Friday, June 6, 2008

Remember D-Day!!

I am a fan of history, particularly the first and second world wars. I find it fascinating to see the machinations that moved so many countries to send tens of millions of people to their death. World War Two, in particular, is fascinating because of the incredible acts of evil that were perpetrated by the Nazis. What could drive people - mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, working class men and women - to ignore the atrocities at the least, or participate in them at the worst? I don't know that a satisfactory answer can be derived from that question.

What I do know is that World War II was the last time the nation was united and committed to a cause. Even a few years later, in Korea, the people at home were deeply divided by the war. It grew worse in Vietnam and war has only served as polarizing issue since then. Attempting to explain the divided mindsets, John Keegan, in the book The First World War (it took me longer to read it than America was actually involved in the war!) postulates that the media has created this wedge. Had the media, with all the access to battlefield, the photographic and video technology of today, existed in 1918 no one in modern society would have ever considered going to war again.

There are differing philosophies espoused about war. Without doing any research, I believe it was Gandhi who said that you cannot simultaneously achieve peace while preparing for war. Another perspective - was it Sun Tzu? - holds that to have peace you must be prepared for war. I believe that war is not just a possibility, it's inevitable. As long as people want what other people have - land, wealth, or most of all, power - there will be conflict. If enough people want the same thing that conflict will become a war. Maybe I am a pessimist on this topic, but if all "civilized" society laid down it's arms, someone else will pick them up. But I digress.

During World War II the Allies had two very dynamic leaders at the helm. Winston Churchill was the prime minister of England. He was pushed out of politics after World War I and labeled a "war monger" by the more appeasement minded party. Many believe that if Churchill had been in power rather than Chamberlain in 1936 the war would have been averted. Churchill's way of plain speaking and rallying his country preserved it during the long Battle Of Britain. He kept the Nazi war machine in check long enough for the isolationist America to get pulled into the fray in 1941.

On the American side, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was beloved by the nation, having led us through the depression. Historians today dispute his true value to the future of our nation, but at the time he was America, being elected to four terms as President. His "Fireside chats" kept the nation calm - or at least informed - during the depression and the war. One of his chats was on June 6th, 1944 - D-Day. The tide of war changed this day, and the defeat of Nazi Germany became more certain from this point going forward. In fact, because of this mission the world would be forever different. On the 6th FDR broadcast a short message of prayer that served to inform the nation of the invasion and rally their support at a crucial time of the conflict. I've pasted the text of the broadcast below. To hear the audio in FDR's voice click here.
“My Fellow Americans:

“Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

“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.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

“They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. 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 -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- 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.

“Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“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.


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