change and a possibility for a better life might be lost. Marx followed after Hegel and Goethe but Tolstoy agreed more with Kierkegaard in his "view of life". [42]

Goethe may have been mocking the idea that the birth of Christ was what made him important or he may have seriously thought that his, Goethe's, own birth made him important. Kierkegaard didn't believe that Christ had this "upside-downness that wanted to reap before it sowed or this kind of cowardliness that wanted to have certainty before it began." [43] Goethe began his autobiography with the certainty that his life was going to have a great effect on the world stage.

Within the first twenty pages of his autobiography Goethe had pointed to the 1755 Lisbon earthquake as another great life changing event in his life. [44] Goethe's book was translated Truth and Poetry but was also translated Truth and Fiction. Both authors seemed to be against having a fictional existence. Goethe believed the existence of Christ was being fictionalized while Kierkegaard believed the existence Goethe wrote about in his own autobiography was fictional – and much of it was.

On the 28th of August, 1749, at mid-day, as the clock struck twelve, I came into the world, at Frankfort-on-the-Maine. My horoscope was propitious: the sun stood in the sign of the Virgin, and had culminated for the day Jupiter and Venus looked on him with a friendly eye, and Mercury not adversely while Saturn and Mars kept themselves indifferent the Moon alone, just full, exerted the power of her reflection all the more, as he had then reached her planetary hour. She opposed herself, therefore, to my birth, which could not be accomplished until this hour was passed. These good aspects, which the astrologers managed subsequently to reckon very auspicious for me, may have been the causes of my preservation for, through the unskillfulness [sic] of the midwife, I came into the world as dead, and only after various efforts was I enabled to see the light. This event, which had put our household into straights, turned to the advantage of my fellow-citizens, inasmuch as my grandfather, the Schultheiss (judge), John Wolfgang Textor, took occasion from it to have an accoucheur established, and to introduce or revive the tuition of midwives, which may have done some good to those who were born after me. [45]

Count Leo Tolstoy said he found out "there was no God" in 1838 when he was 12 years old. [46] He had to work through this idea for the next 38 years until he could come away with a method by which he could believe, not only in God but in Christ. [47] Kierkegaard heard the same from Hegelian philosophers and worked through his doubt to belief but he opposed that method. His thought was to start with faith and proceed forward making positive steps rather than always falling back to start over after doubt had prevailed. He said, "False doubt doubts everything except itself with the help of faith, the doubt that saves doubts only itself." [48]

Kierkegaard didn't want to argue about his faith any more than he wanted to argue about why he may or may not get married or become a professor. He just wanted to make the movement from "possibility to actuality" [49] and knew that he would just be wasting time if he tried to explain himself.

I think that, just as a Christian always ought to be able to explain his faith, so also a married man ought to be able to explain his marriage, not simply to anyone who deigns to ask, but to anyone he thinks worthy of it, or even if, as in this case, unworthy, he finds it propitious to do so. [50]

Tolstoy tried to explain the method he used to come to grips with the Christian religion. He acted on his beliefs by freeing his serfs, writing books to help them learn to read and giving them land to farm and live on. He didn't argue and reason with his neighbors he just did what he set out to do.

Karl Marx complained about Hegelian philosophers in Theses on Feuerbach in this way, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point, however, is to change it." Walter Kaufmann changed the quote to reflect the Kierkegaardian difference in his 1959 book, From Shakespeare to Existentialism:

His [Kierkegaard's] relation to philosophy is best expressed by changing one small word in Marx's famous dictum: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point, however, is to change"-not "it," as Marx said, but ourselves." p. 202. Tolstoy said the same thing: "There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself." [51]

Only in changing oneself is one equal with another, according to Kierkegaard because, in Christianity, all are equal before God. The world is too abstract to change but the single individual, you yourself: that is something concrete. [52] Kierkegaard put it this way in his Upbuilding Discourses of 1843–1844 and in his Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits of 1847:

The idea so frequently stressed in Holy Scripture for the purpose of elevating the lowly and humbling the mighty, the idea that God does not respect the status of persons, this idea the apostle wants to bring to life in the single individual for application in his life. [. ] In the hallowed places, in every upbuilding view of life, the thought arises in a person’s soul that help him to fight the good fight with flesh and blood, with principalities and powers, and in the fight to free himself for equality before God, whether this battle is more a war of aggression against the differences that want to encumber him with worldly favoritism or a defensive war against the differences that want to make him anxious in worldly perdition. Only in this way is equality the divine law, only in this way is the struggle the truth, only in this way does the victory have validity- only when the single individual fights for himself with himself within himself and does not unseasonably presume to help the whole world to obtain external equality, which is of very little benefit, all the less so because it never existed, if for no other reason than that everyone would come to thank him and become unequal before him, only in this way is equality the divine law. [53]

Are you now living in such a way that you are aware as a single individual, that in every relationship in which you relate yourself outwardly you are aware that you are also relating yourself to yourself as a single individual, that even in the relationship we human beings so beautifully call the most intimate (marriage) you recollect that you have an even more intimate relationship, the relationship in which you as a single individual relate yourself to yourself before God? [54]

The idea behind world history and constant quantification dehumanizes the quality known as the single individual and can produce "soul rot due to the monotony of self-concern and self-preoccupation" with anxiety about where you fit within the system. Language comes to the aid with copious quantities of words to explain everything. But Kierkegaard says: "the pathos of the ethical is to act." [55]

The observer stares numbly into the immense forest of the generations, and like someone who cannot see the forest for the trees, he sees only the forest, not a single tree. He hangs up curtains systematically and uses people and nations for that purpose - individual human beings are nothing to him even eternity itself is draped with systematic surveys and ethical meaninglessness. Poetry squanders poetically, but, far from fasting itself, it does not dare to presuppose the divine frugality of the infinite that ethically-psychologically does not need many human beings but needs the idea all the more. No wonder, then, that one even admires the observer when he is noble, heroic, or perhaps more correctly, absentminded enough to forget that he, too, is a human being, an existing individual human being! By steadily staring into that world-historical drama, he dies and departs nothing of him remains, or he himself remains like a ticket the usher holds in his hands as a sign that now the spectator has gone. If, however, becoming subjective is the highest task assigned to a human being, then everything turns out beautifully. From this it first follows that he no longer has anything to do with world history but in that respect leaves everything to the royal poet. Second, there is not squandering, for even though individuals are as innumerable as the sands of the sea, the task of becoming subjective is indeed assigned to every person. Finally, this does not deny the reality of the world-historical development, which, reserved for God and eternity, has both its time and its place. [56]

