Menu

D-Day + 75 Years: What Should We Learn?

by Darris McNeely Estimated reading time: 21 minutes

“Dad, what is this picture of?” I asked.

“Oh,” he replied, “that’s the first American cemetery in Europe in World War II. After D-Day, June 6, I sent a team of men with a bull-dozer to dig it on Omaha Beach.”

The faded black-and-white photo with a few smudges and wrinkles had been in a box with dozens of other photos my father brought back from his experience in World War II. Sure enough, looking at the sign and the small fence around the plot, you could read what it said: “Here marks the site of the first American cemetery in France, World War II.”

I was looking at the resting place of dozens of American soldiers who died on “bloody Omaha,” the Normandy beach that took the heaviest casualties on that momentous day 75 years ago.

Before my father, Lloyd McNeely, died, I was able to have him go through these pictures with me, writing some notes on the back so we would know the story after his passing. Otherwise they would just be a box of photos filled with unknown people, places and experiences.

My dad was an American soldier, a combat engineer assigned to the 149th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 6th Engineer Special Brigade. This group was among the first wave of soldiers to hit the beach as dawn broke over the northwest coast of France on June 6, 1944. Combat engineers had the job of clearing the beach of mines, barbed wire and other obstacles and establishing paths up the bluffs from the beach so that the oncoming waves of tanks, jeeps and other soldiers could land and quickly begin pushing inland.

As the head of this allied spear being thrust at Adolf Hitler’s vaunted Atlantic Wall, these men had to perform their job quickly and effectively or the entire invasion would be stalled. Behind them were thousands of ships carrying many thousands of men. These engineers, along with paratroopers who had been dropped behind the lines during the night hours, had key jobs to perform so the invasion would roll smoothly.

On Omaha Beach these men met the toughest Nazi defense. Strategically placed machine guns in concrete bunkers and behind reinforced embankments began raking the beach with deadly fire. Landing the men from the specially designed landing craft was challenging. Men dropped several yards off the beach in deep water were overwhelmed by the weight of the 70 pounds of gear they were carrying on their backs. Many drowned before reaching the beach.

In this deadly killing ground, those who made it to the beach were raked with machine-gun fire and forced to find whatever cover they could. An estimated 2,400 American soldiers were killed or wounded on Omaha Beach that day.

D-Day has always held a special place in my life. My father survived this hell. He was a staff sergeant in charge of a platoon of men. He would have been at or near the front of one of those landing ships when the front opened and the men began scrambling out.

If you’ve ever watched the opening scenes of the movie Saving Private Ryan, it depicts a soldier being shot through his helmet as the gate dropped on one of those craft. It is a gruesome but accurate scene. It could easily have happened to my father, but it didn’t. He was spared and came home after the war, and a few years later I was born. Had he died on Omaha, I would not even be here to write this article. My father, along with thousands of other Allied soldiers like him, carried out incredibly brave acts on that day.

The greatest invasion in history

What was my father a part of? The Normandy Invasion—D-Day—was the largest amphibious invasion not just of World War II, but in all history. It included troops from the English-speaking nations of America, Great Britain and Canada. Nearly 7,000 ships of all kinds and more than 11,000 aircraft carried nearly 2 million soldiers from England across the English Channel to France.

On that first day alone, 156,000 men landed in France. Ten thousand of them became casualties, with more than 4,000 confirmed dead. The Germans lost more than 1,000 soldiers. Nothing on this scale had ever been attempted in ancient or modern warfare.

The landings occurred on five sections of the French Normandy coast code-named Utah and Omaha (American sectors) and Gold, Sword and Juno (British and Canadian sectors). The Allied troops were commanded by U.S. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. His second was British Gen. Bernard Montgomery.

D-Day was termed “the longest day” by German field marshal Erwin Rommel. Gen. Rommel commanded German troops in this region, and his tactics created the formidable obstacles encountered by soldiers on the beaches. “The longest day” began shortly after midnight when paratroopers from the British 6th Airborne and American 82nd and 101st Airborne units dropped behind the German lines.

The first strategic location captured was Pegasus Bridge on the Caen Canal, taken by British paratroopers. Historian Andrew Roberts says: “Pegasus Bridge was the only possible route to reinforce the 12,000 men of the 6th Airborne Division who were about to bear the brunt of concerted attempts by the 21st Panzer Division [German tanks] and several other German units to descend on Sword Beach and fling the invaders back into the sea before they had established the bridgehead” ( History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900,2007, p. 340).

