"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is
right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is
excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Verse of the Month
For military historians this fall recalls the 70th anniversary of the World War Two battle known as Operation Market-Garden. This was the daring Allied plan to send 35,000 airborne troops on an all-out raid to capture the bridge at Arnhem, then 65 miles behind German lines, pivot into the industrial Ruhr Valley and end the war by Christmas.
In 1977 a famous movie named “A Bridge Too Far” painted a fairly good overview of this biggest paratroop drop in history.
It might have worked except Nazi forces were fighting harder as they neared the Fatherland and had withdrawn parts of their mauled tank forces just where the Allied airborne assault (“Market”) was to land and hold until British tanks (“Garden”) could reinforce them for the march into Germany.
One key town on that narrow 65 mile corridor was the Dutch city of Nijmegen where the Germans were about to blow the bridge to prevent the tank forces from crossing to rescue British paratroopers at Arnhem.
The Nijmegen Bridge spanned the fast-flowing Waal River, a Rhine tributary 400 yards wide. In the movie Major Julian Cook (played by Robert Redford, pictured), the 27 year old battalion commander of the 504th Regiment, is ordered to capture the north end of the bride in a daring afternoon raid by canvas boats to the far shore, all the while under murderous shelling from the Nazi defenders on the opposite embankment.
Cook was in the first wave of 26 flimsy boats bearing 260 men, half of whom drowned or succumbed to enemy fire while paddling furiously with their rifle butts (not enough paddles had arrived). The scene reminded Cook of bloody Omaha Beach at D-Day where Americans faced open fire while attempting a water-borne assault. Both in the movie and in Cornelius Ryan’s A Bridge Too Far, Cook prays out loud with every two strokes of his rifle, “Hail Mary—full of Grace—Hail Mary—full of Grace—Hail Mary—full of Grace.”
Major Cook, a devout Catholic, reported later that “The Lord is with Thee” was too long and the double-beat fitted the cadence of the desperate rowing more accurately. In the movie it makes for a stirring scene. The 504th took the bridge and their sacrifice ultimately made it possible for remnants of General Roy Urquhart’s battered 1st Airborne Division to escape from the hornet’s nest in which they had landed north of Nijmegen. Ryan notes on page 583 of his text that before Urquhart’s desperate move to escape the trap “everybody knelt as a chaplain said the Lord’s Prayer” – a scene not recorded in the movie.
Cook went on to lead soldiers in Vietnam and was the pride of his family. None doubted the sincerity of his prayers on that arduous plunge into the waters of death in September, 1944. Christians in strange places.
– Neil Earle
In the 1960s we had a Broadway play titled, “Stop the world I want to get off!” After the summer of 2014 some people may think it needs to be re-released.
What a summer! Beheadings, crucifixions, invasions, proxy wars, urban warfare, bombings, murders, hybrid war in the Ukraine, rockets and bombings and more bombings.
Christians are not detached from these things, as the bad news coming out of Iraq about merciless assaults on them has shown. Here in the West we learned years ago that “bad news makes people feel bad.” Seems obvious. But rather than bury our heads in the sand or in our text messages and shutting the world out...
(Click photo to enlarge.)
September 11 reminds us of utmost tragedy but not totally so – if you haven't heard the story of the kindness of strangers on 9/11 here's DCTV's take.
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