Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

On wargames, history and heroes: “this story shall the good man teach his son”

Memoir '44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Memoir ’44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Reposting this old post because Dina and I spent Friday night playing games again! And this is one of my favorite posts. Last night was Portal 2 and Orcs Must Die! 2.

Last night, I played through the Pegasus Bridge scenario from the Memoir ’44 wargame with Dina a few times. We actually played the online version of the game, using Steam. She was very gracious to play a wargame with me, which I don’t think is necessarily the first thing on most women’s lists of things to do on a Thursday night! I appreciated her agreeing to learn how to play and then playing with me several times. I think that Christians need to plan and execute more “together” activities like that – activities that involve interaction, co-operation, communication and engagement. We try to avoid doing things where we are both spectators. Playing wargames is not the only thing we do – we also do Bible study and cooking lessons (for me), for example.

Anyway, the point of this post is to express the deeper meaning behind playing wargames. I think that it is important to recognize and celebrate those who have demonstrated good character, whether it be now, or in the past. I think that it is important for us to search out the best role models ourselves, so that they will influence the way we act in our own lives. The second world war was a clear example of good versus evil. Anyone on the Allied side who demonstrated bravery and courage should be celebrated for safeguarding the security, liberty and prosperity that we enjoy today. In the case of Pegasus bridge, the hero is Major John Howard of the British paratroops.

Here is a quick re-cap of his exploits that day from the New York Times:

Maj. John Howard, the commander of glider-borne British infantrymen who seized the strategically vital Pegasus Bridge in the first battle of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, died Wednesday in a hospital in Surrey, England. He was 86 and had lived in Burford, near Oxford.

Under cover of night on June 6, 1944, six gliders carrying 181 officers and men of the Second Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed on the eastern flank of a 60-mile invasion front on the northern coast of France. The regiment had a heritage going back to the battles of Bunker Hill and New Orleans, to Waterloo and to World War I. Now its soldiers were in the vanguard of the invasion of Hitler’s Europe.

Major Howard’s D Company was ordered to seize two bridges, one over the Caen Canal and the other spanning the parallel Orne River. If the Germans held on to those bridges, panzer units could move across them in a counterattack isolating 10,000 British paratroopers jumping behind the British invasion beach known as Sword, where infantry forces would arrive at daybreak. And Major Howard’s men sought to strike swiftly to prevent the Germans from blowing up the bridges if they were overwhelmed; the British needed those bridges to resupply their airborne units.

British Halifax bombers towed the gliders over the English Channel, then cut them loose.

Major Howard’s lead glider landed at 12:16 A.M., only 50 yards from the Caen Canal bridge, but the glider’s nose collapsed on impact, knocking everybody aboard unconscious for a few seconds. The soldiers quickly emerged, and over the next five minutes the men directly under Major Howard killed the surprised German defenders.

The nearby Orne River bridge was captured by other troops in Major Howard’s unit, and soon the words ”Ham and Jam,” signifying mission accomplished, were radioed to the airborne.

Two British soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the operation.

Over the next 12 hours, British paratroopers and commandos reinforced Major Howard’s men, and British forces were able to move toward the city of Caen, their flank having been protected by the capture of the bridges.

On July 16, Major Howard received the Distinguished Service Order, Britain’s second-highest award for valor. On the 10th anniversary of D-Day, he received the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme from the French Government, which had renamed the Caen Canal span Pegasus Bridge, for the flying horse symbolizing the British airborne. The road crossing the bridge was later renamed Esplanade Major John Howard.

Why is this important? Well, it’s important to think on the things that are excellent. There are so many things in the culture that are not excellent that we are confronted with every day. We have to make it our business to do things together where goodness is celebrated. Especially when manly virtues like courage are celebrated. We don’t do that much anymore. And I think there’s a connection between wargames and Christian apologetics that we need to deliberately encourage.

Here’s an excellent passage from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” that makes the point:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. (4.3.43)

This is from the famous speech in which King Henry charges his men to fight well before the famous Battle of Agincourt.

