70 Years After D-Day: From Power to Impotence

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70 Years After D-Day

From Power to Impotence

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In the early morning grayness of June 6, 1944, lookouts manning scores of German artillery emplacements above the Normandy beaches of northern France saw the unbelievable sight of nearly 6,000 Allied ships of all types and sizes steaming toward them. Shocked as they were, they knew what those thousands of ships meant: The long-expected Allied invasion of Adolf Hitler's fortress Europe had begun.

A short time later, at about 6:30 a.m., the drop-down doors of hundreds of landing craft opened out as ramps into the surf and more than 160,000 British, American, Canadian, French and Polish troops stormed ashore in what was the largest seaborne invasion in world history. Attacking on a 45-mile stretch of five beaches designated Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold, the Allied troops faced obstacles unlike nearly any encountered by invading troops in the history of warfare.

They attacked what military experts agree were the most formidable defenses ever constructed in modern warfare. Hitler had placed Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the famed "Desert Fox" of North Africa, in charge of the German defensive effort. His "Atlantic Wall," an elaborate array of concrete gun installations, bunkers and pillboxes, allowed considerable interlocking fire that could be devastating to any attackers. Fortunately for the Allies those defenses, despite four years of effort, were still incomplete.

The Allied troops waded ashore into withering German machine-gun fire. Those who made it to the beach ran a gauntlet of land mines and barbed wire. While on the beach their only cover was the steel landing obstacles that offered little protection from German gunners. On Omaha beach, soldiers of the U.S. 1st and 5th Ranger battalions soon became pinned down, huddled under the 100-foot-tall chalk cliffs at Point du Hoc. The U.S. First Army commander, General Omar Bradley, seriously considered pulling them off the beach, a move that would have crippled the attack.

In actuality, Operation Overlord, as the invasion landings were code-named, began just after midnight on June 6 when some 24,000 glider-borne troops from the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions parachuted behind the German front lines. Their mission: to protect the flanks of the invading troops, secure bridges and main roads, and prevent the Germans from bringing in reinforcements from the north.

The airborne landings were at best a mixed success. Many gliders missed their landing zones, some men parachuted into swamps and drowned, while others were shot as they slowly drifted to earth. But the partial success they achieved made the difference.

And in spite of all odds, the invasion succeeded. By nightfall the invading troops had secured small beachheads on all five beaches. These were the first of an oncoming wave of Allied troops over the next two weeks. The Allies advanced and didn't stop until they got to the heart of Germany.

American resolve on the world scene, as displayed at that time, is not so easily found today. Clearly something has changed!

Did God play a hand in those events?

June 6, 2014, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Virtually all of the men who stormed ashore that awful day 70 years ago are dead, but a small handful, men in their late 80s and 90s, will visit those Normandy beaches for perhaps the final time to commemorate that important victory.

Despite the enormous cost of more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed and wounded on that day, D-Day was a success. But many do not realize that it could easily have been a disaster. As supreme commander of Allied forces that day, U.S. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower knew as well as Rommel that if the invasion could be stopped at the beaches, it might be fatal to the Allied cause.

Over the decades, many have wondered if God had a hand in that historic day.

Let's look at the evidence. To begin with, Eisenhower and British General Bernard Montgomery, who commanded the land forces, successfully misled Hitler and the German High Command into believing that the invasion would take place across the narrow part of the English Channel at Pas de Calais. Over the previous year, they had planned and pulled off an elaborate ruse using fake guns, tanks, coded messages and other diversions to convince the German Fuehrer that a totally fictitious First U.S. Army Group was poised behind the cliffs of Dover for the attack.

When the landings took place, Hitler believed they were only a diversion from the main attack that he still believed would occur at Pas de Calais, 100 miles to the north of Normandy. Despite the urgent pleas of Rommel and General Gerd Von Rundstedt, the main German commanders, he refused to order the movement of troops to the south.

Could those thousands of extra troops have made the difference? Could they, as Hitler vowed, have thrown the Allied troops back into the sea?

