In the mid-1990s, Kurt Piehler led a groundbreaking oral history initiative at Rutgers University, interviewing World War II veterans. As he learned about their experiences, questions surfaced about religion’s role in the conflict. So Piehler went on to explore this topic through extensive research. It included looking into The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s collections and resulted in the publication of his book A Religious History of the American GI (University of Nebraska Press, 2021). As our guest in this podcast episode, he discusses the central role that faith and prayer played for President Franklin Roosevelt and the US military, in their battle for what Roosevelt named the “four freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Referencing various stories from his research, Piehler comments on the unique contribution of Christian Science to the overall war effort.
Access more on this topic:
- The Great Offensive (Christian Science Sentinel, June 10, 1944)
- Podcast series: A great religious experiment—military chaplaincy
Kurt Piehler is Director of the Institute of World War II and the Human Experience and Associate Professor of History at Florida State University. He is the author of three books on United States war history. As the founding director of the Rutgers Oral History Project from 1994 to 1998, he conducted more than 200 interviews with World War II veterans. His televised lecture, “The War That Transformed a Generation,” drew on this work, appearing on The History Channel in 1997. Piehler is the editor of Encyclopedia of Military Science (2013) and The United States in World War II: A Documentary Reader (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). He has also co-edited several additional books on related subjects. He resides with his family in Tallahassee, Florida.