Being Afraid: War and Peace

In the early days of World War II it seemed as if the Germans were taking over the world. Surprised citizens watched as in one month the efficient German war machine overcame peaceful countries in Eastern and Western Europe with the intent to dominate the world. The full extent of their brutality was not yet known, but all who were aware of German roundups of undesirable citizens were afraid for the future, whether or not they were in immediate danger. The German alliance with Japan served to reinforce that fear. The Japanese also seemed invincible. As they bombed and marched and murdered through Pearl Harbor, Corregidor, the Philippines, and Singapore, the world was afraid nothing could stop them. Clearly the intent of the Axis Powers was to take over the world.

Bill Stacey never forgot the day he and his missionary companion in Duluth emerged from a building one day in December, 1941, to see the headline on the newspaper. The four-inch high words announced, “Japanese Bomb Pearl Harbor.” He couldn’t believe such a small nation would dare to attack the United States. At first it didn’t seem possible his own country would be at war, but as the months and years passed, he and every other citizen of the U.S. began to consider the possibility that the Japanese couldn’t be stopped. It became a very real fear in this country, so much so that Japanese-American citizens were ruthlessly rounded up and forced to live in isolated prison camps just in case they were subversive. The horrific brutality of Japanese soldiers each time they conquered was enough to strike fear into every heart around the world.

The Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd. Defiant                                (Courtesy, Wikipedia)

The Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd. Defiant (Courtesy, Wikipedia)

“What we didn’t see,” said Bill, “were the small ways God had provided for our protection. In the late 1930’s a British aeronautical engineer came up with a fast little plane which could maneuver well in battle. Of course, no one thought it would be needed and some didn’t take it seriously at the time. However, enough of those planes–called Spitfires–were built and pilots trained, that when Germany began its hostilities England was ready. Those Spitfires were a big part of the miracle of saving Europe and England from Germany.

“There was another plane which was a miracle at a crucial time in the war,” said Bill. “Someone brought out a quirky little plane with backward-facing guns. It turned out to be a game-changer in the war.” Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd. set up an aircraft factory in Wolverhampton, England. The Air Ministry specified a different design, which Boulton Paul called the Defiant, “a ‘fast’ fighter with no fixed forward armament but a powerful four-gun dorsal turret. Turret fighters were expected to be able to engage enemy bombers from any aspect.” [1]

Some people thought it was useless to have gun turrets on a little fighter plane, especially because they didn’t face forward. Those planes came out about the time the British lost to the Germans in

Spitfires over Britain in 1941 (Courtesy WWII Today)

Spitfires over Britain in 1941 (Courtesy WWII Today)

France and tried to get 300,000 soldiers out before the Germans could annihilate them. They evacuated the soldiers to Dunkirk, but knew getting them safely across the Channel would be a miracle. Early attempts showed them the Germans would just shoot them out of the air and water.

It was frightening for everyone even to think about it. So the British Air Force came to protect these 300,000 men as they evacuated in boats across the Channel. British Spitfires would fly over the Channel, and as German planes tried to attack them, the British Defiants would attack the Germans. It wasn’t the Spitfires that won the day, it was those little backward-firing Defiants. As the German planes chased the British Spitfires, they were torn apart by the little Defiants flying between the Spitfires. The Germans hadn’t expected that, and had to retreat because they were losing so many planes. By the time they figured out what had happened, all 300,000 British soldiers had been safely evacuated.

“Shortly before Pearl Harbor was attacked the American aircraft carriers left that harbor. Had they been there when Pearl Harbor was bombed, our entire Pacific force would have been destroyed. As it was, our naval fleet was gone, but our aircraft carriers and planes were safe. It was those carriers and planes that won in the Pacific.”

The USS Essex, one of our aircraft carriers during       World War II

The USS Essex, one of our aircraft carriers during World War II

Bill went on to describe the Miracle of Midway, a battle intended by the Japanese to finish off the Americans as the Japanese sought to dominate the Pacific. Had the two Americans who cracked the Japanese code not warned of the attack at Pearl Harbor and been ignored, their warning about the Japanese plan to attack the Americans at Midway may also have been ignored. Had the intense surveillance of Japanese planes–36 planes, one plane for every ten degrees on the compass–not been foiled by engine and radio failure of the two planes which flew over the American aircraft carriers, the whole effort to stop the Japanese would have failed.

Had the Americans not sent dive bombers with their torpedo planes, the effort would have failed anyway. As it was, the intense firepower of the Japanese brought down 40–all but eight of the U.S. torpedo planes carrying torpedoes intended for the Japanese aircraft carriers. As the Japanese were shaking hands on their victory, it was the U.S. dive bombers that carried the day. They executed their own mission on the Japanese carriers, raining down firepower that exploded the torpedoes on board. Four Japanese carriers were destroyed that day, effectively breaking their effort to destroy the American air power. It was an almost miraculous victory for the USA.

Bill, 1944

Bill, 1944

No one was surprised when Germany and Japan continued to be a threat, in spite of their earlier disappointments. By the end of 1944 Bill was assigned to combat and was instructed to send his family back home so he could ship out. This was what he had trained for, and he was ready. Pilots knew it would be dangerous on the war front. Statistics showed at least ten per cent of bombers sent out would never return. Returning pilots reported that they had never seen a squadron of enemy planes which didn’t take out a few American planes. But these men were committed to preserving the freedom of their country, and were willing to take whatever risks were necessary. That was one of the miracles of the war too.

Bill at Hill Air Force Base, 2015

Bill at Hill Air Force Base, 2015

Bill never made it to the Pacific Front. Just as he was preparing to ship out, the U.S. dropped the Atom Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, convincing Japan they could not continue their war. But that wasn’t the end of hostilities. He remembers as their Commander announced what had happened, and the change of plans, he cautioned the men, “Don’t think the war is over and you can go home. We have the Russians to worry about now. The way things are going, we’ll probably be fighting the Russians next, so you won’t be going anywhere.” Over the next year it became obvious the Russians were unwilling to give up any ground they had taken in their effort to stop Germany. The nations once anxious for protection from Germany suddenly needed protection from Russia.

“Eventually the war was over and we could go home,” said Bill. “But the world was never really at peace. We always had something to make us worry. Probably we will always live in fear of something. It’s just part of life, and always has been. But we don’t have to worry about being overcome. As long as there are good people, living the best they can and trusting in God, we won’t be destroyed.

“I believe there are more good people right now than ever before. They are everywhere in our country, people of all faiths who do their best to keep the commandments and have faith and honor their Father in Heaven. We may think things look grim, but as long as there are that many people who love God and do the right thing, our country will be safe. As long as each one of us is doing his or her best to keep the commandments and do the right thing, to keep the spirit with us and continue to have faith in God, nothing can stop us. We don’t have to live in fear–not even when things seem hopeless all around us.”

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7.)