Weeks after the landings it was revealed that a dispute between German commanders had kept most of the German panzer tank divisions away from the landing zones. By the spring of 1944 the Allies ruled the skies over France, and Rommel wanted most of the 10 panzer divisions near the beaches to minimize their exposure to Allied air attacks while in transit.

However, panzer commander General Leo von Gehr wanted the divisions kept closer to Paris. Hitler ordered what turned out to be a bad compromise: A few Panzer divisions would be at the beaches, but most would be kept inland.

Similarly, most of the Luftwaffe's aircraft had been relocated far from the coast to defend Germany's heartland from American and British bomber attacks and weren't a factor when the invasion commenced.

Rommel had earlier told his aide: "The war will be won or lost on the beaches. We'll have only one chance to stop the enemy and that's while he's in the water . . . struggling to get ashore. Reserves will never get up to the point of attack and it's foolish even to consider them . . . the first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive . . . for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day" (quoted by Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day: June 6, 1944, 1959, pp. 27-28).

Would the outcome have been different had those forces been deployed near the beaches?

Weather and the timing of the invasion were other crucial factors. Eisenhower and Montgomery knew the invasion had to take place in a narrow window of opportunity: A full or near-full moon was needed for glider pilots to see their landmarks, and successful beach landings required high spring tides to clear as many of the German defensive obstacles as possible.

That narrow window presented itself only from June 5 to 7. The Allied generals knew that missing that window would force them to put off the invasion for at least two weeks. Secrecy might have been lost, and German defenses would be even stronger.

Storms and high seas arrived with the first days of June. Eisenhower had planned the invasion to coincide with the full moon of June 5. But June 4 was an especially stormy day. Forced to delay the invasion, Eisenhower huddled with his staff. His chief meteorologist, J.M. Stagg, forecast a brief break in the weather for June 6. Though some of his officers disagreed, Eisenhower made the fateful decision: The attack would take place on June 6.

As it turned out, the bad weather unexpectedly weakened German defenses. Viewing the winds and stormy seas, the German commanders concluded that no one in his right mind would launch an invasion under such conditions. Senior officers ordered their troops to stand down, and many of them were away for the weekend. The Luftwaffe canceled normal reconnaissance flights, which would have given them advance warning of the invasion.

Even Rommel, the supreme German commander, overworked and exhausted from overseeing efforts to finish the formidable coastal defenses he anticipated being completed in a few weeks, decided to return to Germany for the weekend to visit his wife on her birthday—June 6. He also wanted to make a personal visit with Hitler to plead once more to have the German tank divisions repositioned to the coast rather than held in reserve far to the rear where they would be too far away to make a difference.

A "great crusade" hung in the balance

Much has been written about seemingly miraculous events that turned the tide of World War II. Historians have long referred to the Miracle of Dunkirk, where calm seas allowed an evacuation that saved more than 300,000 British troops from annihilation or capture in May 1940 while heavy fog grounded German planes.

Others have pointed to the extremely fortuitous instance of the British navy finding and sinking the dreaded German battleship Bismarck in May 1941.

Did God Himself intervene to clear the seas and skies enough on June 6 to permit the glider and seaborne landings, yet have this come amid terrible weather to make the German defenders think no attack would be forthcoming?

One has to pause and consider. Had D-Day been delayed, would Hitler have caught on to the deception? Would he have transferred thousands of troops, guns and tanks from Pas de Calais to Normandy? Would he have made good on his vow to drive the invaders back into the sea?

On the day of the invasion, Eisenhower sent a message to the airborne and seaborne troops: "You are about to embark upon the great crusade, towards which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you . . . Let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking." He also carried in his pocket a second message—one to be read in case the invasion failed.

Years later, in referring to his agonizing decision to postpone the invasion from June 5 to June 6, Eisenhower said this: "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" (quoted by John McCollister, God and the Oval Office, 2005).

A superpower emerges victorious

Seven decades have passed since D-Day. With its success, which from a human perspective was by no means guaranteed, Hitler's Nazi grip on Europe was reduced to less than a year. By mid-May 1945, Berlin lay in ruins, Hitler was dead, and the war in Europe was over.