As a rule repentance is identified by one thing, that it acts. In our day, it perhaps is less subject to being misunderstood in this way. I believe that neither Young nor Talleyrand nor a more recent author was right in what they said about language, why it exists, for I believe that it exists to strengthen and assist people in abstaining from action. What to me is nonsense will perhaps have a great effect and perhaps most of my acquaintances, if they were to read these letters, would say: “Well, now we have understood him.” [57] [a]

Kierkegaard started out, in Either/Or Part I, by saying, "“You know how the prophet Nathan dealt with King David when he presumed to understand the parable the prophet had told him but was unwilling to understand that it applied to him. Then to make sure, Nathan added: You are the man, O King. In the same way I also have continually tried to remind you that you are the one who is being discussed and you are the one who is spoken to.” [59] He discussed this again in another way in Either/Or Part II where he begins: "The esthetic view also considers the personality in relation to the surrounding world, and the expression for this is in its recurrence in the personality of enjoyment. But the esthetic expression for enjoyment in its relation to the personality is mood. That is, the personality is present in the mood, but it is dimly present. . The mood of the person who lives ethically is centralized. He is not in the mood, and he is not mood, but he has mood and has the mood within himself. What he works for is continuity, and this is always the master of mood. His life does not lack mood-indeed, it has a total mood. But this is acquired it is what would be called aequale tempermentum [even disposition]. But this is no esthetic mood, and no person has it by nature or immediately." [60] Later, in 1845, he repeated the same point in Stages on Life's Way with a story about an individual with an addiction to gambling and another individual who was a gambler but wasn't in despair because of it:

A gambler comes to a standstill, repentance seizes him, he renounces all gambling. Although he has been standing on the brink of the abyss, repentance nevertheless hangs on to him, and it seems to be successful. Living withdrawn as he does now, possibly saved, he one day sees the body of a man drawn out on the Seine: a suicide, and this was a gambler just as he himself had been, and he knew that this gambler had struggled, had fought a desperate battle to resist his craving. My gambler had loved this man, not because he was a gambler, but because he was better than he was. What then? It is unnecessary to consult romances and novels, but even a religious speaker would very likely break off my story a little earlier and have it end with my gambler, shocked by the sight, going home and thanking God for his rescue. Stop. First of all we should have a little explanation, a judgment pronounced on the other gambler every life that is not thoughtless eo ipso indirectly passes judgment. If the other gambler had been callous, then he could certainly conclude: He did not want to be saved. But this was not the case. No, my gambler is a man who has understood the old saying de te narratur fabula [ the tale is told to you] he is no modern fool who believes that everyone should court the colossal task of being able to rattle off something that applies to the whole human race but not to himself. So what judgment shall he pass, and he cannot keep from doing it, for this de te is for him the most sacred law of life, because, it is the covenant of humanity. [61]

The visible Church has suffered so broad an expansion that all the original relationships have been reversed. Just as it once required energy and determination to become a Christian, so now, though the renunciation be not praiseworthy, it requires courage and energy to renounce the Christian religion, while it needs only thoughtlessness to remain a nominal Christian. The baptism of children may nevertheless be defensible no new custom needs to be introduced. But since the circumstances are so radically changed, the clergy should themselves be able to perceive that if it was once their duty, when only a very few were Christians, to win men for Christianity, their present task must rather be to win men by deterring them-for their misfortune is that they are already Christians of a sort. Everyone knows that the most difficult leap, even in the physical realm, is when a man leaps into the air from a standing position and comes down again on the same spot. The leap becomes easier in the degree to which some distance intervenes between the initial position and the place where the leap takes off. And so it is also with respect to a decisive movement in the realm of the spirit. The most difficult decisive action is not that in which the individual is far removed from the decision (as when a non-Christian is about to decide to become one), but when it is as if the matter were already decided. What is baptism without personal appropriation? It is an expression for the possibility that the baptized child may become a Christian, neither more nor less. [62]

Throughout his writings Kierkegaard reiterated his emphasis on the single individual learning how to make a resolution. One example is the following prayer from his April 26, 1848 book Christian Discourses.

Father in heaven, Thy grace and mercy change not with the changing times, they grow not older with the course of years, as if, like a man, Thou wert more gracious one day than another, more gracious at first than at the last Thy grace remains unchanged as Thou are unchangeable, it is ever the same, eternally young, new every day-for every day Thou sayest, ‘yet today’ (Hebrews 3:13). Oh, but when one givest heed to this word, is impressed by it, and with a serious, holy resolution says to himself, ‘yet today’-then for him this means that this very day he desires to be changed, desires that this very day might become important to him above all other days, important because of renewed confirmation in the good he once chose, or perhaps even because of his first choosing of the good. It is an expression of Thy grace and mercy that every day Thou dost say, ‘yet today’, but it would be to forfeit Thy grace and mercy and the season of grace if a man were to say unchangeably from day to day, ‘yet today’ for it is Thou that bestowest the season of grace ‘yet today’, but it is man that must grasp the season of grace ‘yet today’. Thus it is we talk with Thee, O God between us there is a difference of language, and yet we strive to make ourselves understood of Thee, and Thou doest not blush to be called our God. That word which when Thou, O God, dost utter it is the eternal expression of Thy unchangeable grace, that same word when a man repeats it with due understanding is the strongest expression of the deepest change and decision-yea, as if all were lost if this change and decision did not come to pass ‘yet today’. So do Thou grant to them that today are here assembled, to them that without external prompting, and hence the more inwardly, have resolved ‘yet today’ to seek reconciliation with Thee by the confession of their sins, to them do Thou grant that this day may be truly blessed to them, that they may hear His voice whom Thou didst send to the world, the voice of the Good Shepherd, that He may know them, and that they may follow Him. [63]

Søren Kierkegaard

"Affliction is able to drown out every earthly voice &hellip but the voice of eternity within a man it cannot drown. When by the aid of affliction all irrelevant voices are brought to silence, it can be heard, this voice within."

