D-Day remembrances include stories of faith during war

(Photo: Reuters / David Vincent/Pool)France's President Francois Hollande (2ndL Rear) and British Minister of Defence Philip Hammond (L Rear) take part in a religious ceremony commemorating the 68th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy beach landings at the British war cemetery of Ranville, western France, June 6, 2012.

The amphibious landings by Allied troops onto the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 during World War II have been the focus of movies, books, and other remembrances since that day, commonly known as "D-Day".

Many of the tie-ins to D-Day have been faith-based.

The term "D-Day" has become common parlance for an important event.

Many still remember it, however, as the day when 156,000 mainly American, British and Canadian soldiers invaded Adolph Hitler's "Fortress Europe".

(Wikipedia)A "parachute memorial" at the church in the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise church in Normandy, France. It commemorates John Steele,an American paratrooper who hung by his parachute from the church spire for two hours on D-Day on June 6,1944.

By the end of June, 850,000 men were in France and ready to march toward Germany.

Thus, among Western nations, it is considered the pivotal battle of the war, leading to eventual victory.

Perhaps the most poignant remembrances of D-Day come from the stories of individuals who survived the harrowing battle on June 6.

Chaplains were on the beaches that day. One of them was Father Joe Lacy, who landed with the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion.

His story was told in historian Stephen Ambrose's book "D-Day June 6, 1944".

In addition, during an anniversary celebration of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corp last year, the Fort Gordon Signal newspaper reported on his activities during the battle.

Lacy told the soldiers on the transport to the beach, "When you land on the beach and you get in there, I don't want to see anyone kneeling down and praying. If you do, I'm going to come up and boot you in the butt."

"You leave the praying to me and you do the fighting."

On the beach, Lacy pulled the dying and other wounded from the water's edge and put them in a place of protection. He also comforted and prayed for them.

Another American Catholic who participated in D-Day was Joseph P. Vaghi, Jr., who landed on Omaha Beach. He died in August 2012 aged 91.

His obituary in the Catholic Standard exemplifies how important an event D-Day was in the lives of the soldiers who took part.

In 2004, he told the Catholic Standard during an interview, "When I went ashore at Normandy, I had no qualms whatsoever. When I went into Normandy, I had absolutely no fear because I knew God would look after me."

"If he wanted me that would be it."

Vaghi earned the Bronze Star from the U.S. Army for his heroics on D-Day and the Legion of Honor Chevalier from France for his efforts in liberating the country.

He was also featured in the Ken Burns documentary "The War".

In 2011 another documentary was released called "WW II: D-Day and the Providence of God".

Those involved in its production say that it is the first "thoroughly Christian overview of the men and movements that led to D-Day, the commanders and soldiers who engaged in battle there, as well as the results of the invasion."

The film includes interviews with aging Christian veterans, a survey on the conflicting worldviews of Nazism and Christianity and chapters on the theological significance of the war and the theology of leadership.

There is a study guide that accompanies the DVD set which includes short answer questions and Bible memory verses.

One of the most notable films about D-Day, called "The Longest Day," features a true incident which occurred at a church in the Norman town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

The parachute of paratrooper John Steele got caught on the spire of the town church.

He hung from the spire for two hours, playing dead and observing the fighting below, before the Germans took him prisoner.

This year there will be a concert for peace on June 6 at the church, which is now a popular tourist attraction.

It is not uncommon to have D-Day referenced in Christian devotionals as well.

This year, the June 6 entry for the popular devotional Our Daily Bread (ODB) describes the leadership capabilities of an army officer who headed a company featured in Ambrose's book "Band of Brothers".

ODB notes that the officer regularly told his solders to "follow me."

The entry continues on to describe how Jesus leads his children as well.

In recent years, D-Day remembrances have even become part of the political debate in the U.S.

A controversy ensued in 2011 over a decision by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama's forbidding the display of a prayer broadcast by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 6, 1944 at a World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, is continuing efforts to have the prayer displayed there on a plaque or inscription.

Roosevelt's prayer begins:

"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

"Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith."

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