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Destiny at Dunkirk: What we can Learn from History

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Published on: August 7, 2017

Rarely do I see a movie that is entertaining and uplifting, not to mention an important part of history.  Before the movie Dunkirk debuted, I’m sure many never heard much, if anything, about the battle of Dunkirk.

Dunkirk was a small port in northern France.  The battle at Dunkirk took place in late May and early June of 1940 between Allied forces and Nazi Germany during the Second World War.  The Allies included Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Greece, and later, the Soviet Union.  The United States did not enter the war until the attack on Pearl Harbor and officially joined in December 1941.

On May 10, 1940 the Germans launched an attack against the West, storming into Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.  Allied forces were no match against the superior air power and armored forces moving at breakneck speed, sending the Allies into an all-out retreat.

The Germans entered France on May 12, crossing the heavily fortified Maginot Line along the French-German border.  French commanders had often boasted this was an impenetrable defense of their country.  On May 15, the Dutch surrendered and two weeks later Belgium followed suit.

A series of Allied counter-attacks failed to repel the German advance through Belgium and France toward the English Channel, effectively splitting southern and northern Allied armies and cutting off almost all communication and transportation.

The Allies in the north, made up mostly of British, French, Polish and Belgian troops, were trapped on the beaches near the town of Dunkirk as the Germans were closing in.  On May 12, the Allies launched a desperate attack to no avail.  The Germans were already making preparations to seize Dunkirk, making it the last port available for the British to withdraw from Europe.

On May 24, Germans suddenly halted their advance, giving the Allied armies a glimmer of hope.  This decision has been widely debated by historians and military experts alike.  Some German commanders called this “one of the greatest turning points of the war.”   In the three days that followed, the Allies were able to regroup and organize an evacuation at Dunkirk, even as Great Britain was contemplating its own surrender to Germany.

Four hundred thousand men were awaiting rescue, a seemingly impossible task.  British admirals summoned all British citizenry that possessed sea worthy vessels to assist in the evacuation.  On May 26, Operation Dynamo began.  For nine days, yachts, fishing boats, life boats and other vessels continued to evacuate stranded Allied forces under fire from German fighters, torpedoes and airborne attacks.

In total, 338,226 men made it to safety.  In nine short days, the impossible was made possible.  The mission was later referred to as the “Miracle at Dunkirk.”

Dunkirk was by no means a victory.  It was a last ditch effort to save Allied troops that were marked for certain death.  German commanders had planned to resume an all-out assault on June 1.  The weather was clear for airborne operations. Churchill promised to cover the French during their escape, but it was the French who held the line while the remaining Allies were evacuated.  Over 30,000 French troops were left behind and forced to surrender to the Germans.  On June 4, a German swastika flew over the battered and beaten docks at Dunkirk.

What could have been a colossal defeat became not just a moral victory, but Churchill himself called it “a miracle of deliverance.”  In a speech given to the House of Commons on June 4, Churchill cautioned, “We must be careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of victory.  Wars are not won by evacuations.”

In hindsight, it was a triumph of human spirit, willing to risk life and limb to save their fellow comrades and countrymen.

I can’t help but draw some analogies from the struggle at Dunkirk to what is happening today in the American political and cultural climate.  How would the war have been affected if the British people had failed to act and they not answered the call and done their part in the effort at Dunkirk?  It is clear hundreds of thousands would have lost their lives on the beaches of northern France.  It is also clear that Hitler would most likely have won the war and the world would have been forever changed.

History always has some interesting timing.  I see it as the hand of God intervening on our behalf.  Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on May 10, 1940.  That was the same day the Germans stormed into Belgium and Holland and just weeks before the Dunkirk operation occurred.  His role in the turning of the war is monumental.  It was Churchill’s resolve and famous speech that emboldened and encouraged the British people that were on the brink of an almost certain defeat.

On June 4, the day of the completion of the Dunkirk evacuation, Churchill gave arguably the most famous speech in history.

It was the speech that inspired a nation to fight on.

This same speech speaks to us generations later:

“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”

Churchill was later quoted about his role in history:

“I felt as if I were walking with destiny and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”

And so it is with each one of us as we look out on the darkness encroaching the American landscape.

Our struggle is political, our struggle is cultural, our struggle is spiritual.

The American government is unresponsive to the needs of the people.

Our president is being battered by the media and the political elite.

Education has been turned into a communist propaganda machine.

Our healthcare is becoming a socialist nightmare.

I feel the country is at a pivotal point.

What lies ahead of us is a choice as starkly different as victory or defeat.

I agree with Churchill’s assessment that he was made for that hour and his efforts changed the course of history, but we too were made for this time.

I don’t know the part you’ll play, but I ask you to join me in defending freedom for this generation.

Will you fulfill your God-given purpose or hide out in the shadows from destiny, like a thief in the night?

This is our world, this is our time, this is our America, this is our Dunkirk.

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