Tag Archives: Military History

Three reasons why Christians should read military history

Roger Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator
Roger Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator

I recently finished a book called “Beyond The Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front”. It’s about a World War 2 heavy bomber pilot who completes 35 missions, and then goes into the Soviet Union (our allies, at the time) to rescue American POWs who were starving or being kidnapped or murdered by the Soviet secret police.

I found a very good article about it from Stripes, to just quickly introduce the story:

Later, after making contact with POWs roaming the Polish countryside, [Capt. Robert Trimble] fully embraced his mission. He saw the desperate plight of those who had been liberated from Third Reich prison camps. Many were sick, emaciated, often clothed in rags and left to fend for themselves during a brutally harsh winter.

Trimble risked his life numerous times over six weeks, helping to rescue hundreds of POWs. He came to the aid of others, too. In one daring rescue, nearly foiled by Russian agents who had become suspicious of his activities, Trimble helped 400 French women make it out of Poland and back to France.

Although he was being constantly trailed by Russian spies and informers, he would evade them, and bring food and money to the POWs, then put them on a train to Odessa, Ukraine, where they could get onto a ship going home.

Why I read military history

It is hard to develop virtues just by wishing and hoping. Something has to go into your mind that causes you to think differently, and feel differently. Everything that you watch on TV, hear on the radio, or see in the movie theater, is made by secular leftists. They aren’t trying to build your moral character. They’re goal is to break down your resistance to their unBiblical worldview and moral values. Instead of giving people who hate Jesus your money, just so you can be entertained, why not try to put something in front of your eyes that will make you better?

Look at this famous passage from the Bible.

Romans 12:1-2:

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And also this from Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible.

Philippians 4:8:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

So you can see that when I am reading, my goal is to work on my character. I want to have feelings about things that are appropriate for a Christian man.

So why military history? Here are three reasons why I read these military history books.

Humility

First, humility. Humility used to be one of my biggest challenges. So I thought to myself “instead of seeing yourself as some heroic figure, why don’t you read about some real heroes… people who willingly gave their lives for their friends, like the Bible urges, and like Jesus did by example”.

Remember this from John 15:13?

13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Military history is filled with stories of courage, bravery, self-sacrifice, endurance, unselfishness, and many other virtues. When you read about people who are better than you, doing more important things than what you’re doing, it really helps you to be humble.

The best thing for humility is reading Medal of Honor citations. You can find a bunch of them online here. And if you want a book to read, try these books about Medal of Honor recipients:

Endurance

Second, endurance. I sometimes feel badly about not having found someone to marry and not having lots of children. I wanted a good marriage to be a model for others, and also to have an influence in the next generation through my children. However, whenever I read military history, I see a lot of young men dying in battle. And I think, they too won’t know what sex is like. And, they too won’t know what marriage is like. And, they too won’t know what having children is like. But it’s not just the ones who die, it’s the hardships they have to go through, as well. Cold, hunger, imprisonment, pain, loss of their friends, etc.

I remember reading about one of my favorite battles – probably the most famous battle of the Korean War, which is our most moral war. It’s about Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. They had to hold a hill beside a vital road against overwhelming numbers of Chinese soldiers during the freezing cold North Korean winter. I remember reading about how one soldier got up to go to the bathroom, and was nearly shot by a sniper. He fell over on his own poop, which had already frozen by the time it hit the ground. For months after, I would always think about this whenever I went into a bathroom. We have pre-warmed water in our bathrooms at work, along with soap, lysol spray, febreeze, contact lense cleaner, hand sanitizer, and other things. Just understanding what other people have to go through in war helps me to be more patient with the little tiny setbacks that I experience. I used to get very anxious when anything went wrong, because of I was raised by strict immigrant parents. That anxiety seemed to last a long time, but since I started to read military history, I’ve been much more patient. I know that things could be worse.

Thankfulness

The third thing that I’ve experienced is thankfulness. Not just for all the things that I have because of what our armed forces have done, e.g. – basic human rights, prosperity, liberty, security, etc. But also specifically about those who gave their lives so that I could live free in a free country, and practice my Christian faith without fear.

Here are two of my favorite Medal of Honor stories from World War 2, in the Battle of Pearl Harbor:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
PETER TOMICH

Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 3 June 1893, Prolog, Austria.

Although realizing that the ship was capsizing as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

And:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
JAMES RICHARD WARD

Rank and organization: Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 10 September 1921, Springfield, Ohio.

When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

I do think that it’s important for Christians to read these kinds of stories in order to feed their own awareness of what it must have been like for Jesus to give his life voluntarily for us.

There is no shortcut to gratitude. You have to constantly reflect on the sacrifices made by others for you, if you are to have any concrete reason for feeling grateful. The more you read about examples of people giving their lives for others, the more you’ll appreciate what Jesus did for you. It will make you grateful.

There is a very annoying idea out there in the culture that says that people just do whatever is easy and fun for themselves, and since everyone else is always doing what makes them feel good, then there is no need to be thankful for anything. It’s comforting for people to delude themselves with that belief, but it’s false.

My reading list

You can check out the “What I am Reading” section of the blogto see which military history books I’ve been reading.

Remembering Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.

Remembering Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.