Reflections on D-Day, 75 Years Later June 05 2019

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

On June 6, we commemorate seventy-five years since D-Day, representing the beginning of the end of World War II. I have a dad, still living at 97, who is a veteran of that war. He served in the Navy, building ships and as part of convoys carrying equipment and supplies to a staging area in Iceland, supporting allies in the European theater. Although he was not directly in combat himself, nor was he at the D-Day invasion, his involvement in the war definitely increased my interest in the amazing men and women of that era.

As children of the Great Depression in the U.S. (1929-1939), that generation knew something about living with humble means, about hardship, and about sacrifice. Then on the heels of the Great Depression came World War II (September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945) – six years of even greater hardship.

Understanding the hardships of war is useful to us as believers, as we see from Paul’s use of a “soldier analogy” to encourage his young disciple, Timothy:

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:1-4)

It is quite clear what soldiers should expect. And as we read the history of World War II, we find that while millions went off to the hardships of war, the hardships extended to many millions of families remaining at home, supporting the war production effort. While most of the fighting and destruction was in Europe, and in the western Pacific following Pearl Harbor, America’s production of planes (300,000 in five years), hundreds of ships, thousands of landing craft (read up on “Higgins Boats”), tanks, vehicles, guns, and other military equipment was vital to the ultimate victory over Hitler’s evil regime. The entire country was mobilized for the war effort. Some 6 million women joined the U.S. civilian workforce during that period to keep production going, and “Rosie the Riveter” became the wartime female icon. On top of that, some 350,000  women served in the U.S. Armed Forces, both at home and abroad.  These were extraordinary commitments.

But the war production effort was not without other sacrifices as well. One of the examples that we find difficult to relate to today involved the rationing of many different items. This was required when factories converted to military production and began consuming many critical supplies. The U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) warned Americans of potential gasoline, steel, aluminum, and electricity shortages. OPA established a rationing system immediately following Pearl Harbor. Here are a few interesting facts that help us to understand the inconveniences that people were asked to endure:

  • Tires were the first item to be rationed, in response to the Japanese takeover of rubber production in Southeast Asia. The OPA created 7,500 volunteer tire ration boards around the country. Each board received a monthly allotment of tires based on the number of local vehicle registrations, and allocated them to applicants based on OPA rules.
  • The War Production Board (WPB) ordered the temporary end of all civilian automobile sales in January 1942. Ration boards were created to assign automobile sales based on need, as much of the nation’s vehicle production was shifted to military.
  • As of March 1942, dog food could no longer be sold in tin cans, and manufacturers switched to dehydrated versions.
  • As of April 1942, anyone wishing to purchase a tube of toothpaste, then made from metal, had to turn in an empty tube.
  • By June 1942, companies also stopped manufacturing metal office furniture, radios, phonographs, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and sewing machines for civilians.
  • A national speed limit of 35 miles per hour was imposed to save fuel and rubber for tires.
  • Each person in a household received a ration book, including babies and small children who qualified for canned milk not available to others.
  • Gasoline ration cards were distributed based on need. An "A" sticker on a car was the lowest priority of gasoline rationing and entitled the car owner to 3 to 4 gallons per week.

Such was the seriousness of the war effort, impacting almost every facet of American life, but a small price to pay for defeating tyranny and preserving liberty. I’m not sure we would be as committed and understanding in the face of a similar threat today, in this age of instant everything. The lesson for me is how we, as Christians, should be prepared to serve, to be inconvenienced, and to be available for use however the Lord might want to use us. Paul’s analogy hits home, that we should not become “entangled in the affairs of everyday life, so that ‘we’ may please the ‘One’ who enlisted ‘us’ as a soldier.” In other words, we should not be so preoccupied with our own needs that we neglect to serve the Lord and others.

The storming of the beaches of Normandy began the march toward Germany that would end the war about a year later. It was a remarkable plan, executed by remarkable people, but came at a cost. Some 417,000 Americans lost their lives in World War II. Worldwide, the death toll is estimated at 60 million, 40 million of these being civilians, including 6 million Jewish deaths in the Holocaust.

So on this day, let us remember those who died for the sake of liberty, others who served, and millions who endured the many inconveniences of this great conflict. If you have a chance, go back and read or listen to Ronald Reagan’s moving speech at the 40th anniversary of D-Day. They were gathered at the site of the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc on the Normandy coast.  Referring to the thirst some countries have for conquest, President Reagan famously stated that “The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.” You can read the full speech at:

But take a box of Kleenex with you.

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Steve Smith