Many don't realize that your Bible had foretold the national power and prestige that America and Britain, historical allies, experienced over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Was there any prophetic significance to Anglo-American victory in World War II? Surprising at it may sound, ancient Israel was the forerunner of our modern

English-speaking nations of the United States and many of the British Commonwealth nations. (To learn more about this, read our free study aid, The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)

Two parallel biblical passages, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, prophesied blessings or curses that would come on Israel for either obedience or disobedience to the divine laws God put in place. For example, Deuteronomy 28:7 Deuteronomy 28:7The LORD shall cause your enemies that rise up against you to be smitten before your face: they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways.
American King James Version×
speaks of great military victories if the people would obey and honor their Creator: "The Lord will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before your face; they will come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways" (emphasis added throughout).

The United States emerged from World War II as the world's leading national power. Tyranny had been defeated, and the country even embarked on a massive and generous rebuilding plan to help its defeated former enemies get back on their feet.

America assumed the role of the world's policeman, and in the bipolar world of the Cold War era, the United States was the clear leader of the free world—pitted against its totalitarian rival, the Russian-led Soviet Union.

America quickly losing power and influence

Over the decades since, America has played its leading role with decreased effectiveness. Despite trillions of dollars spent and tens of thousands of lives lost, the result of U.S. conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan has been stalemate or a negotiated peace that eventually turned to victory for America's enemies.

Past decades saw a willingness of the United States to go to the mat for its national interests. President John F. Kennedy faced down Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in October 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, ordering Soviet missiles to be taken out of Cuba. Yet only recently America has seen its power and ability to influence outcomes checkmated in Syria, in Iran, and most recently in Ukraine, where many in the province of Crimea pushed the secession of the province to be annexed by Russia (see "Ukraine: Feeble U.S. Stand Allows Russian Imperialism").

What has changed from the earlier period of American resolve to the present?

In late February U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel submitted a proposed fiscal 2015 defense budget that would reduce U.S. military personnel to about 450,000, the smallest since 1945. It would also reduce the U.S. Navy to its smallest size in decades. Despite these proposed cuts, the U.S. military would yet remain the world's most powerful—though Russia and China, seeing American weakness and withdrawal, are vigorously updating and expanding their military capabilities.

Again we ask, what has changed?

A return to the Cold War?

The United States has had little power to influence the outcome of the situation in Crimea, which for all intents and purposes is now effectively part of Russia. Notice what God prophesied about the modern descendants of ancient Israel, who today include the major English-speaking nations: "I will break the pride of your power" (Leviticus 26:19 Leviticus 26:19And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
American King James Version×
). Though it still has the world's largest military, U.S. willingness and ability to use that military seems to be stymied around the world.

Recently suffering a humiliating withdrawal from Iraq and leaving that nation divided with parts of it taken over by radical Islamists, and now facing a similar withdrawal in Afghanistan, how is it that the world's greatest military power has essentially been fought to a draw by insurgents whose weaponry consists of AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised roadside bombs?

America's sliding morals, national scandals and increasing disregard of God's law has brought consequences. Again, while Moses pointed out the blessings for obedience, he was also inspired to write about the consequences of disobedience:

"The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth" (Deuteronomy 28:25 Deuteronomy 28:25The LORD shall cause you to be smitten before your enemies: you shall go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shall be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
American King James Version×

We are commanded to watch and give heed to what is taking place around us (Matthew 24:42 Matthew 24:42Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.
American King James Version×
). At this time we have no way of knowing in full where the Ukrainian crisis will lead. But the stark reality of international events of recent weeks is stirring millions in the Western world to a renewed concern that the Cold War of decades ago has returned. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll during the week of March 10 revealed that 72 percent of Americans now view Russia as a threat, up from just 26 percent a few months ago.

As we reflect back on the amazing events of 70 years ago, we should ponder the years to come.

The God who created mankind has a plan for how these events will finally play out, and you need to learn more about that plan. And you need to know where the English-speaking peoples are identified in your Bible and what God has in store for them.