As told to Katherine McLamore and edited by C. Wheat
When American Sniper Chris Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, recently came to Lubbock, WWII Army Veteran Phil Crenshaw gave the invocation. At the Benghazi Survivor Presentation in 2016, he also opened with prayer. For occasions like these he proudly dons his woolen dress green WWII uniform and humbly walks to the microphone. His gentle but powerful voice thanks God for freedom, for the people present, and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. When asked how he can still fit into his uniform after so many years, his face lights up as he names the five basic food groups: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan and peanut brittle ice cream.
The Pentagon designated Crenshaw as the sole surviving Chaplain’s assistant of WWII and the Chief of Chaplain’s office honored him while on the 2013 Honor Flight with three of his sons. He continues to serve on the Texas South Plains Honor Flight Committee.
After serving his country, doing radio broadcasting for 20 years and operating an employment agency for 40 years, he has gainful employment with Westex Document at Reese Technology Center. Crenshaw writes in his spare time. He has three books in progress: “My Desk is a Pulpit”; “The Island’s Last Call” (about his military service in Okinawa and Korea), and a third, which relates to helping young people transition into maturity. He and his family have hosted countless students in their home, earning the title of “The Crenshaw Hotel.”
“I love children and am concerned that we have gotten away from where we began in education. Textbooks no longer tell the full story of American History. Students are taught there are no absolutes, and they must be politically correct. My favorite patriotic song is ‘America the Beautiful’, because it represents basically my philosophy of life and my love for my country.” He calls Southcrest Baptist Church his church home.
“I have made 12 trips with Josh McDowell to Russia. The orphans’ tears moved my heart. (The children) seeing men for the first time, …cried. We gave them teddy bears and lots of hugs.
“Born in Kansas City in 1922, I grew up in Joplin, Missouri during the depression. My dad made $2.50 a week as a printer and Mom taught school. At four years of age, I saw a black grand piano for the first time at a revival. It mesmerized me. I went home and told my parents and brother, Loye, that I wanted to learn to play the piano. My parents bartered and sacrificed for me to study music for eight years. I have played in both Protestant and Catholic services and at Grand Central Station.
“Most of my military acquaintances from basic training were sent to the South Pacific, and most were buried there. I was separated from them and sent to the East Coast to study Morse code. I never got a chance to use it. God had other plans for me.
“In a muddy field chapel tent in Okinawa, the Chaplain learned of my music background and quickly had me transferred to the role of his assistant. Not satisfied to just minister to the Army, Chaplain Wuemberger held services for other branches, school teachers and children. When the Chaplain learned about the Japanese Prisoner of War camp, another chapter in my life opened, lasting 4 months.
Japanese prisoners were taught to kill and then commit hari-kari (suicide) for their Emperor. Our troops blasted them out of their caves with flame throwers, while many jumped to their deaths off cliffs. At Okinawa, the largest battle in the Pacific, we captured 4,000 Prisoners of War. Chaplain Wuemberger felt an urgency to reach the Japanese prisoners while we could. So, we held six or seven services on Sunday. Wherever we went by vehicle, I played music on a little fold-up organ. Everyone on the island knew about (the chaplain) and his passion for God. He dictated letters and I typed them on an old typewriter. He asked for literature for the Japanese, and we received 1,000 Japanese New Testaments from an unknown source. Interpreters assisted us in distributing all but one, which I have to this day.
“I remember hurrying to reach field hospitals to inspire soldiers barely hanging on. Even then, the Lord worked through me. The atmosphere and suffering proved depressing. Yet, it encouraged us to see their personal encounters with the Lord brighten their faces.
“My wife and mother to our six children, Ruth, died from Parkinson’s disease five and a half years ago. Loving people quickly surrounded her when she needed hospice care. Hospice was wonderful.
“Do good. Plant the seed. Be faithful. I have helped plant seeds, and God brought the harvest. As long as we are faithful He will bless our efforts. I would like to know my witness for the Lord touched many.” lives.”