Day of Victory


Eighty years ago, a man from the small town of Abilene, Kansas, was in Southern England about to make the biggest decision of his life. As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had been burdened with the responsibility of deciding when the invasion of Western Europe would be launched in the summer of 1944. The day of the invasion would be a pivotal day in the war and world history. After years of careful planning and months of preparation, in consultation with the other commanding officers, he weighed this decision, knowing that it would cost many soldiers their lives. Then, with over 2.8 million troops waiting to be deployed, he made his decision and gave the official order before dawn on June 5.

On the eve of the June 6 (D-Day) invasion, a leaflet of General Eisenhower’s “Order of the Day” was distributed to the soldiers about to go into battle. In it, he famously wrote, “We will accept nothing less than full Victory!” Involving approximately 160,000 Allied troops, 5,000 ships, and 11,000 airplanes, the assault that took place on the beaches of Normandy is believed to be the largest amphibious invasion in history. The bloody engagement resulted in 10,300 casualties, but the Allied troops were indeed victorious.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who arrived the day after the invasion, documented the event for Americans back home. “In this column I want to tell you what the opening of the second front in this one sector entailed,” he wrote, “so that you can know and appreciate and be forever humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you.” Forty years later, President Ronald Reagan stood overlooking the beach of Normandy, expressing our nation’s gratitude, and asking a question of those who fought: “Why? Why did you do it?” He went on to assert, “It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.” The Allied victory—which Pyle called “a pure miracle”— happened because, in Reagan’s words, “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next.”

In the Holy Scriptures, “faith” is a word that has incredible spiritual importance. More than an idle knowledge of history, faith is animating principle which “liberates from death and produces new life in hearts.” Through faith, a person becomes justified, or made right with God, receiving the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Specifically, this happens through the work of God in Jesus Christ. Without faith, human beings are a weak and sorry lot; they are unable to receive the virtues that proceed from saving faith. Jesus said to the disciples, “You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1, NIV) because He wanted them to receive what He had to give them: mercy, abundant life, and eternal salvation. St. John writes, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, ESV). A person with faith receives what God promises to everyone who believes in His Word.

As we mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the military invasion in World War II that would lead to the liberation of Europe, let us also remember the faith that spiritually comforted and morally guided so many of the men who sacrificed their lives to win the war. For it was in AD 33, nearly 2,000 years ago, that another man from a small town in the ancient world called Nazareth made the biggest decision of His life, which was to face a battle that belonged to Him and die on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. This was the beachhead where Christ, the only begotten Son of God, had come to die in battle so that He could be raised triumphantly from the dead and proclaim total victory over sin, death, and the devil. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV).