ENGLEWOOD — World War II veteran Arthur Lang, 89, has reason to be grateful every holiday season, and he credits a Bible as his lucky charm.
He still carries his World War II Army-issued Bible that saved his life when he was shot in the chest in France on Oct. 22, 1944.
Lang was hit by a sniper whom he said was aiming for his heart.
The Bible, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt, absorbed most of the impact from the bullet before the bullet penetrated Lang’s chest.
The Bible’s gray cover has seen its share of wear and tear — a bullet passed through the front binding, every page and the back binding, before entering Lang’s chest — but the condition is remarkably good. The text is still legible despite a bullet-shaped hole, a reminder of a time when chaos was rampant and hope, a rare commodity.
The text has no smears and the pages are not faded.
“Whenever I went to combat, it was always in my pocket,” Lang said. “It was a First Testament Bible, which was given to all of the soldiers when they came in. I kept that Bible with me ever since basic training.”
After Lang was hit, he was taken to a field hospital in Nancy, France, and later to Paris. His condition deteriorated to the point where a priest read him his last rites. When he did not succumb to his wounds, Lang was moved again to a hospital in England where he lost a lung, spleen and two sections of ribs, among other injuries.
“After I lost my spleen, I was unable to fight the infection,” Lang said. “The wound from the bullet along with paper it took from the Bible, caused my chest to be infected. I got a very hard fever.”
Lang would undergo multiple procedures, travelling to various hospital facilities throughout the remainder of the war. He kept himself busy in the hospital staying active and mastered pinochle. He became so good at the game, no one wanted to play with him, he said.
Lang says he was finally cured on Dec. 31, 1946, when a New York civilian doctor operated on him, and he has not been bothered since.
Lang struggled to acclimate himself to civilian life after the war.
“It was difficult,” he said. “I found myself drinking a little bit too much, forgetting certain things. I guess I was what you’d call a ‘loafer.’”
It wasn’t until he met his wife, Anna Lang, that he says he straightened up his life.
“It was sort of a blind date,” he said. “I didn’t really want to go. I didn’t have a car. I was afraid to drive. I would take buses. I made a date for Easter Sunday. I almost missed the date because of the time. We started seeing each other and it changed my life.”
Arthur and Anna will be married 66 years in January.
According to his daughter-in-law, Lorraine Lang, Arthur has nine lives. He has dodged a few other bullets, including not serving on D-Day.
“It was because of my need for prescription glasses, I didn’t go in on D-Day,” Lang said. “I had three very close friends I was in contact with and they were stationed in England for the invasion. After D-Day, I never heard from any of them again.”
Lang has three children, four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
He considers himself lucky that he managed to adjust to civilian life when friends succumbed to the bottle.
“People don’t know what combat is,” Lang said.
Lang spent most of his life in New Jersey. He and his wife moved to Englewood in October.
He carries his Bible with him at all times in his pocket.