I was in Normandy in June 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day when I picked up a souvenir front page of the New York Times from June 7, 1944, which reported on the invasion of the day before.
I keep a copy of it in my office (and the PDF on my website) because it’s a fascinating and illuminating piece of American history.
One, it provides a clear window into the role that Christianity and Judeo-Christian values played in American culture on that “Day of Days.” Two, it proves, in no uncertain terms, how radically the New York Times, the Democrats and their kindred political spirits have shifted to the left in the 66 years since our nation’s finest hour.
The Times’ lead story in the left column of the June 7, 1944 edition was headlined “Country in Prayer.” Reporter Lawrence Resner wrote: “Led by President Roosevelt, the entire country joined in solemn prayer yesterday for the success of the United Nations armies of liberation.”
We learn in the piece that church bells rang across the land, including in Boston’s Old North Church, and that Americans flooded their houses of worship. New York governor Thomas Dewey attended services at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Albany, while in Manhattan, some 50,000 people jammed Madison Square for a prayer led by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
It pays to remember that D-Day was a Tuesday.
Next to Resner’s piece, front and center on page one, was a dutiful transcription of President Roosevelt’s national prayer:
“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 … Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.”
Roosevelt asked, with Lincolnian faith, that the Americans at home “rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in (Almighty God) in this hour of great sacrifice.” (You can listen to his prayer here.)
If President Bush had invoked the kingdom of Almighty God, the radicals at the contemporary N.Y. Times would have savaged him mercilessly. But on D-Day, the left’s greatest icon prayed for the grace of God on page one of the N.Y. Times.
Page one was not the only place in the Times that you’d find prayers to a Christian God on D-Day. In fact, these prayers appeared on the editorial pages, too.
“This nation was born in the only revolution in history made in the name of God. It was born of the conception that the rights of man … are given him by God as the inalienable birthright of the human being.”
The piece continued: “We pray for the boys … we pray for our country … the cause prays for itself, for it is the cause of the God who created men free and equal.” (See the page here.)
It’s a far, far cry from the secular and anti-Christian screeds that dominate op-ed pages today. In fact, it’s hard to believe those words come from the same publication we know today.
Historian Stephen Ambrose chronicled the way a proudly religious nation reacted to the invasion of Europe in “D-Day, June 6, 1944: the Climactic Battle of World War II.”
“The impulse to pray was overwhelming. Across the United States and Canada church bells rang … as a solemn reminder of national unity and a call to formal prayer. Special services were held in every church and synagogue in the land. Pews were jammed with worshipers.”
The Liberty Bell rang on D-Day for the first time in 109 years. “Philadelphia mayor Bernard Samuel tapped the bell … sending its voice throughout the country,” wrote Ambrose. “Then he offered a prayer.”
Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower called D-Day “a great crusade.” President Roosevelt called for “faith in our united crusade.” Media that crucified a president for uttering the word “crusade” in 2001 offered no criticism in 1944.
Remember, too, that 9,387 Americans are buried above Normandy’s “bloody” Omaha Beach, where so many were slaughtered on D-Day. They’re not buried beneath trite “co-exist” bumper stickers. They’re buried beneath 9,387 pristine white marble symbols of Western faith: Stars of David and crosses of Jesus Christ.
Contemporary leftists tell us that the right side of the political spectrum has grown too rigidly conservative. They “cling to their guns or religion” as President Obama said so condescendingly of his countrymen while on the campaign trail in 2008.
The truth, though, is that Americans in the anxious hours of D-Day embraced their Judeo-Christian God. The truth is that the left has abandoned these core American values since D-Day. The truth is that, in 1944, a conservative people clinging to guns and religion saved the world.
We know all this is true, simply by reading the N.Y. Times of June 7, 1944.
Christians and conservatives have not abandoned America’s roots. Today’s “right-wing radicals” believe what ordinary Americans believed on D-Day: that their God and their country are unique, liberating powers for the good of mankind.
The N.Y. Times, Democrats and other leftists once shared this view of God and country, back in our nation’s finest hour.