Right now World War II veterans are passing away at the rate of a 1,000 a day. By the year 2008, all of them will be gone. So says my father a World War II veteran. It is a sad fact of life that the World War II generation, men and women, are passing away. And what do they see coming up in their wake? The generation replacing them, which would be mine, does not seem equal to the task. We aren't Depression hardened or battle tested. We grew up on TV not chores, on the government taking care of us, not us serving the government, on the Bill of Rights, not the G.I. Bill. What will happen to this nation of ours once this World War II generation is gone? I propose to answer that by playing the game of what if.
What if America hadn't been successful on D-Day? What if the American military hadn't been able to establish a toehold on the European continent? What if D-Day hadn't been the beginning of the end for Hitler's Germany? As it is, the war cost America 341 billion dollars. What if it had dragged on 2 or 3 more years which it surely would have had America been defeated on the beaches of France? As it is, America had over 16 million personnel engaged in the war effort. She lost 291,557 of them. What if America had, had to invade Europe 2 or 3 more times before she was successful? How many more thousands would have been lost? Since our current population is based on the baby boom produced by the WW II generation, what if there had been thousands less returning home?
What if America hadn't been successful on D-Day? What if Germany was? What if Nazi Germany was the world's superpower? What if Nazi Germany not the United States was the mightest nation on earth? We think America has problems now with race and prejudice. What would life be like in the Aryan nation Hitler wanted established? We think Christianity is persecuted in the United States now. What would have happened to us under the legacy of Hitler who loved the occult and hated Christianity? We think our freedoms are being eroded now. What would freedom would we have under Gestapo and SS troops?
What if America had lost on June 6, 1944? Would man have landed on the moon on July 20, 1969? Would a vaccine for polio have been discovered? Would we be using laptop computers and fax machines now or only adding machines and telephones? It America had lost, it is hard to say exactly how things would be different, but different they would be. Having established that things would've been different if we had lost World War II, we need to ask an even more fundamental question. What if Americans had not sacrificed to win? This gets to the heart of what bothers the World War II generation about present day America.
Although America had 16 million people engaged in the war overseas, she had virtually 150 million engaged here on the home front. You're probably familiar with that saying from WW II, "They also serve who sit and wait." But Americans were doing anything but sitting and waiting. In preparation for the invasion of Normandy, this is some of what the home front produced: 25 billion rounds of .30 caliber ammunition, 3 billion pounds of meat, 1.3 billion pounds of coffee, 519 million pairs of socks, 469 million pounds of cabbage, 7.3 million 500 pound bombs, And 634,569 jeeps.
This staggering amount of supplies did not come easily. Americans on the home front had to do without so those on the front lines wouldn't have to. Americans lived under a system which rationed gas, rubber, meat, coffee and other wartime necessities. They worked long hours to keep factories going 24 hours a day. Then they came home and tended Victory Gardens.
As great as their sacrifice back home was, can it compare to those who sacrificed on the war front? What Churchill said of those who flew bombing missions can be said of all those who served in the war: "Never have so few sacrificed so much for so many." What if those 16 million Americans had not been so willing to sacrifice so much? Did you know that America lost 15,000 service just in flight TRAINING during WW II? Did you know that those men who hit the beach on Normandy or on the many islands in the Pacific knew that 70% of them would die in the first wave? There was no 13 month tour of duty; no 179 day mobilization. They were all in for the duration of the war. You came home in a box or when the war was over.
Where would we be without the men and women who sacrificed on the home and war fronts? What if they had not been there? This is the question that plagues the World War II generation. They are leaving the country they served, suffered, bled and saw comrades die for in the hands of a generation that doesn't seem to love it as dearly. O we had a flurry of patriotism during the Gulf War where Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" was heard on every radio station and hummed in every heart, but that patriotism did not come home to produce the institutions and society that the WW II generation did.
What if instead of the WW II generation, the people of today had been there? Would today's soldiers who complain about freeze dried food and no air conditioning put up with the freezing, starving and baking that the WW II servicemen had to? Would today's American surrounded by rules and regulations about working conditions be willing to be worked like WW II Americans were? Would America today sacrifice on any front for any cause? Would we be able to subordinate our individual goals and luxuries for a national cause? Are we able to believe anymore that there are some things worth dying for? Do we believe that there are some evils worse than war? Are we capable of believing that there are some things so evil, so wicked, so objectively wrong that they must be fought at any cost?