"My life is one great suffering, unknown and incomprehensible to all others." And it was out of this suffering that Søren Kierkegaard laid siege to the reigning European philosophy and the comfortable Christianity of his day.

Forsaking love

Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen, into a strict Danish Lutheran home. He inherited a melancholy disposition from his father and suffered through an unhappy youth. His frail and slightly twisted frame made him an object of mockery throughout his life. Still, his father was sufficiently wealthy that Kierkegaard never had to hold down a job but was free to spend his life as a writer and philosopher.

He attended the University of Copenhagen to prepare for the Lutheran ministry, but it took him ten years to earn his degree, and he never was ordained. It was philosophy, not theology, that captured his imagination.

And Regine Olsen captured his heart. They became engaged, but Kierkegaard had doubts and quickly broke off the engagement, though he admitted he was still deeply in love. He was weighed down by his unusual consciousness of the complexities of the human mind, which he would never be able to communicate to Regine. As he wrote in his diary: "I was a thousand years too old for her." Years later he compared that painful decision with Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, and some of his books were written "because of her."

Subjective truth

His first book, Either/Or (1843), was a brilliant, dialectical, and poetic discussion in which he sought to justify his break with Regine, and in which set forth a basic tenet of his philosophy: each individual must choose&mdashconsciously and responsibly&mdashamong the alternatives life presents.

He followed this up with other philosophical works: Fear and Trembling (1843), Philosophical Fragments (1844), The Concept of Dread (1844), and Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragment (1846).

His target was the "system" (as he mockingly put it) of G.W.F. Hegel, the great philosopher of idealism. He attacked Hegel's attempt to systematize all of reality Hegel, he said, left out the most important element of human experience: existence itself. Kierkegaard felt that no philosophical system could explain the human condition. The experience of reality&mdashthe loss of a loved one, the feelings of guilt and dread&mdashwas what mattered, not the "idea" of it.


Festival of Reason (de-Christianization of France)

Schleiermacher publishes Lectures on Religion

Darwin publishes Origin of Species

Hegel emphasized universals Kierkegaard argued for decision and commitment. Hegel sought an objective theory of knowledge upon which everyone could agree Kierkegaard believed in the subjectivity of truth&mdashmeaning that truth is understood and experienced individually.

Existence, he believed, is actual, painful, and more important than "essence" or "idea." The authentic person wrestles with fundamental questions that cannot be answered rationally. As Kierkegaard once wrote, "My life has been brought to an impasse, I loathe existence&hellip. Where am I? What is this thing called the world? What does this word mean? Who is it that has lured me into the thing and now leaves me there? Who am I? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs? &hellip How did I obtain an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?"

The only way to live in this painful existence is through faith. But to Kierkegaard, faith is not a mental conviction about doctrine, nor positive religious feelings, but a passionate commitment to God in the face of uncertainty. Faith is a risk (the "leap of faith"), an adventure that requires the denial of oneself. To choose faith is what brings authentic human existence.

This is the "existentialism" that Kierkegaard is considered the founder of&mdashthough later existentialists had significantly different agendas than his.

Attack on Christendom

In his later writings&mdash Works of Love (1847), Christian Discourses (1848), and Training in Christianity (1850)&mdashhe tried to clarify the true nature of Christianity.

The greatest enemy of Christianity, he argued, was "Christendom"&mdashthe cultured and respectable Christianity of his day. The tragedy of easy Christianity is that existence has ceased to be an adventure and a constant risk in the presence of God but has become a form of morality and a doctrinal system. Its purpose is to simplify the matter of becoming a Christian. This is just paganism, "cheap" Christianity, with neither cost nor pain, Kierkegaard argued. It is like war games, in which armies move and there is a great deal of noise, but there is no real risk or pain&mdashand no real victory. Kierkegaard believed the church of his day was merely "playing at Christianity."

Kierkegaard became increasingly convinced that his calling was in "making Christianity difficult." He was to remind people of his day that to be truly Christian, one must become aware of the cost of faith and pay the price.

So he chastised: "We are what is called a 'Christian' nation&mdashbut in such a sense that not a single one of us is in the character of the Christianity of the New Testament."

And he mocked: "Most people believe that the Christian commandments (e.g., to love one's neighbor as oneself) are intentionally a little too severe, like putting the clock half an hour ahead to make sure of not being late in the morning."

He believed that only by making things difficult&mdashby helping people become aware of the pain, guilt, and feelings of dread that accompany even the life of faith&mdashcould he help Christians hear God again: "Affliction is able to drown out every earthly voice &hellip but the voice of eternity within a man it cannot drown. When by the aid of affliction all irrelevant voices are brought to silence, it can be heard, this voice within."

Kierkegaard was not just a suffering prophet, though. He was a man of deep, almost mystical faith, and his acerbic pen could also compose lyrical prayers like these:

"Teach me, O God, not to torture myself, not to make a martyr out of myself through stifling reflection, but rather teach me to breathe deeply in faith."

And "Father in Heaven, when the thought of Thee wakes in our hearts, let it not awaken like a frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile."

