Blog The Results of Leadership

Examining the Battles of Midway, Stalingrad and Britain

The Second World War may be the single most Biblical event thus far in history outside the Bible itself. The triumphs and tragedies, sacrifices and atrocities, heroes and tyrants, the majestic scope and millions (maybe billions) of individual stories contained within these six astonishing years continue to captivate us -and teach us crucial lessons- to this day.

In this blurb I will explore one such lesson: the immeasurable importance and consequence of leadership. I will deconstruct the leadership roles involved in three of the War's most pivotal battles - Midway, Stalingrad and the Battle of Britain - and demonstrate the tremendous impact that a single man can have when he sits atop the pyramid of authority. All three of these monumental clashes had a profound impact on the outcome of the war and the world as we know it, and each one can teach us remarkable lessons about authority.


Midway

The Battle of Midway took place in June 1942 between the navies of America and Japan. After a series of amazing twists and turns, the battle ultimately swung massively in favour of the Americans, who crushed and gutted the Japanese navy with such force that they would never recover.

As far as both sides are concerned, the leadership at Midway can be summed up with one word: incompetence.

Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo and American Admiral Chester W. Nimitz both made dire mistakes in their orchestration of this hugely important battle.

Nagumo was obsessively by the book, put his faith entirely in rules and protocol. At crucial moments, he refused to take initiative and make unorthodox decisions that could have won him the battle.

Nimitz, on the other hand, was terribly unorganized. His offensive manoeuvres were pitifully uncoordinated, destroying his element of surprise and allowing the Japanese to wreak havoc on much of his air force.

So how did America emerge triumphant from this battle, more or less assured of ultimate victory against Japan as the result of a single day's combat, when their mistakes were every bit as costly as those of the Japanese?

I like to think of June 4, 1942 as the day God took command.

As a result of their wretched uncoordination and miscommunication, America's dive bombers were hopelessly lost, with no Japanese in sight, and running low on fuel. Meanwhile, the Japanese bombers were very nearly ready to launch a massive assault on the American fleet which would have obliterated America's chances in the Pacific war.

The Battle of Midway was one of the absolute hinges of world history, determining who would emerge triumphant as the dominant power of the war, and America should not have won it. It is impossible that they should have won it.

But they did.

Just before they would have had to turn back for lack of fuel, the American dive-bombers saw a giant rainbow in the distance. It was from the waterspout of a single Japanese destroyer, which happened to be passing by.

The Americans decided, spur of the moment, to alter their course and head in the direction the ship had come from…

And minutes later, they discovered the Japanese fleet, and proceeded to rip it to pieces.

Go ahead and call it luck if you want. But Midway was the day that God told America:

'You have not earned victory in this war. You have not earned the privilege of becoming the dominant force of this world. But I am giving these things to you. You are a God-fearing nation, and as a result of this battle I am going to bless you like no nation before you in history. You had best not forget where that came from.'

When World War Two broke out, America was a thoroughly isolationist nation, and a minor military power. At the end of World War Two, they were the sun around which the entire free world orbited. A nation which produced military, cultural, political, scientific and spiritual heroes whose influence have captivated the world.

And it all began with a divine act of mercy. With the God they so fervently, if imperfectly followed picking up the pieces of a doomed cause and multiplying them to historic levels.

To any American young person who may be reading this: your very coins claim, 'In God we trust.' That is a bold statement indeed, and God is calling you out on it.

You are not entitled to your luxuries. They are not your birthright. Your nation is in chaos because evil forces are trying to destroy the God that you have always trusted and who made you what you are. Read the Old Testament if you want to find out just how much tolerance God has for that shit.

There is still hope for America. But that hope is found exclusively in Jesus Christ. Make America great again is a fine phrase indeed, but put your faith in anything but Jesus, the God who made America great in the first place, and those words are as hollow as a dead log.

So make your choice.


Stalingrad

Have you seen Saving Private Ryan? Remember the horror you felt, the first time you saw the carnage of Omaha Beach?

Well, Omaha Beach was light FM compared to the filth, brutality, and scale of the Battle of Stalingrad. The death toll of the battle for a single Russian city amounts to over twice that of the entire American Civil War put together.

So how did it happen? Why did it happen? How could such a gargantuan waste of life come to exist?

Stalingrad was, from beginning to end, a story about the ultimate sin: Pride. It was a butting of heads between two of the defining figureheads of tyranny in history, Hitler and Stalin; a vanity campaign between two monsters which cost the lives of roughly two million of their people.

Stalingrad was not a necessary target for Hitler. One of the key factors in his decision to invade the city of Stalingrad was its name. He wanted to humiliate his arch-rival by taking the city which held special significance to him.

Stalin's pride would not let it happen. He sent his troops into the city by the hundreds of thousands to defend this figurehead of his own self-importance.

And once the battle had begun, neither man would budge, even as the battle turned into the most grotesque meat-grinder in the history of warfare. Two megalomaniacs fought a war of egos between themselves, at the expense of the blood of millions.

So what was the outcome?

The answer to that question requires us to take a step down the ladder and examine the actions of the two men in charge of the fighting itself: German General Friedrich Paulus, and Soviet General Vasili Chuikov.

Chuikov was quite simply the toughest, most cunning, and most adaptive General of the Second World War. We have all heard of Bernard Montgomery, George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower (if you haven't, look them up), but it was Chuikov's ruthless genius which brought true terror to the previously invincible German onslaught. At Stalingrad, he wrote the bloody rulebook for modern urban warfare, and inspired his troops to fight and die by it… until the massive surprise Soviet counterattack of November 19, 1942 overwhelmed and surrounded the entire 6th German army, destroying their momentum and bringing them to their knees for the first time in the war.

