They Shall Carry Out Great Exploits
One of the great military exploits of World War II was carried out on a cliff top on the coast of Normandy. It reminded me of an end-time prophecy that might well concern us all.
Most of the beaches of Normandy show no sign of the violence that happened here on June 6, 1944, 75 years ago. It was here that the greatest seaborne invasion in history began taking Western Europe back from the evil of Nazi Germany.
The Pointe du Hoc, however, vividly preserves the scars of war. This 100-foot-high promontory, jutting into the English Channel, overlooks the American-assigned beaches designated Omaha to the east and Utah to the west. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, in charge of coastal defense, stationed heavy artillery in concrete bunkers here to dominate both sectors.
The Allies were understandably concerned, carrying out aerial bombardments in April, May and early June. At dawn on June 6, the battleship USS Texas fired 255 14-inch shells on the strongpoint.
An impossible mission?
The German defenders and many Allied officers, initially including the officer assigned to command the assault, believed the point could not be taken from the sea; it was a suicide mission. One intelligence officer stated, “Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climbing that cliff.”
Suicide or no, taking the strongpoint was considered crucial to the invasion.
So, while under heavy fire, 225 U.S. Army Rangers, specifically trained for the mission, scaled the cliffs using ladders and ropes, as the Texas helped keep German heads down.
Against all odds, the doomed assault succeeded, destroying the big guns. The cost of holding the site against counterattacks, however, was high. Only 90 Rangers could still fight at the end of the two-day action, and only 40 had not been wounded.
Today a walk among the bunkers of the battlefield staggers the imagination. The landscape is lunar. Shell craters could swallow houses; concrete fortifications are shattered like pottery. Everywhere pockmarks from small arms fire and grenade explosions witness to the magnitude of the maelstrom. I wondered, how could mere men accomplish such a feat?
Capturing the Pointe du Hoc was certainly one of the most memorable exploits of the war. Still today, as many as 2 million visitors walk reverently through the site each year.
A visit to the Pointe du Hoc brought to mind a prophecy in the Bible about exploits—amazing feats of spiritual courage and action. An angel revealed to Daniel a prophecy that is no doubt both historical and yet for the end time (many prophecies in the Bible are fulfilled twice): “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (11:32).
In the culminating battle between the forces of good and evil, God will strengthen and inspire His servants to accomplish great and memorable feats in His service. They will not flinch in the face of evil and will steadfastly advance the work of God.
Perhaps you and I shall have such a memorable privilege! Perhaps also, in preparation for greater things to come, there are lesser spiritual exploits we should practice now: to strengthen a weakness, to overcome a sin, to withstand a trial with perseverance, to perform good deeds in difficult circumstances, to learn to better know our God.
If we are to be ready to carry out great exploits in the future, we should be training for the mission now.