The SAS and David Stirling’s Leap of Faith

The ‘fossilised shits’ were soon making life hard for [David] Stirling as he sought to recruit soldiers for his new unit. ‘It was essential for me to get the right officers and I had a great struggle to get them,’ he recalled, labelling the middle and lower levels of Middle East Headquarters (MEHQ) as ‘unfailingly obstructive and uncooperative … astonishingly tiresome.’(1) The officers he wanted were all members of the recently disbanded Layforce—bored and frustrated and desperate for some action—but MEHQ didn’t want to see them join what they considered a renegade unit, despite the fact it had Auchinleck’s seal of approval. One by one, however, Stirling got his men: lieutenants Peter Thomas and Eoin McGonigal, Bill Fraser, a Scot, Jock Lewes, a Welshman, and Charles Bonington. In his late 20s, Bonington was the oldest of the officers, an Englishman with a taste for adventure who had abandoned his wife and nine-month old son six years earlier and gone to Australia where he worked as a newspaper correspondent. (The son, Charles, would grow up to become one of Britain’s most famous mountaineers.) Bonington was actually half-German, his father being a German merchant seaman who had taken British citizenship as a young man, changed his name from Bonig to Bonington, and then married a Scot. The one officer whose superiors were only too pleased to see join Stirling’s mob was Blair Mayne. Though the 6ft 4in Irishman had distinguished himself with Layforce during the battle for Litani River, a seaborne assault on Vichy French positions in Syria, Mayne had a reputation for hot-headedness away from the battlefield. While in Cyprus in the summer of 1941 he had threatened the owner of a nightclub with his revolver over a dispute about the bar bill, and a month later he had squared up to his commanding officer, Geoffrey Keyes, son of Sir Roger Keyes, Director of Combined Operations, and the sort of upper-class Englishman Mayne despised.

Legend has it that Mayne was in the glasshouse when Stirling—on the recommendation of Colonel Laycock—interviewed him for L Detachment, but in fact the Irishman was idling away his days at the Middle East Commando base while he waited to see if his request for a transfer to the Far East had been accepted. Mayne hoped he would soon be teaching guerrilla warfare to the Chinese Nationalist Army in their fight against Japan, but within minutes of Stirling’s appearance he had pledged his allegiance to an incipient band of desert guerrilla fighters.

With his officers recruited Stirling now set about selecting the 60 men he wanted. Though he picked a handful from his old regiment, the Scots Guard, Stirling plucked most from the disenchanted ranks of Layforce. ‘We were just hanging around in the desert getting fed up,’ recalled Jeff Du Vivier, a Londoner who had worked in the hotel trade before joining the commandos in 1940. ‘Then along came Stirling asking for volunteers. I was hooked on the idea from the beginning, it meant we were going to see some action.’(2)

Another volunteer was Reg Seekings, a hard, obdurate 21-year-old from the Fens who had been a boxer before the war. ‘When I enlisted they wanted me to go in the school of physical training and I said “not bloody likely”, I didn’t join the army just to box, I want to fight with a gun, not my fists.’ Seekings had got his wish with Layforce, though the raid on the Libyan port of Bardia had been shambolic. Nonetheless it had given Seekings a taste for adventure. ‘Stirling wanted airborne troops and I’d always wanted to be a paratrooper,’ he reflected on the reasons why he volunteered. ‘At the interview a chap went in in front of me and Stirling said to him “why do you want to join?” and he said “Oh, I’ll try anything once, sir.” Stirling went mad “Try anything once! It bloody matters if we don’t like you. Bugger off, get out of here.” So I thought I’m not making that bloody mistake. When it was my turn he asked why I wanted to be in airborne and I said I’d seen film of these German paratroopers and always wondered why we didn’t have this in the British Army. Then I told him that I’d put my name for a paratrooper originally but been told I was too heavy. He asked if I played any sport and I told him I was an amateur champion boxer and did a lot of cycling and running. That was it, I was in.’(3)

The youngest recruit was Scots Guardsman Johnny Cooper, who had turned 19 the month before L Detachment came into existence. He stood in awe of Stirling when it was his turn to be interviewed. ‘Because of his height and his quiet self-confidence he could appear quite intimidating but he wasn’t the bawling sort [of] leader,’ said Cooper. ‘He talked to you, not at you, and usually in a very polite fashion. His charisma was overpowering.’(4)

Having selected his men, Stirling revealed to them their new home. Kabrit lay 90 miles east of Cairo on the edge of the Great Bitter Lake. It was an ideal place in which to locate a training camp for a new unit because there was little else to do other than train. There were no bars and brothels, just sand and flies, and a wind that blew in from the lake and invaded every nook and cranny of their new camp. ‘It was a desolate bloody place,’ recalled Reg Seekings. ‘Gerry Ward had a pile of hessian tents and told us to put them up.’

Ward was the Company Quarter Master Sergeant, one of 26 administration staff attached to L Detachment, and it was he who suggested to Seekings and his comrades that if they wanted anything more luxurious in the way of living quarters they might want to visit the neighbouring encampment. ‘This camp was put up for New Zealanders,’ explained Seekings, ‘but instead of coming to the desert they were shoved in at Crete [against the invading Germans] and got wiped out. So all we had to do was drive in and take what we wanted.’

Something else they purloined, according to Seekings, was a large pile of bricks from an Royal Air Force (RAF) base with which they built a canteen, furnished with chairs, tables and a selection of beer and snacks by Kauffman, an artful Londoner who was a better scrounger than he was a soldier. Kauffman was soon RTU’d (returned to his unit) but his canteen lasted longer and was the envy of the officers who had to make do with a tent. Not that there was much time for the men of L Detachment to spend in their canteen in the late summer of 1941, despite the ‘Stirling’s Rest Camp’ sign some wag had planted at the camp’s entrance. They had arrived at Kabrit in the first week of August and had just three months to prepare for their first operation, one which would involve parachuting, a skill most of the men had yet to master.

‘In our training programme the principle on which we worked was entirely different from that of the Commandos,’ remembered Stirling. ‘A Commando unit, having once selected from a batch of volunteers, were committed to those men and had to nurse them up to the required standard. L Detachment, on the other hand, had set a minimum standard to which all ranks had to attain and we had to be most firm in returning to their units those were unable to reach that standard.’(5)

Stirling divided the unit into One and Two Troops, with Lewes in charge of the former and Mayne the latter. ‘The comradeship was marvellous because you all had to depend on one another,’ said Storie, who was in Lewes’s Troop.(6)

Lewes oversaw most of the unit’s early training, teaching them first and foremost that the desert should be respected and not feared. They learned how to navigate using the barest of maps, how to move noiselessly at night, how to survive on minimal amounts of water, and how to use the desert as camouflage. The men came to respect the earnest and ascetic Lewes above all other officers. ‘Jock liked things right, he was a perfectionist,’ recalled Storie. ‘He thought more about things in-depth while Stirling was more carefree… Stirling was the backbone but Lewes was the brains, he got the ideas such as the Lewes Bomb.’