The Canadian soldiers who landed on Juno Beach fought valiantly. Their troops advanced seven miles inland, more than any others. Roberts says the Canadian troops, with names like the Queens Own Rifles of Canada and Royal Winnipeg Rifles, “were the only units to achieve all their objectives on D-Day” (p. 342). He also includes a little-known quote from Gen. Eisenhower that “man-for-man the Canadians were the best soldiers in his army” (p. 343).

The French Resistance, knowing the Allies were coming, played a key role in the liberation of their country. About 3,000 members of the Resistance cut 950 rail and road lines of communication, which significantly delayed German reinforcements being sent to Normandy from southwestern France.

The New World liberation of the old

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Britain and the members of the British Empire had held the line until the invasion armada could be assembled. Visiting the United States and Canada, he was able to secure guarantees of financing and materiel, known as Lend-Lease, from President Franklin Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King. At a dinner in Ottawa on Dec. 30, 1941, Churchill was told Canada would be giving $1 billion directly and would convert British debts of $700 million into an interest-free loan.

Churchill understood the special connection between the English-speaking peoples. He also knew America could not stay out of the European fight indefinitely. He further knew that the British would need the might of America to come to their aid if they were to survive and for there to be any hope to push back the dark tyranny that had descended on Europe and other parts of the world. At stake were all the hard-won freedoms of Western civilization. 

In perhaps his most famous speech of defiance, given before the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, Churchill knew that the other English-speaking nations (Canada and America) could be counted on. In his famous “we shall fight on the beaches” speech, he ended with what would amount to something of a prophecy:

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

The “New World” did indeed step forth to liberate. D-Day was the largest military effort mounted by the English–speaking peoples of the world.

The Atlantic Wall at last overcome

Hitler’s Nazi army had anticipated the Allied invasion for some time. World War II had already lasted nearly five years since Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. By the spring of 1940 France had fallen, and the countries of Central and Western Europe were under the control of the fascist Axis powers of Germany and Italy. Hitler tried to subdue England by an aerial bombing campaign known as the Battle of Britain, but England bravely held out. Failing to defeat England, Hitler set about fortifying the European continent’s Atlantic border from Norway to the Pyrenees at Spain.

Securing Europe by this “wall” was a massive, if not near-impossible, project. Hitler knew that in time there would be an invasion of the continent that would seek to turn back all the Nazi advances. His failed effort to defeat the Soviet Union finally led in 1943 to his full attention of defending himself from an expected invasion of Western Allied troops.

When the sun set on D-Day, “the longest day,” the Allied troops had punctured this vaunted wall of defense. Days and months of hard fighting still lay ahead. But the beachheads were secure. In less than a year the Allies would push through Western Europe into Germany. By early May 1945 the German army capitulated, Hitler committed suicide and the war in Europe was over.

Caught up in something bigger

Earlier I mentioned my father’s small role in this great conflict. Again, what exactly was he part of? My father came to know war in all its cruel forms, and when he was discharged he wanted no further part in the making of war. But he did not really understand the full scope of the conflict.

Lloyd McNeely was a farm boy from southeast Missouri. Along with three of his brothers he answered the call and went off to war. He did not understand all the political and historical forces that worked to create that global event. He and millions of other soldiers and the civilian populations were caught up in an event bigger than the sum of all their lives, the defining event of their generation.

I have briefly described the history of the invasion. D-Day was a key turning point in World War II. World War II was in some ways the second round of World War I, which had ravaged Europe a generation earlier. These massive conflicts were the largest in history, both in size and implication.

Daniel’s vision of modern times

Bible prophecy did not specifically foretell these two wars, but it does give an outline of the rise of powers in the modern age that fit what happened in Europe and Asia.

Prophecy shows the rise of great powers that are described as “beasts.” The prophet Daniel saw a vision of the four winds stirring up a “Great Sea” (Daniel 7:2 ). The waters are the nations of the earth, and the winds are the forces that act among the nations to propel the rise and fall of nations and the wars that rage between great powers. “And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (Daniel 7:3-4 ).

Daniel watched and saw three other beasts rise out of the “waters.” The second was “like a bear” (Daniel 7:5 ). The third was “like a leopard” (Daniel 7:6 ), and the fourth was something “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong” and “had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet.” This beast “was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (Daniel 7:7 ). It is this fourth beast that focuses Daniel’s attention.

Later he says: “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others” (Daniel 7:19 ). He was told: “The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom” (Daniel 7:23-24 ).

