A Word of Explanation
I now send forth this volume with an earnest prayer, that the Holy Ghost may bless it, and that God may be pleased to use it for His own glory and the benefit of many souls. My chief desire in all my writings, is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and make Him beautiful and glorious in the eyes of people; and to promote the increase of repentance, faith, and holiness upon earth. If this shall be the result of this volume, the labor that it has cost me will be more than repaid.
-J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Luke
One of the best of the modern historians is Rick Atkinson. His three-volume set on the history of the American army in World War II is excellent. In the second book, The Day of Battle, he speaks in haunting detail of the worst friendly fire disaster of the war.
Following the fledgling American army's defeat of the Axis powers in North Africa in 1943, there arose a vigorous discussion about what the Allied armies should do next. Stalin, as always, wanted an immediate cross-channel invasion of France. Churchill favored a blow to what he termed “the soft underbelly” of Europe, Greece and the Balkans. Roosevelt favored a buildup of forces in Britain as preparation for an early 1944 invasion of the continent.
The policy that resulted was largely a compromise between all three preferences. In order to appease Stalin, the British and American divisions would be kept in combat against the Axis somewhere. Churchill, in turn, was placated with a limited invasion of southern Europe. Roosevelt, too, got his way as the main effort continued to be the all-out preparation for what is now known as D-Day (June 6, 1944).
Thus it was that an invasion of Italy was launched via Sicily in the summer of 1943. Code named “Operation Husky,” a massive armada with hundreds of ships battled rough weather in order to land seven divisions across a one hundred mile stretch of Sicilian coastline on July 10. Initial resistance was scattered and light, especially from the Italian army. Within mere hours, however, two experienced German divisions hurled themselves point blank toward the beaches in an effort to drive the Allied armies back into the sea.
The brunt of this counter attack was born by the Big Red One, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. Major General Terry Allen commanding from the aptly named HQ Danger Forward pleaded with Patton and Eisenhower for reinforcements. Facing the panzers of the redoubtable Hermann Gring Division, Allen's infantry proved unable to the task. By the next day, the ill-equipped, exhausted, sea-sick troops found themselves going the wrong direction – back to the beach. Their retreat would not be stopped until cruisers and destroyers 1,200 yards off the beach engaged panzer tanks individually with their five-inch naval guns.
Just this side of desperation, Patton ordered and Eisenhower authorized an ill-advised reinforcement attempt by a full regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division based in Tunisia. All American ships at sea and front-line Sicilian troops were issued coded instructions informing them that a nighttime parachute drop was planned at approximately midnight. These instructions, issued early that morning, were not decoded and transmitted until late evening. In the chaos of front-line battle, many units failed to receive the news. Before the first paratroop plane arrived overhead, those front-line troops and ships had already fought off twenty-three Luftwaffe sorties aimed at American shipping. In the dark, jumpy and uninformed Allied ships and shore-based AA units hurled distinctive, red American tracer bullets and proximity-fused flak skyward while the parachutes of the 82nd Airborne Division began floating down out of the night sky. C-47s and C-53s were blown from the sky. Paratroopers describe cargo holds in the planes being awash in the blood of their fellows that did survive. Entire sticks of paratroopers prematurely jumped into the sea in an effort to avoid the flak only to find themselves machine-gunned by surrounding American destroyers. Others thudded into the Sicilian sand with a sound described as the thwack of smashing pumpkins. Eight pilots outright refused to green light any jumps, describing them as tantamount to murder; they simply turned back toward Africa. Of the 4,800 men in the 505th regiment of the 82nd Airborne in planes that night, 1,400 still could not be accounted for days later. Sixty of their 144 planes were shot down or damaged.
As God sees my heart, I have no desire to be the guy on the beach launching tracer fire toward those in the sky on my own side. I would not for the world discourage a brother in Christ or seek to make his task more difficult. I am an independent Baptist for many of what I think to be very good reasons. Those who claim the same banner under Christ as I do are not my foe. This book is not designed to attack or injure them. Governor Mike Huckabee once described the American military as being designed to kill people and break things. I do not want my book to kill people and break things, especially on my own team.
With that being said, it behooves me to say that I am not naïve. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To be great is to be misunderstood." I am inclined to believe that being misunderstood is the only sign of greatness I will ever exhibit. Just because I have no intention of injuring independent Baptist men and ministries does not mean they will not feel hurt by what comes next in this book. If that is the case with you or if some principle you hold dear is fired upon in this next section, I simply ask you to keep this word of explanation in mind. I do not hate you. I am not against you. I do not want to discourage you. If you love and serve God, I love you. I am for you.
If I do shoot at something you believe precious, please understand I am not shooting at you. I am shooting at scripturally errant philosophies and practices of ministry that are wreaking havoc through a movement that I love. To borrow another illustration, the doctor who operates on your cancerous tumor is not your enemy. The cancer is your enemy. The doctor is your friend even if he causes you great pain in the short term.