It’s been 75 years since D-Day, June 6, 1944, when Western Allied forces during World War II launched the largest invasion in history with nearly 7,000 ships of all sorts and more than 11,000 planes, crossing the English Channel and landing more than 150,000 troops (and more over the days that followed) on the beaches of Normandy to free France and the rest of Europe from Nazi tyranny.
German leader Adolf Hitler had prepared a vast defensive network of artillery, gun emplacements, mines and other deadly obstacles stretching from the west coast of France up to Norway. This “Atlantic Wall” had to be breached for the Allies to press forward and defeat this evil, genocidal regime that with its Axis partners was intent on continuing the carnage of many millions while trying to conquer the world.
Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who arrived at Normandy the day after D-Day, noted that the Allies achieved victory “with every advantage on the enemy’s side and every disadvantage on ours.” Yet, as he wrote, the total Allied casualties “were remarkably low—only a fraction, in fact, of what our commanders had been prepared to accept.” Pyle concluded, “Now that it is all over, it seems to me a pure miracle that we ever took the beach at all.”
What was miraculous about D-Day, and why would God have intervened?
The weather and other surprises—flukes or God’s handiwork?
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander (and later U.S. president), said later on the 1952 anniversary of the operation launch: “This day eight years ago, I made the most agonizing decision of my life. If there were nothing else in my life to prove the existence of an almighty and merciful God, the events of the next twenty-four hours did it … The greatest break in a terrible outlay of weather occurred the next day and allowed that great invasion to proceed, with losses far below those we had anticipated.”
The Allies had tried to plan for every eventuality, but they had no control over the vital weather. They hoped for good weather to make the 100-mile sea crossing to Europe, as had miraculously occurred in the mass evacuation from Europe at Dunkirk early in the war. What they didn’t realize was that bad weather—the windiest in 20 years—would hand them success beyond all expectation.
D-Day was originally scheduled for June 5 and could only be postponed for the short term to the 6th or 7th, while the tides were still low and the moon was full for visibility (along with clear weather), especially for clearing or avoiding mines in the surf. Otherwise it would have to have been put off a good while later.
With the terrible weather that sprang up on June 5, it looked like the operation was a no-go, but meteorologists reported a break was about to occur in the weather to allow the 17-hour crossing, though there was as yet no sign of any calming. Eisenhower made the agonizing decision for the ships to launch on the 5th (to arrive the next day) in the face of severe winds. As it turned out, the weather was only marginally better on the 6th, yet enough for the invasion to succeed even with weather-related losses.
What really helped win the day was that the Germans could not believe the Allies would cross the English Channel in such awful weather, and they were caught completely unprepared. They had stood alert at low-tide and full-moon days in May, but they now did not see the need. Half the German division commanders and a fourth of the regiment commanders left for war games exercises in Brittany. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, in charge of the Normandy defenses, decided to travel 500 miles to Germany to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He came back at word of the invasion, but it took him all day—by then too late.
Also, Adolf Hitler and other leaders under him were convinced by Allied ploys and their own theories that the Allied invasion was going to be further east. And when it arrived they assumed it was a diversion, with the real landing to take place elsewhere—a belief that Hitler bizarrely clung to up through August!
Meanwhile, most of the Luftwaffe (German air force) planes based in Normandy had been relocated to Germany to defend against increasing Allied bombing. With that and the bad weather, German planes were not patrolling the English Channel. Moreover, this was the only night the German U-boat submarines did not patrol it. So the Allies encountered hardly any enemy forces on the way.
Confusion among German defenders
A key early step in the invasion was for paratroopers to come in gliders at 100 mph with no guiding lights and to land secretly next to two critical guarded bridges and secure them—to keep the Germans back and prevent the Germans from destroying them so the Allies couldn’t use them. The weather helped in this too, hiding the gliders in the low clouds as they flew by stopwatches until they dropped out at 200 feet, when the pilots could then see.