The eponymous Lewes bomb had finally been created after many hours of frustrating and solitary endeavour by the Welshman. What Lewes sought was a bomb light enough to carry on operations but powerful enough to destroy an enemy aircraft on an airfield. Eventually he came up with a 1lb device that Du Vivier described in the diary he kept during the training at Kabrit.

It was plastic explosive and thermite—which is used in incendiary bombs—and we rolled the whole lot together with motor car oil. It was a stodgy lump and then you had a No.27 detonator, an instantaneous fuse and a time pencil. The time pencil looked a bit like a ‘biro’ pen. It was a glass tube with a spring-loaded striker held in place by a strip of copper wire. At the top was a glass phial containing acid which you squeezed gently to break. The acid would then eat through the wire and release the striker. Obviously the thicker the wire the longer the delay before the striker was triggered [the pencils were colour coded according to the length of fuse]. It was all put into a small cotton bag and it proved to be crude, but very effective. The thermite caused a flash that ignited the petrol, not just blowing the wing off but sending the whole plane up.

Lewes also earned the respect of the men because he never asked them to do something that he was not prepared to do himself. ‘Jock Lewes called us a lot of yellow-bellies and threw out challenges,’ said Seekings. ‘We met the challenges and Jock, whatever he wanted done, showed us first, and once he’d shown us we had to do it. He set the standard for the unit, there’s no two ways about that … he used to say that it’s the confident man with a little bit of lady luck sitting on his shoulders that always comes through.’

These recruits have the air of relieved men having just completed another jump as part of their parachute training. (Courtesy of the SAS Regimental Archive)

During the initial training Lewes tested the men’s self-confidence to its limits. They trained for nine or ten hours a day and often, just as the men thought they could crawl into their beds, Lewes would order them out on one of his ‘night schemes’—forced marches across the desert with the soldiers required to navigate their way successfully from point to point. Any soldier Lewes considered not up to scratch, either physically or emotionally, was RTU’d, leading some recruits to perform extraordinary acts of endurance. On one 60-mile march the boots of Private Doug Keith disintegrated after 20 miles so he completed the remaining distance in stockinged feet with a 75lb pack on his back.

What the men hated above all else, however, was parachute training. Without an aircraft Lewes initially improvised by drawing on the practicality of one of the recruits, Jim Almonds, to construct a wooden jumping platform and trolley system from which the men leapt to simulate hitting the ground at speed. Lewes decided this was too tame and resorted to another method, as recalled by Mick D’Arcy who said ‘there were a great number of injuries during ground training jumping off trucks at 30–35 mph’.(7) Du Vivier broke his wrist leaping from the tailgate of a truck, and he wasn’t the only recruit to end up in hospital as a consequence of Lewes’s ingenuity nevertheless hurling oneself from a moving vehicle was preferable to jumping out of an aircraft at 800ft.

The recruits at Kabrit originally practised their landing technique from steel gantries designed by Jim Almonds. However, it was Jock Lewes’s idea to have the men leap from the back of a speeding truck, which resulted in a slew of injuries, including a broken wrist for Jeff Du Vivier and a damaged shoulder for Bill Fraser. (Courtesy of the SAS Regimental Archive)

The day Du Vivier completed his first parachute jump proper was 16 October, a Thursday, and like the other nine men in the Bristol Bombay aircraft he ran the gamut of emotions. ‘My knees began to beat a tattoo on one another as I stretched up to adjust my static line,’ he wrote in his diary. ‘We moved towards the door and I glanced down. Mother Earth looked miles away and I wished I’d never been born … what happened next I can only faintly remember. The earth seemed to be above me and the sky below, then suddenly a big white cloud burst over me and I began to recognise it as being my ’chute. Everything steadied itself and I found myself sitting comfortably in my harness. My brain cleared and I felt an overwhelming feeling of exhilaration.’

But two of the men weren’t so fortunate. Ken Warburton and Joe Duffy were in the next stick of ten aspiring parachutists. First out was Warburton, then Duffy, who seemed to hesitate for a moment before he leapt, as if he sensed something wasn’t quite right. He jumped nonetheless and it was only then that the dispatcher, Ted Pacey, saw that the snap-links on the men’s static line had buckled. He pulled back Bill Morris, the third in line, but it was too late for Warburton and Duffy. ‘When we got to Duffy his parachute was half out, he had tried to pull it out but couldn’t twist round and get it out,’ recalled Jimmy Storie, who had seen the tragedy from the ground. ‘After that we all used to give the static line a good tug first before jumping.’

The problem with the static line was quickly solved and the next day Stirling jumped first to inspire his men. Outwardly he remained his usual insouciant self but inside he was livid with the British Army parachute training school at Ringway, Manchester, who had ignored his numerous appeals for assistance. ‘I sent a final appeal to Ringway,’ he reflected after the death of Duffy and Warburton, ‘and they sent some training notes and general information, which arrived at the end of October … included in this information we discovered that Ringway had had a fatal accident caused by exactly the same defect as in our case.’(8)

Perhaps in acknowledgement of their role in the deaths of Duffy and Warburton, Ringway sent one of their best instructors to North Africa. Captain Peter Warr arrived at Kabrit on 15 November, the day Stirling celebrated his 26th birthday and the eve of L Detachment’s first operation.

No one in L Detachment relished their parachute training at Kabrit, particularly after the deaths of troopers Joe Duffy and Ken Warburton due to faulty static lines in October 1941. (Courtesy of the SAS Regimental Archive)

As Stirling had informed Auchinleck in July it was common knowledge that an Eighth Army offensive would be launched against Axis forces in November. It was codenamed ‘Crusader’ and its aims were to retake the eastern coastal regions of Libya (a region known as Cyrenaica) and seize the Libyan airfields from the enemy, thereby enabling the RAF to increase their supplies to Malta, the Mediterranean island that was of such strategic importance to the British. But General Erwin Rommel also prized Malta and was busy finalising his own plans for an offensive he intended his Afrika Korps to drive the British eastwards, take possession of the airfields and prevent the RAF reaching Malta with their precious cargoes. In addition, the fewer British planes there were to attack German shipping in the Mediterranean, the more vessels would reach North African ports with the supplies he needed to win the Desert War.

