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Today is the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the commencement of the Allied invasion of continental Europe. Within a year, Hitler was dead and the Nazi reign of terror over.
President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 speech at Normandy marked the 40th anniversary of the invasion. Reagan used the opportunity not only to honor the allied soldiers who fought their way ashore, but also to strengthen NATO’s resolve in the face of threatened Soviet nuclear missile deployments to Eastern Europe. I introduced this speech to my high school rhetoric and debate students as one of the great presidential speeches of the 20th century.
My father, George Thomas Wingard, Jr., fought in Europe later in the war. He was at the Battle of the Bulge, which began on December 16, 1944, his 21st birthday. My cousin, George King, son of Clinton and Magnolia Wingard King, was killed during the D-Day invasion. Their courage and the courage of all America’s military forces should be remembered.
Halsey’s Typhoon (Robert Drury and Tom Clavin) is the gripping story of Task Force 38, and its desperate struggle to survive a devastating typhoon on December 17-18, 1944. By the end of the storm, three destroyers rested on the ocean floor and nearly 800 sailors lost their lives, almost as many American deaths as in the Battles of Midway and Coral Sea combined.
Under the leadership of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, TF 38 was operating in waters 300 miles east of the Philippines. Charged with keeping Japanese planes based on Luzon out of the air during MacArthur’s Philippine campaign, Hasley chose to keep his fleet in station even as the surprise storm intensified. A number of the ships, unable to refuel, found themselves perilously unstable. A few exhausted their fuel supplies, leaving them crippled, helpless before the merciless winds and raging seas.
Particularly inspiring is the story of Lt. Commander Henry Lee Plage and the crew of the destroyer escort Tabberer. In spite of severe damage to their own ship and orders to leave the area, they remained and over the course of 55 hours plucked 51 sailors from the sea. Maneuvering the destroyer in turbulent waters alongside so many survivors, without killing them or their rescue swimmers, was a feat of extraordinary seamanship.
As one expects in a military history, Halsey’s Typhoon is the account of leaders making life and death judgments quickly and under extraordinary pressure. These are not my experiences, and I am moved by men struggling to do their duty in unimaginably harsh conditions.
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the decisive turning point in the Pacific war. Fought June 4-6, 1942, America sank four Japanese aircraft carriers, a military setback from which Japan never recovered.
Ian Toll observes:
In the American view, Midway eliminated the risk of a Japanese attack on Hawaii or the west coast of North America. As important, it relieved political pressure on FDR to transfer a greater share of forces to the Pacific, freeing him to emphasize his great priority, which was to keep the Soviet Union in the war against Germany. In that sense, the Battle of Midway ratified and confirmed the vital ‘Europe-first’ strategy. For that reason, it ranks as one of the most essential events of the Second World War, bearing not only on the conflict in Pacific but on the fate of Nazi Germany. (Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942,479).
This first photo below shows the American carrier Yorktown as it is hit by a Japanese aerial torpedo. The second shows the carrier heavily damaged and listing badly. She was eventually lost.
American heroism at Midway should be remembered.
George W. Lee was assassinated on May 7, 1955 in Belzoni, Mississippi. A minister and entrepreneur, he became the first African American in the 20th century to register to vote in Humphreys County. A vocal leader in the voter registration campaign, he is sometimes identified as the first martyr of the modern Civil Rights Movement.
Ambushed while driving his automobile, Lee’s assailants were never brought to justice. Rosebud Lee chose an open casket funeral for her husband. Photographs of his face, disfigured by the shotgun blast, drew national attention. Four months later, grieving Mamie Till-Mobley would leave open the casket of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, lynched further north in the Delta.
George Lee is buried nearby at the Green Grove Baptist Church cemetery.
For a number of years, I wanted to visit The Rev. George Lee and Fannie Lou Hamer Civil Rights Museums on Highway 49 in Belzoni. Each time I stopped the museums were closed. So, I am very grateful to Helen Sims for taking my phone call, opening the museums, and giving me two hours of her valuable time. I admire her and all those who manage grassroots civil rights museums in the Delta. They keep alive in our generation the courage and sacrifice of men and women like George W. Lee and Fanny Lou Hamer.
