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The Providence of D-Day

The Providence of D-Day

They say the devil’s in the details…and maybe he is….

But, in the case of the Allied victory on D-Day, it appears the wrong spirit being is getting the credit. The truth is that though the amazing victory on the beaches of Normandy was secured through valiant efforts of Allied soldiers, it was actually won, detail by detail, by the providential hand of God.

To begin, the plans for D-Day, or Operation Overlord as it was called, had been underway for quite some time before the actual event took place. As the attack relied mainly upon surprise and secrecy, code names, false maps, decoys, fictitious army units and double agents were employed. But even with all of this secrecy, a major mishap occurred. In the summer of 1943, a copy of a secret Operation Overlord plan blew out of a window. It was later turned in by a man who said his eyes were so bad he had no idea what it was. God had providentially kept the attack a secret.

Then, in the spring of 1944, General Eisenhower was put in charge of selecting a date for the attack. Only a few days in each month were suitable because both a full moon and a spring tide were required: the former to illuminate navigational landmarks, and the latter to avoid defensive obstacles placed by the Germans in the surf. June 5th was chosen as the date for the assault; however, strong storms arose and it seemed that the attack would have to be postponed until the next full moon, an entire month away. Eisenhower’s chief meteorologist, Captain J.M. Stagg, predicted a brief improvement for the next day, June 6th, and Eisenhower took a gamble and agreed to proceed; D-Day was delayed, but on. What no one knew was that Eisenhower was so concerned that the invasion would not succeed that he had prepared a letter taking full responsibility for the failure; fortunately, he never had to use it.

Eisenhower had reason to be concerned. The Germans were normally a formidable and well organized enemy.  Yet they were woefully caught off guard when the attack occurred. Why? They had been expecting a major Allied attack on northern France for quite some time. However, the Allied soldiers were known for their predictability. The Germans had noticed during previous battles that the Allies would never attack unless the weather conditions were perfect. Therefore, as the week of June 6 was forecasted as stormy and quite unpredictable, the Germans were lulled into a false sense of security and were completely unprepared when the Allies decided to attack.

Additionally, God ironically allowed Hitler himself to contribute to his own defeat. Hitler had insisted upon having a large division of tanks under his sole command and insisted that his frontline general wait for express permission before dispatching the tanks. By the time this permission was secured and relayed from Berlin to the fighting front, precious hours would be wasted, a major military blunder which would cost the Germans dearly.

And, to make matters worse, Hitler was not even aware of the Allied attack on the morning of June 6. What was the leader of the Third Reich doing at this crucial moment? He was sleeping. Hitler had taken a sleeping pill the night before and had instructed his officers not to awaken him. Therefore, when reports of the attack reached Hitler’s headquarters, the officer in charge convinced himself that the reports were not as urgent as they appeared, wishing to avoid Hitler’s foul temper. As a result, the only person who could have stopped the Allied invasion was fast asleep.

And the tanks were not the only things that were not in place on that morning. Hitler’s most capable general, Erwin Rommel, who was supposed to be guarding the Normandy coast in case of an attack, was also absent. Where was he? As he did not fear an invasion that week, he had returned home to Germany, 1,000 miles away from the beaches of Normandy, to celebrate his wife’s birthday!

But even if Rommel and Hitler weren’t prepared, why didn’t the rest of the commanding officers retaliate and radio headquarters for reinforcements? Providence would have it that the Nazis had decided to schedule war games on the morning of June 6th, drawing more than half of the top-ranking officials away from the battle field. Ironically, the mock invasion they were simulating was an Allied invasion on Normandy!

So the tanks, the general, and most of the top-ranking officials were gone. But where was the infamous Luftwaffe? This German air force had caused endless grief for the Allies and could have wreaked incalculable havoc on the thousands of boats and landing craft crowding the Channel. But, for some unknown reason, the 123 German fighter planes had left the area the day before, leaving only two fighter planes on duty. When reports of the attack began to roll into headquarters, a staff member radioed the leader of the two remaining pilots and suggested that he go on the alert. The furious pilot yelled into the phone, “Alert! Alert! I’m alert! My other pilot is alert! We’re all alert! You idiots only left us with two planes!”

Ultimately, D-Day sounded a death knell for the Germans. Hitler was forced to fight a two front war, a battle he could not win. Within a year, he committed suicide and the war was over. However, though D-Day is remembered for leading to this brilliant end, a crucial lesson lies hidden in the shadows. In His sovereignty, God can bring victory, not only through sweeping triumphs, but also through a cascade of seemingly unimportant events. On D-Day, it wasn’t the devil in the details, it was the details in the providential hand of God.

*Special thanks to Laura Shepherd for her research for this blog topic


Recommended Resource: D-Day and the Providence of God – DVD

Enter WWII: D-Day and the Providence of God on DVD-an exciting, 7-episode video miniseries that surveys the warriors and commanders involved, the ethics of spying, principles of leadership, as well as the real-life sacrifice of brave men who hazarded all at Normandy to defeat tyranny.

Travel with hosts Doug Phillips and Bill Potter from Rome to Paris to London to the bloody beaches of Normandy and other strategic WWII locations. Uncover the most interesting stories of God’s providence during the war, and listen to the warrior tales of aging Christian veterans who risked all to preserve liberty in the West.

This DVD miniseries features seven episodes.