Stirling’s plan was to drop his men between these two vast opposing armies and attack the Axis airfields at Gazala and Timimi in eastern Libya at midnight on 17 November. On the day of his birthday Stirling wrote to his mother, telling her that: ‘It is the best possible type of operation and will be far more exciting than dangerous.’(9)

No one in L Detachment relished their parachute training at Kabrit, particularly after the deaths of troopers Joe Duffy and Ken Warburton due to faulty static lines in October 1941. (Courtesy of the SAS Regimental Archive)

That same day, wrote Du Vivier in his diary, Stirling revealed the nature of their operation for the first time. ‘The plans and maps were unsealed, explained and studied until each man knew his job by heart. There was a lot of work to be done such as preparing explosives, weapons and rations.’

Stirling hadn’t a full complement of men for the operation. Several soldiers, including Lieutenant Bill Fraser and Private Jock Byrne, were recovering from injuries sustained during parachute training. In total Stirling had at his disposal 54 men, whom he divided into four sections under his overall command. Lewes was to lead numbers one and two sections and Blair Mayne would be in charge sections three and four.

Mayne, by this stage, was known to one and all as ‘Paddy’. If Lewes was the brains of L Detachment during its formative days, then Mayne was the brawn, a fearsomely strong man, both mentally and physically, who like Lewes set himself exacting standards. The difference between the pair was that Mayne had a wild side that he set free with alcohol when the occasion arose. Jimmy Storie had known Mayne since the summer of 1940 when they both enlisted in No.11 Scottish Commando. ‘Paddy was a rough Irishman who was at his happiest fighting,’ Storie recalls. ‘He didn’t like sitting around doing nothing. In Arran [where the commandos trained in the winter of 1940] he was known to sit on his bed and shoot the glass panes out of the window with his revolver.’

Just about the only members of L Detachment unafraid of Mayne were Reg Seekings and Pat Riley. Riley had been born in Wisconsin in 1915 before moving to Cumbria with his family where he went to work in a granite quarry aged 14. Three years later he joined the Coldstream Guards and he was reputed to be the physical match of the 6ft 4in Mayne. Seekings was smaller, but he could work his fists better than the Irishman. ‘Mayne’s appearance was a bit over-awing and he had a very powerful presence,’ recalled Seekings. ‘But I never had any trouble with him when drinking, nor Pat Riley, because we weren’t worried about his size and we both had the confidence we could deal with him. And Paddy respected us for that so there was no problem… Paddy said once “Of course, Reg, I’d be too big for you” and I said “the bigger they are the harder they fall.” He laughed and said “sure, we’ll have to try it sometime”. It became a standing joke but we had too much respect for each other … the problem with Paddy was that people were frightened of him and that used to annoy him to such an extent that sparks would fly, particularly if he’d had a drink.’

No one in L Detachment relished their parachute training at Kabrit, particularly after the deaths of troopers Joe Duffy and Ken Warburton due to faulty static lines in October 1941. (Courtesy of the SAS Regimental Archive)

One of Mayne’s fellow officers in Layforce was Lieutenant Gerald Bryan, a recipient of the Military Cross for his gallantry at Litani River. He recalled of the Irishman: ‘When sober, a gentler, more mild-mannered man you could not wish to meet, but when drunk, or in battle, he was frightening. I’m not saying he was a drunk, but he could drink a bottle of whisky in an evening before he got a glow on… One night, when he had been on the bottle, he literally picked me up by the lapels of my uniform, clear of the ground, with one hand while punching me with the other hand, sent me flying. Next day he didn’t remember a thing about it. “Just tell me who did that to you Gerald,” he said. I told him I’d walked into a door. He was a very brave man and I liked him very much.’(10)

Mayne’s two sections comprised 21 men in total and his second-in-command was Lieutenant Charles Bonington. Their objective was the airfield at Timimi, a coastal strip west of Tobruk which was flat and rocky and pitted with shallow wadis. It was hot during the day and cool at night and apart from esparto grass and acacia scrub there was scant vegetation. The plan was simple: once the two sections had rendezvoused in the desert following the night-time parachute drop on 16 November, they would march to within five miles of the target before lying up during the daylight hours of 17 November. The attack would commence at one minute to midnight on the 17th with Bonington leading three section on to the airfield from the east. Mayne and four section would come in from the south and west, and for 15 minutes they were to plant their bombs on the aircraft without alerting the enemy to their presence. At quarter past midnight the raiders could use their weapons and instantaneous fuses at their discretion.

At dawn on 16 November Stirling and his 54 men left Kabrit for their forward landing ground of Bagoush, approximately 300 miles to the west. Once there they found the RAF had been thoughtful in their welcome. ‘The officers’ mess was put at our disposal and we kicked off with a first-rate meal after which there were books, games, wireless and a bottle of beer each, all to keep our minds off the coming event,’ wrote Du Vivier in his diary.

He was in Jock Lewes’s 11-man section, along with Jimmy Storie, Johnny Cooper and Pat Riley, and it wasn’t long before they sensed something wasn’t quite right. Stirling and the other officers were unusually tense and all was revealed a little while before the operation was due to commence when they were addressed by their commanding officer. Stirling informed his men that weather reports indicated a fierce storm was brewing over the target area, one that would include winds of 30 knots. The Brigadier General Staff coordinator, Sandy Galloway, was of the opinion that the mission should be aborted. Dropping by parachute in those wind speeds, and on a moonless night, would be hazardous in the extreme. Stirling was loathe to scrub the mission after all, when might they get another chance to prove their worth? He asked his men what they thought and unanimously they agreed to press ahead.

At 1830 hours a fleet of trucks arrived at the officers’ mess to transport the men to the five Bristol Bombay aircraft that would fly them to the target area. Du Vivier ‘muttered a silent prayer and put myself in God’s hands’ as he climbed aboard.