You can read more about the history of the British Airborne division and Pegasus bridge. The famous historian of the second world war Stephen E. Ambrose also wrote a history of the Pegasus bridge battle, called “Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944“. You won’t find many military historians better than Stephen E. Ambrose!

You might be surprised how many men are interested in military history and wargames, precisely because men instinctively look up to men like John Howard who embody qualities like bravery and courage. We have a dearth of moral character in this society. And we don’t do much to teach young men about manly virtues, even in the church. I think that it is important for us to think of creative ways for us to present good character to our young men. Young women should also learn about good character, because they must separate out the good men from the bad when they are courting.

Thanks to Dina for helping me to edit this post!

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Friday night movie: Sink the Bismarck! (1960)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB mean rating: [7.2/10]

Description:

In 1939, the Nazi Germany’s largest and most powerful battleship, Bismarck, is launched in a ceremony at Hamburg with Adolf Hitler attending. The launching of the hull is seen as the beginning of an era of German sea power. Two years later, in 1941,British convoys are being ravaged by U-boats and surface raider attacks which cut off supplies which Britain needs to continue the war. In May, British intelligence discovers the Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen are about to break into theNorth Atlantic to attack convoys.

The man assigned to coordinate the hunt is the Admiralty’s chief of operations, Captain Jonathan Shepard (Kenneth More), who has been distraught over the death of his wife in an air raid and the sinking of his ship by German ships commanded by Admiral Günther Lütjens (Karel Štěpánek). Upon receiving his new post, Shepard discovers Lütjens is the fleet commander on the Bismarck. Shepard’s experience of conflict with the German Navy and his understanding of Lütjens allow him to predict theBismarck‘s movements. Shepard is aggressive to his staff but comes increasingly to rely on the coolness and skill of his assistant, WREN Second Officer Anne Davis (Dana Wynter).

Below are the combatants.

The German battleship Bismarck:

The Bismarck (click for larger image)

The Bismarck (click for larger image)

The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal:

HMS Ark Royal (click for larger image)

HMS Ark Royal (click for larger image)

I think this battle signaled the end of battleships as the best naval unit.

So why did battleships become extinct? Well, you can get a lot more range and striking power out of several squadrons of bombers and torpedo bombers than you can out of 16 or even 18 inch guns. In fact, you’ll see the torpedo bombers of the HMS Ark Royal face off against the Bismarck in the movie. Today, naval warfare is conducted with surface-to-surface missiles like the Tomahawk and the SS-N-27 Sizzler, etc. as well as air-to-surface missiles fired from land and carrier based strike aircraft. The range of these missiles is far greater than the range of the deck guns on any battleship. However, there is work being done on rail guns which may force a return to conventional deck guns, especially for operations like shore bombardments where you want to use cheaper munitions!

Happy Friday!

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Thomas Sowell explains how liberal pacifism causes wars

Thomas Sowell

I just finished reading Thomas Sowell’s “Intellectuals and Society” and I really recommend it. This post is about what I read in chapter 7 “Intellectuals and War” and chapter 8 “Intellectuals and War: Repeating History”. I found a couple of articles that contain the same arguments as in the book.

Here’s an article from Townhall.

Excerpt:

On the international scene, trying to assuage aggressors’ feelings and look at the world from their point of view has had an even more catastrophic track record. A typical sample of this kind of thinking can be found in a speech to the British Parliament by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938: “It has always seemed to me that in dealing with foreign countries we do not give ourselves a chance of success unless we try to understand their mentality, which is not always the same as our own, and it really is astonishing to contemplate how the identically same facts are regarded from two different angles.”

Like our former ambassador from the Carter era, Chamberlain sought to “remove the causes of strife or war.” He wanted “a general settlement of the grievances of the world without war.” In other words, the British prime minister approached Hitler with the attitude of someone negotiating a labor contract, where each side gives a little and everything gets worked out in the end. What Chamberlain did not understand was that all his concessions simply led to new demands from Hitler — and contempt for him by Hitler.

What Winston Churchill understood at the time, and Chamberlain did not, was that Hitler was driven by what Churchill called “currents of hatred so intense as to sear the souls of those who swim upon them.” That was also what drove the men who drove the planes into the World Trade Center.