The first paratroopers to land were stunned, British platoon leader Maj. John Howard later stating: “When we came to our senses, we realized there was no firing. There was no enemy firing. It all seemed quite unbelievable.” The 22 paratroopers trotted over the bridge, the terrified guards dove into the bushes, and the garrison was taken in 10 minutes. But two German tanks arrived, with four more on the way. The paratroopers had only a single anti-tank gun, and with one chance succeeded in hitting the tank right in the middle, setting off all the ammunition inside—the burning tank now blocking the German advance and enabling lost paratroopers to be reoriented.
The Germans were not then able to counterattack there or across the wider area. They now had only two panzer (or tank) divisions near the Normandy landings. Early in the morning, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt ordered these to move in, not believing such a large-scale invasion could be a deception.
But he had to get approval, as these forces were under the German high command. Approval was not given, as Hitler had to give the order, and he was still sleeping—and he didn’t awaken until noon. Hitler’s approval did not come until 4 p.m., and by that time the weather had cleared and Allied aircraft ruled the skies over Normandy, smashing anything that moved on the ground. (Much more could be said of Hitler’s terrible blunders, which some speculate may have resulted from disease or drug and chemical interactions affecting his brain.)
Many remarkable things happened on D-Day. The landing at Utah Beach was actually in the wrong place, but this worked out in the Allies’ favor, as the beach was less defended there. Of course, other places saw far worse fighting. The taking of the Normandy beaches was still horrific, with thousands dead or wounded. Yet the casualty count had been expected to be many times higher. And the victory allowed the liberation of Europe to follow over the next year.
The weather that seemed poised to thwart the Allied cause in reality greatly helped it. And the Nazi leadership was in many ways confounded. Eisenhower and many others saw this as clear help from Almighty God. In fact, newspapers at the time declared the events of D-Day, Dunkirk, El Alamein, the Battle of Britain and a number of other battles to be miraculous, particularly in the wake of widespread prayer to God for deliverance.
U.S. and British leaders and people look to God
Gen. Eisenhower told the troops embarking for Normandy: “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you … The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery had told the troops, “Let us pray that the Lord, mighty in battle, will give us victory.”
As the forces approached Normandy, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt took to the airwaves with this call: “In this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer.”
He publicly prayed: “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity … They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard …
“They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate … They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
“And for us at home … help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts …
“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade … With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace—a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
“Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
As word of the invasion spread, prayer vigils were quickly organized throughout the country. Many businesses closed for prayer.
“This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes”
Britain’s King George VI said in a worldwide radio address on D-Day: “Four years ago our nation and Empire stood alone against an overwhelming enemy, with our backs to the wall. Tested as never before in our history, in God’s providence we survived that test …
“Once more a supreme test has to be faced. This time the challenge is not to fight to survive, but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause … That we may be worthily matched with this new summons of destiny, I desire solemnly to call my people to prayer and dedication.
“We are not unmindful of our own shortcomings, past and present. We shall ask not that God may do our will, but that we may be enabled to do the will of God; and we dare to believe that God has used our nation and Empire as an instrument for fulfilling His high purpose.
“I hope that throughout the present crisis of the liberation of Europe there may be offered up earnest, continuous and widespread prayer …
“If from every place of worship, from home and factory, from men and women of all ages and many races and occupations, our intercessions rise, then, please God, both now and in the future, not remote, the predictions of an ancient psalm may be fulfilled: ‘The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will give His people the blessing of peace.’”
Did God answer this great outpouring of prayer? Many are justifiably convinced that He did.
After the Allies swept triumphantly through France in 1944, Gen. Montgomery felt compelled to say: “Such an historic march of events can seldom have taken place in such a short space of time … Let us say to each other, ‘This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.’”
A God who intervenes and answers national prayer
The Bible reveals that God cares about what happens in the affairs of nations and intervenes in working out His overall plan. “For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings” (Daniel 2:20-21 Daniel 2:20-21 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
21 And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
American King James Version×)—sometimes to punish sinful nations and rulers (compare Genesis 15:16 Genesis 15:16But in the fourth generation they shall come here again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 10:12 Isaiah 10:12Why it shall come to pass, that when the Lord has performed his whole work on mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.