Du Vivier’s was the third aircraft to take off, behind Stirling’s and Lieutenant Eoin McGonigal’s. Bonington and his nine men were on the fourth plane and Mayne’s section was on the fifth. Each aircraft carried five (or in some cases, six) canisters inside which were two packs containing weapons, spare ammunition, fuses, explosives, blankets and rations.

The men would jump wearing standard issue desert shirts and shorts with skeleton web equipment on their backs containing an entrenching tool. A small haversack was carried by each man inside which was grenades, food (consisting of dates, raisins, cheese, biscuits, sweets and chocolate), a revolver, maps and a compass. Mechanics’ overalls were worn over all of this to ensure none of the equipment was caught in the parachute rigging lines during the drop.

Mayne’s aircraft took-off 40 minutes behind schedule, at 2020 hours instead of 1940 hours, though unlike the other planes they reached the drop zone (DZ) without attracting the unwanted attention of enemy anti-aircraft (AA) batteries. At 2230 hours they jumped with Mayne describing subsequent events in his operational report:

As the section was descending there were flashes on the ground and reports which I then thought was small-arms fire. But on reaching the ground no enemy was found so I concluded that the report had been caused by detonators exploding in packs whose parachutes had failed to open.

The landing was unpleasant. I estimated the wind speed at 20–25 miles per hour, and the ground was studded with thorny bushes.

Two men were injured here. Pct [parachutist] Arnold sprained both ankles and Pct Kendall bruised or damaged his leg.

An extensive search was made for the containers, lasting until 0130 hours 17/11/41, but only four packs and two TSMGs [Thompson sub-machine guns] were located.

I left the two injured men there, instructed them to remain there that night, and in the morning find and bury any containers in the area, and then to make to the RV [rendezvous point] which I estimated at 15 miles away.

It was too late to carry out my original plan of lying west of Timimi as I had only five hours of darkness left, so I decided to lie up on the southern side. I then had eight men, 16 bombs, 14 water bottles and food as originally laid for four men, and four blankets.(11)

Mayne and his men marched for three-and-a-half miles before laying up in a wadi. He estimated they’d covered six miles and were approximately five miles from the target. When daylight broke on the 17th, a dawn reconnaissance revealed they were six miles from the airfield, on which were 17 aircraft.

Back in the wadi, Mayne informed his men of the plan: they would move forward to attack the target at 2050 hours with each man carrying two bombs. He and Sergeant Edward McDonald would carry the Thompson sub-machine guns. Until then they would lie up in the wadi. But as Mayne noted later in his report the weather intervened:

At 1730 hours it commenced to rain heavily. After about half an hour the wadi became a river, and as the men were lying concealed in the middle of bushes it took them some time getting to higher ground. It kept on raining and we were unable to find shelter. An hour later I tried two of the time pencils and they did not work. Even if we had been able to keep them dry, it would not, in my opinion, have been practicable to have used them, as during the half-hour delay on the plane the rain would have rendered them useless. I tried the instantaneous fuses and they did not work either.

Mayne postponed the attack and he and his men endured a miserable night in the wadi. The rain eased the next morning, 18 November, but the sky was grey and the temperature cool realising that the fuses wouldn’t dry, Mayne aborted the mission and headed south. Though bitterly disappointed that he hadn’t been able to attack the enemy, the Irishman was nonetheless pleased with the way his men had conducted themselves in arduous circumstances: ‘The whole section,’ he wrote, ‘behaved extremely well and although lacerated and bruised in varying degrees by their landing, and wet and numb with cold, remained cheerful.’

Mayne led his men to the RV, a point near the Rotondo Segnali on a desert track called the Trig-al-Abd 34 miles inland from both Gazala and Timimi airfields, at dawn on 20 November. Waiting for them were members of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), who a few hours earlier had taken custody of Jock Lewes’s stick. They welcomed members of Mayne’s section with bully beef and mugs of tea and the men swapped horror stories. ‘It was extraordinary really that our entire stick landed without injury because the wind when you jumped was ferocious and of course you couldn’t see the ground coming up,’ recalled Johnny Cooper. ‘I hit the desert with quite a bump and was then dragged along by the wind at quite a speed. When I came to rest I staggered rather groggily to my feet, feeling sure I would find a few broken bones but to my astonishment I seemed to [have] nothing worse than the wind momentarily knocked out of me. There was a sudden rush of relief but then of course, I looked around me and realised I was all alone and, well, God knows where.’

Lewes and his men had jumped in a well-organised stick, the Welshman dropping first with each successive man instructed to bury his parachute upon landing and wait where he was. Lewes intended to move back along the compass bearing of the aircraft, collecting No.2 jumper, then No.3 and so on, what he called ‘rolling up the stick’. But the wind had dragged Jeff Du Vivier for 150 yards until finally he snagged on a thorn bush, allowing him a chance to take stock of the situation. ‘When I finally freed myself, I was bruised and bleeding and there was a sharp pain in my right leg,’ he wrote in his diary. ‘When I saw the rocky ground I’d travelled over, I thanked my lucky stars that I was alive.’

Eventually Du Vivier found the rest of the stick and joined his comrades in searching for the containers. ‘We couldn’t find most of the containers with our equipment so Jock Lewes gathered us round and said that we’d still try and carry out the attack if we can find the target,’ said Cooper.

They marched through the night and laid up at 2130 hours the next morning. Sergeant Pat Riley was sent forward to reconnoitre the area and returned to tell Lewes that there was no sign of the Gazala airfield and in his opinion they had been dropped much further south than planned. Nonetheless Lewes decided to continue and at 1400 hours they departed the wadi and headed north for eight miles. But in the late afternoon the weather turned against them once more and the heavens opened, soaking the men and their explosives. ‘The lightning was terrific,’ recalled Du Vivier. ‘And how it rained! The compass was going round in circles. We were getting nowhere. And we were wallowing up to our knees in water. I remember seeing tortoises swimming about.’

Lewes, with the same grim reluctance as Mayne, informed the men that the operation was aborted and they would head south towards the RV. The hours that followed tested the resolve of all the men, even Lewes who, cold, hungry and exhausted like the rest of his section, temporarily handed command to Riley, the one man who seemed oblivious to the tempest. Du Vivier acknowledged Riley’s strength in his diary: ‘I must mention here Pat Riley, an ex-Guardsman and policeman… I shall always be indebted to him for what he did. I’m sure he was for the most part responsible for our return.’