Daniel was seeing the advance of history from his day in the seventh century B.C. to the end of the age, the time leading up to and including the second coming of Jesus Christ. The fourth beast is understood to be the empire of Rome, and the 10 horns are successive revivals of a political/religious system modeled on the Roman Empire.

A study of history shows the fulfillment of these remarkable prophecies in the form of successive revivals of the Roman Empire. The empire received a “deadly wound” when the Western Roman Empire fell in A.D. 476, but this wound was to be healed (see Revelation 13:3 , 12). The ninth horn of this beast began developing prior to World War I. Its most dreadful form emerged in the 1930s with the rise of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler and the fascist government in Italy led by Benito Mussolini.

Both of these men signed agreements with the Roman church that gave legitimacy to their fascist regimes.

Declaring the reappearance of the Roman Empire, Mussolini formed an alliance with Hitler, bringing about the Rome-Berlin Axis. Hitler proudly proclaimed Germany’s Third Reich, envisioning a new German empire that would rival the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation established by Otto the Great. From 1939 until 1945 the Allied and Axis powers fought the Second World War, battling and bloodying each other across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Germany’s dream of a Europe united under a new empire almost succeeded—at a horrendous cost.

And there is yet to arise the 10th horn, a final beast-like power, modeled again after Rome, that will plunge the world into war once more—yet this time an age-ending period of trouble worse than World War II or any other war.

What will be the outcome?

D-Day: the beginning of the end

D-Day was an assault on a despotic tyrannical power on the European continent, long foretold to rise in the prophecies of your Bible. Had the Nazi war machine succeeded in its plans, we would be living in a vastly different world. Leaders like Winston Churchill understood what was at stake and why there needed to be a response to defeat that “dreadful and terrible” beast that had arisen from the nations.

The coalition of English-speaking nations that mounted the assault on the Atlantic Wall and Fortress Europe was unique in world history. First, it came from the combined wealth of Great Britain, the United States and Canada. These nations represent peoples with a birthright that originated with the promises God made to the patriarch Abraham. These nations are the wealthiest in all history. That they held their wealth and power at this critical moment in history was not a coincidence. God provided for their time on the world stage and gave them the power to do what they did (see Acts 17:26 ).

This alliance of nations was able to cast a spear into the heart of this beast power and kill it—turning back its power. The Americans especially had the industrial capacity to gear up a war effort that churned out tanks, airplanes, armaments and munitions to wage total war. They could grow the food, manufacture the clothing and produce the materiel to support soldiers across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The nation was at first reluctant, but once roused “the arsenal of democracy” made the critical difference, tipping the scales in favor of the Allies.

What this means today

All of this seems such a paradox. War is the scourge of mankind. More than 60 million people died in World War II. Yet millions more would have died had this beast power not been defeated. Free nations of the world fought back against this tyranny. But another tyranny arose in the Soviet Union. With the conclusion of World War II, the world was plunged into a “Cold War” that lasted another 40 years. Two more great conflicts were fought in East Asia, first in Korea and later in Vietnam. There are unresolved issues from both these wars. War, no matter how “just,” is still war. People suffer, lives are ruined and more conflict is spawned.

And as already mentioned, Bible prophecy shows yet another global power will one day arise and seek to enslave the “bodies and souls of men” (Revelation 18:13 ). Could America and Britain mount another round of opposition and defeat this coming superpower? Prophecy shows they will not. Many factors are working against the strength of both countries. Yes, America still has the strongest military in the world, and both nations are nuclear powers. But each country is also deeply divided internally, and both face uncertain futures.

Great Britain is in the process of leaving the European Union and, in doing so, fracturing its own political structure. More than half the nation voted to leave, but those who desire to remain in the EU are among the wealthiest and politically powerful. The process of leaving is opening large wounds in the nation that may not heal. Britain’s push to exit, commonly called “Brexit,” will lead Europe to reshape itself as a continental power, its historic role in the world.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed for Europe to take on more of the financial burden for its defense. While this is not a new U.S. stance toward Europe (recent presidents have said the same), the personality of Mr. Trump and his aggressive posture and positions on various issues alienate European leaders. They transfer their anti-Trump feelings to the geopolitical position of Europe vis-a-vis Russia and the Middle East, creating the potential for major change. His words and policies have had the effect of driving perceived wedges between America and Europe.

Both these developments could provoke changes strong enough to awaken slumbering spirits. Europe will undergo changes to preserve and remake itself, reasserting itself in the world as a power to be reckoned with. The ghosts of the past will rise. European integration has stumbled. The changing demography and massive unassimilated immigration is provoking fear. Combine that with a growing sense that the elites do not relate to the common people, and we see a volatile mix. Add in a crisis from an unknown source, and a power could arise on the continent that stuns the world.