American King James Version×)—and also to protect His servant people from annihilation.
He chose the people of Israel to fulfill a very special destiny. In prophesying of the Israelites in the last days, God promised to make Joseph’s descendants through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh the most blessed nations in the world and strengthen them against their enemies (Genesis 49:22-24 Genesis 49:22-24 22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
American King James Version×), declaring that their descendants would “push the peoples to the ends of the earth” (Deuteronomy 33:17 Deuteronomy 33:17His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
American King James Version×). He further said the Israelites would be “like a lion … Your hand shall be lifted against your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off” (Micah 5:8-9 Micah 5:8-9 8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the middle of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treads down, and tears in pieces, and none can deliver. 9 Your hand shall be lifted up on your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.
American King James Version×).
Other verses show that God would also discipline the Israelites through losses to enemies. But He promised that if His people would humble themselves in prayer, He would forgive them and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14 2 Chronicles 7:14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
American King James Version×).
All of this plays a huge part in what happened at D-Day and the various other instances of divine intervention during World War II and in other conflicts. For, as incredible as it may seem, the prophecies regarding end-time Israel have been fulfilled primarily through the United States and Britain and other nations of British descent. In fact, these nations are in large part actually formed of the descendants of Joseph! (Be sure to read our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy for the proof of this identity and heritage.)
Though this truth is unknown to most, many over the last few centuries have had a sense of the promises to Israel applying in some ways to these great Bible-believing nations.
Leaders who recognized the hand of God at work
Observe what Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister at the time of D-Day, said in his memoirs of the First World War regarding an encounter with Scripture just after he took charge of the Royal Navy:
“That night when I went to bed, I saw a large Bible lying on a table in my bedroom. I thought of the peril of Britain, peace-loving, unthinking, little prepared … I thought of mighty Germany … wave after wave of valiant manhood … of the sudden and successful wars by which her power had been set up. I opened the Book at random, and in the 9th Chapter of Deuteronomy I read—
“‘Hear, O Israel: Thou art to … possess nations greater and mightier than thyself … a people great and tall of whom thou hast heard say, who can stand before the children of Anak!
“‘Understand therefore this day, that the Lord thy God is he which goes over before thee; as a consuming fire … Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart … but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’
“It seemed a message full of reassurance” ( The World Crisis, Mentor edition, 1968, pp. 58-59). Indeed it was.
During the Second World War, the same Churchill, now prime minister, gave a message in 1942 stating: “I sometimes have a feeling of interference. I want to stress that. I have a feeling sometimes that some Guiding Hand has interfered. I have a feeling that we have a Guardian because we have a great Cause, and we shall have that Guardian so long as we serve that Cause faithfully.”
At the victorious conclusion of the war, Churchill led the British House of Commons to “give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance.”
Harry Truman, U.S. president at the end of World War II, later remarked in 1951: “I do not think that anyone can study the history of this nation without becoming convinced that Divine Providence has played a great part in it. I have the feeling that God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose. It is not given to us to know fully what that purpose is.”
Will we continue to look to God?
While these men did not grasp the big picture of what God was working out, they and others at the time still realized who had saved them and seen them through. Do we?
It’s heartrending to contemplate, but it will not be long before the world is plunged into the worst time of trouble ever—far worse than World War II. America and Britain will not then succeed in beating back the enveloping tyranny but, having drifted far from God, will experience devastating defeat and destruction.
Yet, thankfully, a great deliverance will at last come—from the same God. The Father will send Jesus Christ to return to the earth in awesome power. Descending with the hosts of heaven, Jesus will come in divine war, crushing the armies arrayed against Him. Overthrowing the tyranny of wicked men and of Satan behind it all, He will take over the governing of the whole world, then bringing an end to war and guiding mankind into the way of peace.
As we remember D-Day, let’s be grateful for God’s great intervention then and at other times and, humbling ourselves in prayer, continue to trust Him now and for the future deliverance He will ultimately bring.