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The Password

Communications dominate war; broadly considered,
they are the most important single element in strategy, political or military.

Rear Adm. Alfred Mahan, 1900

During combat in WWII in the Pacific, the enemy was often a skilled infiltrator and night fighter. Because of this, Marine units found it necessary to adopt a different password for identification every night. In the First Marine Division, before nightfall, the password was sent out verbally through the regiments, battalions, companies and on down to platoons, squads, weapons-served units and tank crews. Every man knew that, usually simple, but vital one word. Sometimes a double word was used like Harley-Davidson.

Each night your very life depended on knowing that word.

Make one move after dark without that all-important password, no matter how good your purpose or urgent your mission, and you are a dead man.

Challenger: "Halt, who goes there?" followed by the ominous click of the safety being released on a M-1 rifle, carbine, Tommy gun or .45 pistol.

"It's me, your buddy, Joe," comes back a nervously whispered answer.

"Gimme the password, demands the sentry.

For those who had either forgotten or never received the magic word, it meant life or death. You earnestly prayed that the challenger is a reasonable guy and not a green, trigger-happy Marine.

Sprinkled here and there among casualty lists from WWII are men who forgot the password or some who tried in vain to talk or joke their way back to their foxhole without it. There are a few who incredulously refused to give it, arrogantly claiming that the challenger certainly knew who they were. What an ignominious way to die or receive a Purple Heart!

There were certain English words containing the letter L that most Japanese had difficulty pronouncing: They tended to make an R sound out of an L. Someone in Division Headquarters who understood this Japanese peculiarity and had an ample vocabulary came up with words that meant life to Marines and death to the enemy.

For some reason, I vividly remember some of those passwords, especially from the battle of Peleliu in September and October 1944. Victory hung in the balance for days on that blood-drenched coral atoll. Here are some of those passwords with the way most Japanese would pronounce them in parentheses.

Chevrolet (Chevroray); lollipop (roripopu); Cadillac (Cadiraku); Harley-Davidson (Hari-Davidson); baseball (bezubaru); parallel (parareru); holiday (haride); rebellion (reberionu); Lillipution (Riripushionu).
With the word Lillipution, I can imagine this scene between a couple of Marines just behind the front lines:
"Look Kilroy, how the (blank) should I know what Lilliputian means. We're not paid to know. Just try saying it once more!"

"Sarge, if I can't pronounce it, how can the (blankety-blank) Japs say it? Can't I just use last night's password?"

"No, Kilroy, not if you want to live to see another day! Now let's try Lilliputian again. Wait a minute, there's someone who will know- Say, Lieutenant, you went to Yale didn't you . . .?"

Use of a hard-to-pronounce password to confound and discover the enemy is many centuries old. In the book of Judges in the Old Testament, two warring factions spoke the same language, but their pronunciation differed on certain words. The Gileadites had defeated the Ephraimites.

Remnants of the Ephraimites tried to escape through the fords of the Jordan river being guarded by the Gileadites. When they approached this narrow, closely guarded escape route, they were asked one by one:
"Are you an Ephraimite?" If he answered "No," he was then commanded, "Say 'Shibboleth'." If he pronounced the word "Sibboleth," they knew he was lying and an enemy. Inability to say the password correctly cost the man his life. Thousands of Ephraimites were killed at that time.

Is it necessary to know a password in order to enter into the presence of God as a permanent citizen of His Kingdom?

God in His infinite love and mercy upon us wandering, earth-bound rebels, has given to us His open-secret password.

Jesus Christ is the password.

Knowing Him enables us to pass the sentry's challenge to enter into God's presence. He Himself said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."John 14:6

True repentance and heart-belief in Jesus Christ's life, sacrificial death, glorious resurrection and ascension guarantee the forgiveness of our wrongdoing and eternal safety with God forever.

SCRIPTURE: Keep on praying in the Spirit with every kind of prayer and entreaty, at every opportunity, be ever on the alert with perfect devotion and entreaty for all God's people.Ephesians 6.18

PRAYER: Lord, give me spiritual discernment to be able to test the spirits and to know clearly who is the enemy and who is a true follower of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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