75 minutes northwest of Jackson, I encourage RTS students to visit the The Rev. George Lee and Fannie Lou Hamer Civl Rights Museums. Before going, I suggest reading Timothy B. Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till for background information.
Today my RTS office is in an attic. 43 years ago my bedroom was.
On the evening of April 8, 1974, I sat at my desk doing homework. The radio was on and the volume low, the Braves-Dodgers game in the background.
In the second and the fourth inning, I turned up the volume when one of my boyhood heroes, “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, came to the plate.
And it was in the fourth inning that he smashed his record setting 715th homer off Al Downing. Braves’ announcer Milo Hamilton called the historic shot.
Of the hundreds of Braves games I listened to as a boy, that was by far the most memorable. I recorded the home run on my old reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Vin Scully’s call of Aaron’s homer is much more famous, but it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to tune in anywhere but WSM Nashville, and catch the game with Milo Hamilton, voice of the Atlanta Braves.
My interest in America’s Pacific War (1941-1945) began in elementary school. One of our readers included the story of Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid. I was captivated by the stunning story of 16 Army B-25 Mitchells that were outfitted for this unique objective and flown by specially trained crews. Launched from an American aircraft carrier that had slipped to within several hundred miles of Japan’s coast, the odds of survival were slim.
Theirs was a no-return mission. After dropping their bombs, the crews headed for destinations in China and Russia, harrowing escape attempts that led to freedom for some, and prison, torture, and death for others.
Doolittle’s Raid came less than six months after Pearl Harbor. The enemy was caught off guard and given a foretaste of the nightmare to come. American morale, which was at a low point, soared.
One of the captured flyers, Jacob DeShazer, obtained a Bible while in prison and through his reading was converted to the Christian faith. At the war’s end, he was released and came back to America, only to return to Japan to serve as a missionary for three decades. Mitsuo Fuchida, the flight leader who led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was converted to Christianity under DeShazer’s ministry.
Ian W. Toll’s Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 is a compelling account of the story of Dolittle’s Raiders and the many other momentous events of the war’s opening months. He sifts through the personal experiences of President Roosevelt and his top military advisors, as well as the sailors, airman, soldiers and Marines who defended our nation and who fought desperately just to stay alive. Thoughtful consideration is given to the war as experienced by Japan’s leaders and people.
This first of three volumes covers the war from Pearl Harbor to Midway.
About the Battle of Midway – fought June 4-6, 1942 – and America’s sinking of four Japanese aircraft carriers, a military setback from which Japan never recovered, Toll observes:
In the American view, Midway eliminated the risk of a Japanese attack on Hawaii or the west coast of North America. As important, it relieved political pressure on FDR to transfer a greater share of forces to the Pacific, freeing him to emphasize his great priority, which was to keep the Soviet Union in the war against Germany. In that sense, the Battle of Midway ratified and confirmed the vital ‘Europe-first’ strategy. For that reason, it ranks as one of the most essential events of the Second World War, bearing not only on the conflict in Pacific but on the fate of Nazi Germany. (479)
The books I completed during 2016:
- Jason Roberts, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became the World’s Greatest Traveler
- J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle (including the full text of the first edition of Ryle’s, Holiness)
- C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
- Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism
- Sarah L. Delaney and A. Elizabeth Delaney with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years
- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (part 1)
- Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors
- Warren and David Wiersbe, Ministering to the Mourning: A Practical Guide for Pastors, Church Leaders, and Other Caregivers
- Vaughan Roberts, True Friendship: Walking Shoulder to Shoulder
- Joseph Epstein, Envy
- Michael Emerson & Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
- Devery S. Anderson, Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement
- Don and Petie Kladstrup, Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure
- Shelby Steele, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air
- Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters
- Thomas Watson, A Treatise on Meditation
- Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman
- Gene Dattel, Cotton and Race in the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power
- Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers
- Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
- Timothy & Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
- J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men
- Bram Stoker, Dracula
- Dale Ralph Davis, Slogging Along the Paths of Righteousness: Psalms 13-24
- J.D.Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
- William J. Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice
- Daniel Silva, The Black Widow
- Jane Dawson, John Knox
- Alexander Whyte, Bunyan Characters (volume one)
- Sally Palmer Thomason with Jean Carter Fisher, Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson
- Stuart Stevens, The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football
- Yuval Levin, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism
- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
- Seamus Heaney, The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles’ Antigone
- Heather MacDonald, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe
- Iain H. Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone
- Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- Ian Caldwell, The Fifth Gospel
- Christopher Ash, Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice
- Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures
- Kate Grosmaire, Forgiving My Daughter’s Killer: A True Story of Loss, Faith, and Unexpected Grace
- Thomas Fleming, A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War
- Jonty Rhodes, Covenants Made Simple: Understanding God’s Unfolding Promises to His People
- Ron Rash, One Foot in Eden
- Sean Michael Lucas, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America
- Thomas Murphy, Duties of the Church Member to the Church
- Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965
- Cornell West, Race Matters: With a New Preface
- John E. Ellzey, Yazoo
- The Bible
I enjoy reading. Some books I read because I must. After all, I am a pastor and professor; sermons and lectures must be prepared. But most of the time I read not because I have to but because I want to.