Pacifists of the 20th century had a lot of blood on their hands for weakening the Western democracies in the face of rising belligerence and military might in aggressor nations like Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. In Britain during the 1930s, Labor Party members of Parliament voted repeatedly against military spending, while Hitler built up the most powerful military machine in Europe. Students at leading British universities signed pledges to refuse to fight in the event of war.

All of this encouraged the Nazis and the Japanese toward war against countries that they knew had greater military potential than their own. Military potential only counts when there is the will to develop it and use it, and the fortitude to continue with a bloody war when it comes. This is what they did not believe the West had. And it was Western pacifists who led them to that belief.

Then as now, pacifism was a “statement” about one’s ideals that paid little attention to actual consequences. At a Labor Party rally where Britain was being urged to disarm “as an example to others,” economist Roy Harrod asked one of the pacifists: “You think our example will cause Hitler and Mussolini to disarm?”

The reply was: “Oh, Roy, have you lost all your idealism?” In other words, the issue was about making a “statement” — that is, posturing on the edge of a volcano, with World War II threatening to erupt at any time. When disarmament advocate George Bernard Shaw was asked what Britons should do if the Nazis crossed the channel into Britain, the playwright replied, “Welcome them as tourists.”

That was explained even more in the book with more examples from history.

Most people think that Thomas Sowell is a libertarian, but he isn’t a full libertarian. He just reports the evidence. If the evidence is pro-war, then he’s pro-war. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher called this view “peace through strength”. There is only one reason why evil people do not attack – because they think that good people have the firepower tomake them pay dearly for their aggression, and – and this is very important – the will to use it. In the book, Sowell explains how the the left responded to the horror of world war one by undermining the will of the people to fight. They minimized patriotism and heroism, and emphasized charges of “imperialism”, moral equivalence, and lots of sob stories about victims.

Here’s an article that explains it more.

Excerpt:

In France, after the First World War, the teachers’ unions launched a systematic purge of textbooks, in order to promote internationalism and pacifism.

Books that depicted the courage and self-sacrifice of soldiers who had defended France against the German invaders were called “bellicose” books to be banished from the schools.

Textbook publishers caved in to the power of the teachers’ unions, rather than lose a large market for their books. History books were sharply revised to conform to internationalism and pacifism.

The once epic story of the French soldiers’ heroic defense against the German invaders at Verdun, despite the massive casualties suffered by the French, was now transformed into a story of horrible suffering by all soldiers at Verdun— French and German alike.

In short, soldiers once depicted as national heroes were now depicted as victims— and just like victims in other nations’ armies.

[…]France, where pacifism and internationalism were strongest, became a classic example of how much it can matter.

During the First World War, France fought on against the German invaders for four long years, despite having more of its soldiers killed than all the American soldiers killed in all the wars in the history of the United States, put together.

But during the Second World War, France collapsed after just six weeks of fighting and surrendered to Nazi Germany.

At the bitter moment of defeat the head of the French teachers’ union was told, “You are partially responsible for the defeat.”

Charles de Gaulle, Francois Mauriac, and other Frenchmen blamed a lack of national will or general moral decay, for the sudden and humiliating collapse of France in 1940.

At the outset of the invasion, both German and French generals assessed French military forces as more likely to gain victory, and virtually no one expected France to collapse like a house of cards — except Adolf Hitler, who had studied French society instead of French military forces.

Did patriotism matter? It mattered more than superior French tanks and planes.

Everybody wants peace. Everyone – on both sides of the issue. The problem is that one side – the leftists – call their opponents names like “imperialist” and talk “disarmament” and “dialog” as if they have have the answer to peace. That doesn’t work and it has never worked. Pacifism only “works” in the classroom, where naive children are forced to parrot the opinions of their secular leftist teachers who have no expertise in war or history. What has actually worked in history is peace through strength. Strength deters wars, strength deters violence. Strength – and the will to use that strength to restrain evil.

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If militant atheists formed their own country, what would it look like?

Here is a story about North Korea from the UK Telegraph about a government run by atheists, for atheists.

Excerpt:

Christian missionaries have set up an extraordinary network of front companies – including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, schools and orphanages – in order to spread the Gospel inside North Korea.