Would America today invade the beaches of Normandy all over again if necessary? It hardly seems like we could or would. It seems like America today lacks all the necessary things to duplicate the D-Day victory. But that's only how things seem. If you really want to play the "what if" game," then you must play it all the way. The most fundamental and important "what if" question is "What if God had not blessed America?" This question puts our past history and our future well-being in the proper perspective and can give the WW II generation peace and the one behind her hope.
Plain and simple there would and could have been no victory on D-Day or any other day without the blessing of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. As great, as noble, as competent as the leadership of Roosevelt, Churchill, MacArthur, and Eisenhower was, it did not win the war or even the day on D-Day. Psalm 118 is very clear on this. "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in the best of men." And in Psalm 27, David says that in the event war should rise against him, his heart wouldn't be afraid and he would be confident because the Lord is the strength of His life.
Yes, I admit that in World War II Americans at home and abroad were exceptionally dedicated people, but the Bible is clear God, not brave men and devoted women is to get the credit for the victory. Psalm 33 says, "The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength." In Jeremiah 17:5 God even goes so far as to curse those who trust in the abilities of human beings for deliverance. "Cursed is the man that trusts in man and makes flesh his arm. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and hopes in God."
Friends, had God not blessed America D-Day would've been a disaster and WW II might still be going on. This is not to say that America didn't prepare for battle; she did. She recruited, she trained, she built ships, guns, and bombs. But none of this preparation is to be credited with the victory. Proverbs 21:31 says that clearly: "The horse is prepared for battle, but victory is from the Lord." Or to paraphrase Psalm 20: "Let some boast in tanks or bombs or soldiers, but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God."
When we look back on D-Day or look ahead to any of our remaining days, we need to see that victory is always and only from the Lord our God. No matter what the odds, no matter what the situation, no matter what the generation, we can look with confidence to our God. He tells us in Leviticus 26 that He can cause 5 soldiers to chase a hundred and make 10,000 retreat from only 100. In Deuteronomy 37, He explains how such a marvelous thing can be. He says that the only way for 1 to chase a 1,000 or 2 to put 10,000 to flight is if the Lord sells them out. In Jeremiah 37 God goes so far to say that if He wants an army to win, it doesn't matter what the other side does. Even if the other side defeats that army leaving nothing but wounded men, God can make those wounded men rise up and win the victory.
All credit, all honor, all power and glory must go to Father, Son and Holy Ghost for America's victory in World War II. If we credit anyone or anything else we're robbing God of His glory and we're robbing ourselves of great comfort. You see if we look around us, we don't see the powerful moral leaders we saw in WW II. We don't see as many dedicated Americans. We don't see as many brave Americans. If fact, what we do see seems like a lost cause. If our focus is on human beings, that's all we will see. But when we focus on God almighty we see a different picture.
The same God who beat the Germans at Normandy and gave victory to America is still the God of Christians. He hasn't grown weak, tried or old over these 50 years. The God who raised Germany to power and cast it back into the dust is still reigning and ruling over all nations, both ours and our enemies. And we have the same right to go to this God that the people of WW II did. The WW II generation was not given victory because they were such moral, kind, religious people. They were no different than today's generation. They too were fallen sinners. The only reason God had mercy on them, the only reason God heard their prayers was for the sake of the innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ on Calvary's cross.
Although life back then seems kinder and gentler than life now, people 50 years ago were no closer to God than today. God came no nearer to them than He does to us. He came to them the same way He comes to us now. Baptism, Communion, and the Word of God. Through these means God strengthened and preserved them in the true faith during the sacrifice and suffering of WW II. These same means from the same God strengthen and preserve us today in that same faith.
The point is that though we may have weaker leaders, stronger enemies, poorer soldiers, and a more divided nation now, we still have the same God. Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, and forever says Hebrews. That's important because there really is no "what if" about war. There's going to be another. Plato said, "Only the dead are done with war." We're not dead, so we're not done. How ready America will be is a political/military question. How ready you and I will be is a religious one. The correct answer is we're never fully ready for war, but we know our God and Lord is always ready because He never slumbers or sleeps. Because He doesn't, we can. Amen.