If one overlooks the lingering consequences of World War One some twenty years before, then WW2 can be said to have properly started when the Japanese Army invaded China in July of 1937. In Europe, it began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland with its blitzkrieg (or lightning war). Of course, the war began for the United States on December 7, 1941, when she was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Navy at Pearl Harbor. The Allies early on adopted a "Europe first" policy, desiring to stop Hitler above all else. As a result, the European war ended on May 07, 1945, and the Pacific war ended on August 15, 1945. It is arguable, however, that even though the war itself did not technically end until 1945 (in either the European or the Pacific theatres), the beginning of the end occurred much earlier.
Two dates are significant. Barely six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Pacific Fleet ambushed the Japanese Imperial Navy at a little island called Midway. In this battle, which occurred during June 4-7, 1942, the Japanese Imperial Navy’s Midway Invasion force was thwarted along with the loss of four of her mainline aircraft carriers. From that point forward, Japan was no longer on the offensive in the war. Indeed, she was forever thereafter on the defensive. Three years later, she was exhausted, depleted, and ultimately defeated by the much larger and better equipped forces of the United States.
The other significant date is, of course, June 6, 1944. On that day, forever remembered in history as “D-Day”, the combined Allied forces under the command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower invaded Nazi occupied Europe on the beaches of Normandy, France. Again, though Hitler’s forces fought fiercely, they were nonetheless on the defensive from that day forward. As was the case in the Pacific theatre after Midway, the outcome of the European theatre was never really in question after “D-Day”. The tide of war had now turned. The following facts by Chuck Colson (in his book titled The Faith) detail the Allied invasion of Normandy.
“D-Day” was the largest seaborne landing in history. More than 150,000 U.S. troops were committed to the initial invasion, employing 6,900 vessels, 4,100 landing craft, and 12,000 airplanes. Within two weeks the British deployed an additional 314,547 men, 54,000 vehicles, and 102,000 tons of supplies, while the Americans put ashore an additional 314,504 men, 41,000 vehicles, and 116,000 tons of supplies at Omaha. Ten thousand tons of bombs were dropped on German defenses, with the word given to the French resistance to sabotage key bridges, railway lines, telephone exchanges, and electricity substations. Despite the Allies' air superiority and hours of heavy bombardment against the beach defenses by the warships' guns, the Germans stayed intact as thousands of brave men in the landing craft motored toward shore. Nothing stood between these troops and the German guns but the morning air. At Omaha, Gold, Sword, Juno, and Utah beaches, the troops' only chance was to run, swim, and crawl up the beach to the sea walls, where they could reassemble for assaults on enemy gun positions. In the first hours at Omaha, more than 2,400 died. Over the next few weeks, as the battle progressed inland, the U.S. would eventually lose 29,000 men and more than 100,000 wounded and missing, while the British gave up 11,000 of its finest, and Canada 5,000. And all this was just the initial set of invasions. The Battle of the Bulge and other potentially catastrophic reversals were still to come, but the invasion of Normandy was so massive and successful, that it allowed the Allies to turn every counterattack into another victory.
Colson then makes the following insightful observation: "As if preordained, the outcome was clear; the evils of Hitler and fascism would be conquered."
Why do I share this? Because in both theatres of the war, one can see the Gospel illustrated. In Genesis chapter three, Satan attacked men and women, ruthlessly bringing death and destruction into human history. He reigned unchecked until a supernatural invasion occurred and the battle was joined. When the Son of God invaded this world that first Christmas, He turned the tide of battle as surely as did Midway after Pearl Harbor or as did D-Day after Blitzkrieg. And that supernatural invasion was the single most important event in terms of consequence in all of human history. No, the battle may not yet be over; but the outcome is now abundantly clear. Satan is now on the defensive. In short order, the reign of the evil one will cease. In short order, the victory of the Righteous One will come. And that victory will be ours as well. And we will be forever free in the Kingdom of the Son! Amen! Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.
If you see a WW2 veteran today, be sure to thank him (or her). They fought for our freedom. Be sure to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to our Savior this day as well. He came to die in order that you and I might live.