74 years ago, history was made as 150,000 Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy during WWII in an invasion unlike any ever seen before. An incredible amount of brave lives were lost, yet this courageous event led to the beginning of liberation from Nazi forces in Western Europe.
If you’re not familiar with the details of that fateful day, you should be—because D-Day was nothing short of a miracle. Despite the devastating loss, the victory against Germany was made possible by the sheer strength of the unified Allied forces, and also what some can only attribute to God’s divine hand.
In a broadcast message to the troops before they left for the invasion, General Eisenhower proclaimed, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory…. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”
But despite his courageous and confident statement to the troops before the attack, later, General Eisenhower said, “If there were nothing else in my life to prove the existence of the presence of an almighty and merciful God… those events of that momentous day did. He further affirmed that faith gives you the courage to make the decisions you must make in a crisis and then the confidence to leave the result to a higher Power.”
Although the ins and outs of the day’s military strategy have been studied in detail, the incredible examples of God’s presence on the beaches of Normandy have been less discussed. But one thing is for certain, His guiding hand was in the miraculous victory against evil on that fateful day—a day when justice and love won over hate and prejudice.
God's Comfort in the Hearts of Soldiers
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Cosmo Uttero was just 20-years-old when he boarded a boat towards the beach. Having miraculously survived, he’s given accounts of how he felt that day:
Coming in I see bodies in the water and bodies on the beach, a ship on fire, and the battleship firing, and small arms coming over the cliffs. I was wondering what’s it like to die. I thought I was going to die and I didn’t know whether it was going to hurt, whether it was going to be quick. Oh yes, [I] made a lot of promises [to God]… You become religious very quickly. That’s why I still believe in God.
Nobody can love God better than when he is looking death square in the face and talks to God and then sees God come to the rescue. As I look back through hectic days just gone by to that hellish beach I agree with Ernie Pyle, that it was a pure miracle we even took the beach at all. Yes, there were a lot of miracles on the beach that day. God was on the beach D-Day; I know He was because I was talking with Him.
In 2004, Lt. Col. George Russell Barber of the U.S. Air Force—one of the last surviving D-Day chaplains—passed away. He, like his fellow chaplains, were the only members of their crafts who landed on the beach without weapons for protection. Because unlike the other men, they were there to provide spiritual healing and comfort to the dying men.
Little known to many, the chaplains who served on D-Day arrived with the soldiers, side-by-side. Serving as a symbol of humanity, they never checked a soldier’s dog tags to determine whether that person “deserved” their prayers by sharing their beliefs. Rather, whether the chaplain was Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, they felt an ecumenical mission to provide spiritual care to as many dying men as they could reach—regardless of their religion or lack thereof.
“I talked to as many as I could and prayed with them,” Lt. Col. Barber told Mark Ellis of Godreports. “I said, ‘Trust in God.” Barber remembers reciting scripture from John:14 over the dying men, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions…”
Chaplain John Burkhalter, another Chaplain who landed on Omaha Beach, wrote a letter to his wife about his experience. It was later published in the Miami Herald on Aug. 6, 1944. He wrote:
When my part of the division landed, there were impressions made on my mind that will never leave it. Just before landing, we could see heavy artillery shells bursting all up and down the beach at the water’s edge under well-directed fire. As I stood in line waiting to get off the LCI to a smaller craft to go into shore, I was looking toward land and saw a large shell fall right on a landing craft full of men. I had been praying quite a bit through the night as we approached the French coast but now I began praying more earnestly than ever. Danger was everywhere; death was not far off. I knew that God alone is the maker and preserver of life, who loves to hear and answer prayer. We finally landed and our assault craft was miraculously spared, for we landed with no shells hitting our boat.
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Due to the difficult tides and weather patterns of the area, scholars claim that there were only a small handful of hours when the Normandy invasion could have succeeded within the ideal two-week span they wanted. Without the technology that we rely on today, it was not easy to grasp and plan for when those hours would present themselves. The forecasters did everything in their power—as accurately as possible—to find the right moment. The attack needed a full moon, a low tide, little cloud cover, light winds and low seas. They did their best, but it was a gamble. Not wanting to lose their element of surprise on the Germans, Eisenhower took the gamble and relied on the forecasters—and the Lord—to predict and provide the weather they needed for a victory.
On the fateful day, the forecast was a miracle. While the weather during the initial hours of D-Day was not ideal, by noon, the weather had cleared into the exact forecast they needed. The Germans had been caught by surprise, and suddenly, the Allied Troops had a fighting chance.
So let us take this day to celebrate the men who died and those who survived D-Day, 74 years ago—and the incredible sacrifice they made in a fight against evil.
At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy, too young or too old to play a part in a nation-wide, perchance a worldwide vigil of prayer as the great crusade sets forth.
—King George VI, radio address, 6 June 1944.