For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, a father of three and an American citizen, ran a successful travel company offering tours of North Korea.

But as the 44-year-old passed through the Wonjong border crossing in November 2012, he was suddenly arrested. Convicted of “hostile acts” towards North Korea, he is currently serving 15 years in a labour camp.

What exactly happened remains a mystery. Mr Bae had taken at least 15 other tour groups into North Korea without incident. However, it seems clear that his mission to spread the Christian gospel was at least one major factor that landed him in trouble.

Mr Bae is not alone in using his company, Nations Tour, to evangelise inside North Korea. While precise numbers are impossible to pin down, the network of well-financed front companies, missions operating as businesses, is extensive.

North Korea, the most hostile country in the world to organised religion, has a strong pull for a certain stripe of evangelical Christians, and the 288 sq mile “Special Economic Zone” outside the city of Rason, where Mr Bae was detained, is Ground Zero for these modern apostles.

[…]According to one American who once travelled with Mr Bae, but who asked to remain anonymous, their group was able to carry bibles with them into the zone. Possession of bibles by North Koreans can lead to imprisonment, torture and perhaps even death.

The source said a delicate dance had played out on their arrival, with their bibles being counted by the border guards on their way in and then again when they left to make sure none had been distributed.

At the final inspection, the guards even flipped through each copy to make sure no pages had been ripped out and left behind.

Before arriving at the border, the 15-member group was told by Mr Bae not to discuss politics or carry out any overt proselytising. The two or three pastors travelling with them were not to be addressed by their titles.

Once inside North Korea, they were accompanied by government minders at all times. On group hikes with these “tour guides”, the source said they sang Christian songs, but hummed key verses to avoid saying “God” out loud.

“That was our way of worshipping and praising in our hearts, even if we could not say it,” the source said. “Talking about God directly, that would be asking for a death sentence.”

This is the dream of militant groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation. North Korea has an official state religion of atheism. Is that a factor in their horrible record for human rights? Well, according to the The Black Book of Communism, published by Harvard University Press, over 100 million innocent people were killed in atheistic, communist regimes like North Korea in the last century.

I have been working on a theory about what militant atheists mean when they say that religion causes a lot of wars. My theory is that they are actually talking about themselves. They mean their religion. They are boasting that they are number one at killing innocent people. A person can justify killing very easily if you believe that no one is watching you and no one will hold you accountable when you die for what you’ve done.

Of course there are lots of atheists in the Judeo-Christian West who live more peacefully, because they are living in a background of objective morality and human rights provided by Western religions. But in countries like North Korea, with a state religion that cannot ground free will or objective morality or human rights or judgment after death, there are fewer restraints.

Even here, we have already seen over 50 million unborn children killed since abortion became legal. And I can guarantee you that it’s not authentic Christians who are having these abortions. As a group, atheists tend to be among the most radical in favor of abortion rights. The Secular Census of 2012 found that 97% of atheists vote for abortion.

The idea of the strong killing the weak for pleasure is the law of the jungle, and it’s not surprising to me that those who think that humans are just animals would act this way with vulnerable children. If you only have 80 years to be happy in an accidental universe, then anything goes. No one is there to hold you accountable. If the weak get in your way, kill them all. That’s atheist morality. You don’t have to go to North Korea to see it.

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Friday night movie: Decision Before Dawn (1951)

For Friday night, I thought I’d re-post a movie I like a lot.

IMDB rating: [7.5/10]

Description:

WWII is entering its last phase: Germany is in ruins, but does not yield. The US army lacks crucial knowledge about the German units operating on the opposite side of the Rhine, and decides to send two German prisoners to gather information. The scheme is risky: the Gestapo retains a terribly efficient network to identify and capture spies and deserters. Moreover, it is not clear that “Tiger”, who does not mind any dirty work as long as the price is right, and war-weary “Happy”, who might be easily betrayed by his feelings, are dependable agents. After Tiger and another American agent are successfully infiltrated, Happy is parachuted in Bavaria. His duty: find out the whereabouts of a powerful German armored unit moving towards the western front.

Happy Friday!

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