Europe is not an irrelevant dusty old museum for American tourists to visit. It is more than scenic and culinary delights for travel and leisure enthusiasts. Europe is where nearly 345,000 American soldiers died during the last century. Their many well-tended graves bear witness to this fact. What happens in Europe concerns America and every nation.

A united Europe is bigger in territory and population than the United States. Its problems and pluses have a direct bearing on the American economy and policies with regard to other nations. What happens in the Middle East and Asia and with Islamic terrorism is directly impacted by Europe. The European continent is relevant to all of us, and we need to better under-stand its historic and prophetic role.

Again, Bible prophecy shows a final Roman revival will arise in the world. This great power will have as its heart the political power of Europe. In union with the Roman church, it is called “Mystery, Babylon the Great,” and is shown as a global political, economic and spiritual power.

When we gather and examine all prophecies about this event, it appears that this system will be seen as the world’s solution to all its ills. It will hold a hope and promise for peace and prosperity for all. A massive deception will envelop people, even those who are watching for its appearance. Even discerning true Christians could be deluded (see Matthew 24:24 ). When the mask of deception is removed, this power will be revealed for what it is at its heart—a satanic manifestation that will bring war and suffering at unprecedented levels.

Will America and Britain stop the coming tyranny?

The tragedy at this moment of history is that the English-speaking peoples will not be able to mount another D-Day-style assault on this tyranny. The time of their power and influence will have passed. Prophecy shows that the descendants of Jacob will experience a time of unprecedented and devastating trouble and that their power will fail (Jeremiah 30:7 ).

America’s growing culture wars are only a symptom of a greater spiritual disease, an incurable wound so severe that a cure is unattainable. No medicine will be found to heal and correct the moral slide. Its allies will turn their backs and not lift a hand to give aid to soothe the pain. God says this will be because of sin, great national sins that are an affront to Him. It’s hard to believe, but there will be a time when God says that the nation at large is beyond repentance and that He will not hear the sorrowful cries of the peoples who have been blessed by Him until after the nation is punished (Jeremiah 30:12-15 ).

Right now there may still be time for America and other nations of British descent to turn to God. Can it happen? It could, but the possibility seems remote. Yet you can turn to God and change your life. You can gain understanding of God’s plan for the nations, including the English-speaking nations. To help in this, be sure to request our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy . It will give you the story from your Bible of the future of the English-speaking peoples.

The greatest liberation lies yet ahead

Once the English-speaking nations punched through the Atlantic Wall on D-Day, Hitler’s reign of terror over Europe was essentially finished. Within a year the Third Reich was defeated, and Europe began to rebuild. Hitler’s fate was sealed by sunset on D-Day.

The outcome of God’s plan is even more certain. God has laid down His promise to redeem mankind. In Genesis 12 He promised Abraham: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3 ). This promise included physical and spiritual aspects.

The spiritual dimension of this promise refers primarily to God sending Jesus Christ, whose life, death and resurrection provide the liberating salvation for all humanity. Christ is the King of the coming Kingdom of God. He will replace all human government at His second coming. “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15 , English Standard Version).

Jesus has not returned yet, but His coming and victory are sure. Satan’s reign as “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4 ) is all but over. There is not much time left.

The physical part of the promise has been fulfilled in large measure in the English-speaking nations of the modern world, led by Great Britain and America. Their influence, wealth and power has been the greatest blessing to all nations in the modern world. That God has fulfilled the physical promises to the seed of Abraham in this age is a marker that He will fulfill all the spiritual promises to all mankind through Jesus Christ at His second coming. The world will then experience a liberation from the evil influence of Satan. “Sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10 ; Isaiah 51:11 ).

My father was caught up in a great struggle for freedom. I did not follow his steps and go to war in the human arena. Instead, I have been caught up in the larger spiritual cause of the Kingdom of God.

I always wondered what he thought about my choice in life. On his deathbed he gave me his blessing. I think he knew my choice will herald a better world, a better solution to the problems of mankind. He will rise from the grave one day and will be given understanding of the larger pieces of history and the Bible. God speed that day of freedom for all!

© 1995-2019 United Church of God - Canada

Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. All correspondence and questions should be sent to info@ucg.org. Send inquiries regarding the operation of this Web site to webmaster@ucg.org.

Home
About
Privacy Policy
Program Archive
Station Listing
Free Literature
Contact
Donate