Several books on my list I’ve read before. Every year or two The Pilgrim’s Progress shows up on my list, as do Shakespearean plays. Early in my ministry, I read J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, which profoundly shaped the way I think about this critically important Biblical doctrine, and I have revisited it many times since. In fact, Ryle has influenced me as much as any other evangelical writer. So, this year I eagerly read Ian Murray’s biography of Ryle.
My favorite 2016 read was Jane Dawson’s John Knox. In my opinion, she does for Knox what Bruce Gordon ‘s biography did for Calvin: both authors’ deft use of historical materials and elegant writing present the lives of men who shaped the Reformed and Presbyterian world.
Among books on American culture, three stand out.
Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic demonstrates that much of the polarization of 21st century American political and cultural life has its roots in America’s emergence from the Second World War as the world’s economic powerhouse. Unlike many places in Europe and Asia, our cities were not reduced to rubble. Our manufacturing and industrial products helped to rebuild a war-ravaged world, and led to a period of economic ascendancy that has shaped the aspirations of our nation’s two principal political parties. One longs to return to the postwar conditions that witnessed the rapid expansion of organized labor, social reform legislation, and welfare benefits; the other seeks sustained economic growth that can only be achieved when America dominates global markets. Neither aspiration is possible. Levin argues for the renewal of America’s mediating institutions, those which stand between the individual and government – family, religious institutions, schools, and civic organizations.
During the past few years I’ve done some reading on issues relating to race, policing, and mass incarceration. William Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice has helped me put contemporary issues in their historical, political, constitutional, and legal context. Ghettoside by Jill Leovy – a book I read last year – recounts the tragic murder of a policeman’s son in South Central LA and its aftermath. These two books provide a compelling introduction to very agonizing issues.
Hillbilly Elegy is J.D. Vance’s personal recollection of growing up in a poor white family that joined the Appalachian migration into the American midwest. At places the book is searingly painful to read; at others uproariously funny. This often forgotten culture became a a major part in the successful presidential campaign of Donald Trump. In closely contested midwestern states affected by the migration, Mr. Trump significantly outperformed recent Republican presidential candidates.
Joseph Epstein is my favorite contemporary essayist, and his insightful observations in Envy will serve pastors and counselors well.
I enjoy the occasional snack book; spy and mystery novels are my favorites. Since the death of Tom Clancy, my espionage novelist of choice has been Daniel Silva. I hope at some point to finish all the mysteries of P.D. James.
I serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Yazoo City, Mississippi. I spend a good deal of time in commentaries. Here are my series this year and the commentaries that I have found most helpful: Book I of the Psalms (William Plumer), Matthew (technical, R.T. France/non-technical, Mark Ross), John’s prologue (J.B. Lightfoot), the case laws of Exodus (John Mackay), and Ecclesiastes (Charles Bridges). I also taught an eight-week course on biblical covenants, and found Covenants Made Simple by Jonty Rhodes an accessible introduction that I heartily recommend.
I still get almost all of my news from printed material: The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger, and The Yazoo Herald. Lynne regularly points me to articles in The New York Times.