Bibles given to soldiers before D-Day invasion
Published 1:37 am Saturday, June 8, 2019
This week marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, more than 100,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of French coastline to defeat Nazi Germany. Operation Overlord also included more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft.
On a Sunday, two days before our troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, Chaplain George Russell Barber held services on 11 different ships. Thousands and thousands of soldiers received shirt pocket-sized Service Testaments, provided by The Gideons International.
In an article on The Gideons International website, Barber recalled, “Those men were anxious to get a Bible.” The Chaplain said he told the troops during the services, “Remember your mother, your father, your brothers, your sisters. They all love you. They are praying for you, too.” He also quoted the 23rd Psalm and emphasized, “God is in control.”
‘“We’re on His side and we’re going to win. Jesus gave his life for us and we may have to give our lives for Him and for our country. He knows all about it and He’s with us here,” Barber told the troops. Standing on the bridge of the ship, he prayed for everyone on the ship through the PA system. General Eisenhower also prayed with his Chaplain. Then orders were given for the troops to deploy.”
Chaplain Barber remembers, “They were shooting at us all around.” The article goes on to say, “Unlike all the men around him, the Chaplain was entering into the crossfire with no weapon other than the Word of God.
“Men were being killed all around me. We were all trying to dodge the bullets… Men were crying and praying and helping each other. Our men were shooting and throwing hand grenades. German soldiers were firing at them all up and down the beach.”
He made his way to his men who had fallen. “I talked to as many as I could and prayed with them. I said, ‘Trust in God.’” As men died in his arms, the Chaplain quoted Jesus’ words from John 14 verses 1 and 2, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions…”
The landscape and heavy enemy defenses at Omaha Beach made it the most dangerous of the five beaches to be invaded by the troops on D-Day. “One thousand, five hundred and thirty one of my men died on Omaha Beach that day. I don’t know how many were wounded,” Barber recalled. It’s estimated that there were 10,000 casualties on D-Day.
Barber told about digging a foxhole where he spent that night staring up at tracer bullets as they lit up the darkness of the starry sky. He said, “I prayed as if everything depended on the Lord, and I dug as if everything depended on me.”
A few years before Barber passed away in 2004, he reflected on his role in that historic D-Day invasion, “I’m glad I had a part in the distribution of those Bibles.” The Bibles provided comfort, peace, and a reminder of those praying for the soldiers back home. God’s Word can do the same for us today.