Riley had the men march for 40 minutes, rest for 20 minutes if there was any dry ground to be found, march for 40 minutes and so on. On through the night they stumbled, often wading through water that was up to their knees. Inadequately dressed against the driving rain and freezing wind, Du Vivier had never experienced such cold. ‘I was shivering, not shaking. All the bones in my body were numbed. I couldn’t speak, every time I opened my mouth my teeth just cracked against one another.’

The rain eased and the wind dropped the next morning (18 November) but it was another 36 hours before Lewes and his section made contact with the LRDG. The return of Mayne’s stick took the number of survivors to 19. A few hours later the figure increased by two when David Stirling and Sergeant Bob Tait were brought in by a LRDG patrol. In Tait’s operational report he described how their aircraft was delayed in its approach to Gazala by strong winds and heavy AA fire. When they did eventually jump they ‘all made very bad landings which resulted in various minor injuries. They had considerable difficulty in assembling, and sergt Cheyne was not seen again.’*

[* In some wartime histories of the SAS L Detachment veterans recall Sergeant John Cheyne as having broken his back jumping with Lewes’s section, but one must assume Tait’s report to be the more reliable as it was contemporary.]

Unable to find most of their containers, and with many of his men barely able to walk, Stirling decided that he and Tait (the only man of the stick to land unscathed) would attack the airfield while the rest, under the command of Sergeant-Major George Yates, would head to the RV. But Stirling met with the same fate at Mayne and Lewes, abandoning the mission in the face of what the noted war correspondent Alexander Clifford called ‘the most spectacular thunderstorm within local memory’.(12)

For a further eight hours Stirling and his men waited at the RV in the hope of welcoming more stragglers, but none showed and finally they agreed to depart with the LRDG. The next day, 21 November, the LRDG searched an eight-mile front in the hope of picking up more of L detachment, but none were seen.

Stirling later discovered that the aircraft carrying Charles Bonington’s section had been shot down by a German Messerschmitt. The pilot, Charles West, was badly wounded, his co-pilot killed and the ten SAS men suffered varying degrees of injury. Doug Keith, the man who had marched for 40 miles in his stockinged feet during training, succumbed to his injuries and his comrades were caught by German troops. Yates and the rest of Stirling’s section were also taken prisoner but of McGonigal’s section there was no word their fate remained a mystery until October 1944 when two of the stick, Jim Blakeney and Roy Davies, arrived in Britain having escaped from their prisoner-of-war (POW) camp. Blakeney’s account of the night of 16 November 1941 was explained in an SAS report: ‘After landing he lay up until dawn and found himself alone with other members of his party, including Lt McGonigal, who was badly injured and died later [as did Sidney Hildreth]… This party, which endeavoured to make for the LRDG RV got lost and made their way to the coast, and were picked up by an Italian guard at Timimi airport.’(13)

Mayne was deeply affected by McGonigal’s failure to reach the RV and while at a later stage of the Desert War, when Gazala was in Allied hands, he would go there to search for the grave of his friend, but for the moment he brooded on his disappearance, vowing to have his revenge on the enemy.

Stirling was also brooding on the way to the Eighth Army’s forward landing ground at Jaghbub Oasis. Thirty-four of his men were missing, either captured or dead, and yet no one from L Detachment had even fired a shot in anger at the enemy. But despite the abject failure of the operation Stirling wasn’t totally despondent already he had decided that in future the SAS would reach the target area not by parachute but by in trucks driven by the LRDG. In this way, as Stirling later commented, the LRDG would be ‘able to drop us more comfortably and more accurately within striking distance of the target area’.(14)

The remnants of L Detachment reached Jaghbub Oasis on the afternoon of 25 November. As well as housing the Eighth Army’s forward landing ground there was also, set among the ruins of a well-known Islamic school, a first-aid post. Before despatching the wounded into the care of the medics, Stirling assembled his men to tell them that L Detachment was far from finished despite the obvious disappointment of its inaugural operation. He promised there would be ‘a next time’ to which Jeff Du Vivier replied in his diary: ‘I don’t fancy a next time if this is what it’s going to be like.’*

[*One upshot of the failed raid was the shelving of a plan to raise a Middle East airborne battalion. Shortly before the operation, Stirling had been asked to submit his thoughts on the idea and he had written an enthusiastic appraisal, stating that ‘such an establishment should amply allow for the weeding out of unsuitable and the physically unfit it could broadly consist of 4 Coys. of 100 men each, a small operative HQ group and a non-operative Administrative Coy. of 100 men.’]

Chapter One
1. Alan Hoe, David Stirling (Warner, 1994)
2. Author interview, 2003
3. Author interview with John Kane, 1998
4. Author interview, 2001
5. David Stirling, Origins of the Special Air Service, SAS Archives
6. Author interview, 2003
7. Memo entitled The First Parachute Jump in the Middle East, National Archives
8. David Stirling, Origins of the Special Air Service
9. Ibid.
10. Graham Lappin, 11 Scottish Commando (unpublished but available to view at www.combinedops.com)
11. Mike Blackman (ed.), The Paddy Mayne Diary (unpublished, 1945)
12. Gavin Mortimer, Stirling’s Men (Weidenfeld, 2004)
13. SAS report on the repatriation of Blakeney, 1944, National Archives, AIR50/205
14. Hoe, David Stirling

Copyright 2011 by Gavin Mortimer.

Reprinted with permission from Osprey Publishing.

GAVIN MORTIMER is the author of Stirling’s Men, a ground-breaking history of the early operations of the SAS The Longest Night: Voices from the London Blitz, The Blitz: An Illustrated History and The SAS in World War II: An Illustrated History. An award-winning writer whose books have been published on both sides of the Atlantic, Gavin has previously written forThe Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer and Esquire magazine. He continues to contribute to a wide range of newspapers and magazines from BBC History to the American Military History Quarterly. In addition he has lectured on the SAS in World War Two at the National Army Museum.

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