Study on Faith in the Foxhole from World War II
Reports on the American Soldier Studies, with data gathered immediately following World War II, indicate Soldiers relied on prayer more — and other ideals less — as battles got tough. The study is entitled “Are There Atheists in Foxholes? Combat Intensity and Religious Behavior:”
The American Soldier studies were conducted by the Army’s Information and Education Division. An upcoming analysis of that data, to be published in the Journal of Religion and Health, finds when soldiers reported that battles became “more frightening,” as many as 72 percent of them turned to prayer as their primary source of motivation. When battles were less frightening, just 42 percent of soldiers regularly prayed for motivation.
As to the impact to the cliché that “there are no atheists in foxholes” (which one article attributes to Ernie Pyle):
The study may lend some credence to the oft-repeated saying “There are no atheists in foxholes,” but a second part of the study found that once soldiers returned, those who had bad experiences during the war seemed to remain religious.