Staples survived the first hail of enemy shells and was tending to the wounded when a gun turret exploded, and he was blown overboard, plummeting 30 feet into the dark, shark-infested waters. Wounded in his leg and shoulder by shrapnel, he was kept afloat by his narrow life belt that he managed to activate. For four agonizing hours he drifted in the open sea as large, dark creatures brushed against his legs.
During the terrifying hours that passed, he thought about his mother and knew she was praying for him. At sunrise Staples was rescued by a passing destroyer and promptly returned to the floundering Astoria. But his ship was badly crippled and began to sink. Staples, still wearing the same life belt, forced himself to leap back into the sea. This time he was picked up by the USS President Jackson and evacuated to safety. On board the transport ship, Staples closely examined the life belt that had saved him. It was manufactured by Firestone Rubber Company and bore a unique registration number. He felt impressed to keep it as a souvenir.
On home leave, Staples told his story to his mother. He was surprised to learn she had taken a wartime job at the Firestone plant in Akron, Ohio. Curious, he grabbed the deflated life belt from his duffel bag and asked about the purpose of the number on the belt. She replied that the company made many thousands of life belts but insisted each one be examined and given a unique number by the inspector. When she looked up from the belt, her eyes were open wide with surprise. In a barely audible voice she said, “Son, I’m an inspector at Firestone and this is my inspector number!”
Just as his mother’s life belt buoyed up the young sailor physically, her prayers buoyed up his spirit during his ordeal. A God-fearing, praying mother is a tremendous blessing from God. If you have a Christian mother, that’s something to thank Him for.