Saturday, July 6, 2013

“The Price of Our Freedom”

It is hard to see things with perspective when you are up close. Take for example the world’s opinion of Hitler in 1939. It was good. He was a genius who had taken Germany from economic disaster to model success. People were saying that we need to learn from what Hitler is doing in Germany. Even with the invasion of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939, and Poland in September, surprisingly many people still supported Nazism. After killing more than 100,000 Polish soldiers, and 35,000 civilians Hitler told journalists to “…take a good look around Warsaw and see I can deal with any European city.”[1]

Then, in April, Hitler invaded Denmark and Norway and in May, Holland and Belgium. By June, France capitulated to Germany, surrendering one of the world’s largest armies. By July, Hitler was bombing Britain with the hope of killing hundreds of thousands of British.

Then on June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded Russia with an army of 3 million soldiers and thousands of planes, tanks and artillery pieces. The invasion force was so large it could have been seen from outer space. Within a few months it looked as if the Nazis would conquer Russia. They were knocking on the door of Leningrad and Moscow, and Russia’s oil fields were now in imminent danger.

Then on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered World War II. However, though we had entered the war, we were nowhere near prepared to fight. Our equipment and weaponry were in pathetic condition. Soldiers trained with drain-pipes for antitank guns, stovepipes for mortar tubes, and brooms for rifles. Only six medium tanks had been built in 1939, and if you can believe it, the army still believed there was a place for the horse Calvary. The Army’s cavalry chief assured Congress in 1941 that four well-spaced horsemen could charge half a mile across an open field to destroy an enemy machine-gun nest without sustaining a scratch.[2]

Our first encounter with the German army came in North Africa. A strange place, but in retrospect, it was a blessing because it is where we learned to make an amphibious landing against a hostile enemy. Just about everything that could go wrong in North Africa went wrong. However, as North Africa claimed some 70,000 allied, wounded or missing, our army learned to fight.

With time, subtle changes could be sensed in the Americans. They were gradually learning fieldcraft: how to keep off ridgelines, how to camouflage slit trenches, how to flush German crews from their tanks and how to win battles. The soldiers shied away from officers who were glory seekers and appreciated those who remained calm and tactically alert.

The price of freedom is expensive. Our soldiers paid with their lives to contain the threat from Germany and Japan in this four year war. We are grateful to God for his blessings on our country that came so close to peril in those dark years. Today I am extremely grateful to all those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

Rick Atkinson writes:

TWENTY-SEVEN acres of headstones fill the American military cemetery at Carthage, Tunisia. There are no obelisks, no tombs, no ostentatious monuments, just 2,841 bone-white marble markers, two feet high and arrayed in ranks as straight as gunshots. Only the chiseled names and dates of death suggest singularity. Four sets of brothers lie side by side. Some 240 stones are inscribed with thirteen of the saddest words in our language: “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” A long limestone wall contains the names of another 3,724 men still missing, and a benediction: “Into Thy hands, O Lord.”[3]

[1] Manchester, William; Reid, Paul (2012-11-06). The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

[2] Atkinson, Rick (2002-02-22). An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy (p. 9). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

[3] Atkinson, Rick (2002-02-22). An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy (p. 1). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

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