Which brings us to General Paulus.

Whereas Chuikov was the archetypal gritty, fearless commando, Paulus was… how do I put it… dainty.

He was a snobbish, aristocratic clean-freak, considered by many of his peers to be ill-suited for the chaos of front-line command.

And… yep.

When he found his army surrounded by the Soviet army, cut off from supplies, and in the middle of the depths of the Russian winter (with temperatures that would leave Canadians crying like babies), he appealed to Hitler for permission to retreat.

And it was denied. And denied again and again. There was no way in hell a racial supremacist like Hitler would tolerate retreat before what he saw as the inferior rabble of Slavic Russia.

And Paulus obeyed. And obeyed again and again. Even as his army starved and froze to death in the tens of thousands, this sad little yes-man refused to disobey his beloved Führer, despite knowing full-well how insane and savage his orders were.

Part of leadership is knowing when to say no to those above you for the sake of those below you. It is sometimes our duty to disobey. This is a fundamental aspect of democracy: the right to protest. But Paulus had rejected democracy in favour of the worship of a dictator, and when the chips were down -when the lives of three hundred thousand of his men were at stake- he could not find the courage to disobey that dictator.

Only six thousand of his men would live to see the end of the war.

Stalingrad is the ultimate example of just how little our lives mean to tyrants. It demonstrates irrefutably how alike fascism and communism are, and how potent their appeal to the masses that fall under their dark and murky spell.

And after our discussion of the Battle of Midway, one may well ask the question: Where was God in all this?

God played no part in the battle of Stalingrad. Not directly, anyway. He was not permitted to. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia had chosen their gods, and the Lord had no choice but to inflict his ultimate punishment: to let them. To let these deluded slaves discover for themselves the horrors and agonies lurking below the surface of their utopian dreams.

This is the most important lesson we can find in the blood-soaked streets of Stalingrad.


Britain

Which brings us to the final battle I will discuss, though it was the first to happen.

If there is one event in all of human history to which we can look for courage, heroics and inspiration beyond anything Hollywood could ever produce, it is the Battle of Britain.

The lone survivor of the Nazi ravaging of Europe, Great Britain sat barely out of sight from defeated France, facing the looming threat of invasion by the deadliest army the world has ever seen. Its military was humiliated and outgunned, its people were shocked and terrified, and its government was in turmoil.

And then, in God's good time, the greatest war leader in the history of freedom and justice strutted onto centre stage.

Before I even begin to describe this man's unparalleled leadership in the darkest months of human history, I want to relate him to a key audience which I hope to reach: young people.

Are you a teenager, unsure of yourself, unsure of what the world is, overwhelmed by the weird and confusing times in which you find yourself growing up?

Oh, you would like this man.

You have been brought up not quite sure of what to believe, maybe even to believe in two things that seem to contradict each other. You have been taught to believe that nothing is true, that everything is true, that life has no spiritual value and yet that you matter with a hashtag in front of it.

If there is one man who would spit in the face of all of this garbage, it is Winston Churchill, the greatest hero of modern history, and the man who rallied the democracies of the world against Adolf Hitler. The man who saw the simple, unalterable Truths of good and evil for what they were and are, and who would seriously tick off a few of your teachers and friends.

Winston Churchill was the greatest speechmaker of all time. His majestic battlecries rallied the British people, giving them the courage to keep calm and carry on in the face of what many saw as impossible odds.

Hitler was undeterred. Determined to launch a massive invasion of the last bastion of hope for humanity, he first had to gain control of the skies. And in the Luftwaffe, the deadliest air force in the world, he had a powerful weapon with which to do it.

Yet Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) was assembled, coordinated and sent out, day after day, their Spitfire pilots fearlessly meeting their attackers in head-on combat, and through their courage kept the Nazis at bay. In one of his most memorable sentiments, Churchill told his people of the RAF, 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.'

Yet even Churchill's inspiration and the courage of the RAF could not have won the battle without the ingenious innovation and leadership of another man.

Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding was a technological visionary, who took the new invention of radar, and built upon it the most remarkable air defense system ever seen at the time. This enormous, yet remarkably straightforward array allowed the RAF to track and intercept Luftwaffe raids with tremendous accuracy.

Dowding was known to be stubborn and difficult to work with, but his leadership behind the scenes at the Battle of Britain was an absolutely crucial factor in Britain's ultimate victory.

And who sat on the throne on the other side? A portly, pompous Nazi named Herman Goering, an arrogant fool who (throughout the war) simply could not stop making mistakes. His tactical strategies were useless, his intelligence officers were simpering twits, and his main weapon was blind faith in what he saw as the invincibility and inevitable triumph of his air force.

Against the courage, nobility and stoicism of the British people, though the odds were firmly against them, a buffoon like that never stood a chance.

Churchill was a remarkable (if unconventional) man of God. Let no one tell you otherwise. He very plainly told his people that 'upon this battle depends the survival of Christian Civilization.' And with his words as its spearhead, Great Britain won that battle.


I'm not sure how to wrap this one up, so I'll simply say this: we survived the deadliest disaster in human history because we had the greatest leaders in human history. I don't see that greatness in the leaders we have chosen today. I see weak, untrustworthy people being elected for all the wrong reasons. The world no longer seems to want great men and women, who call good and evil what they are and who know that Truth and Freedom are more important than peace and safety.

If you know the Bible, then you know that World War Three is coming, and it will be orchestrated by a dark and unholy man whose charisma, brilliance and ruthlessness will make Hitler, Stalin and Tojo look like amateurs.

And it seems like the natural course of things for such a monster to attain his unprecedented power in the wake of mediocre heroes.
 

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