To Battle We Go: The Fog of War
By: Dr. Steve Kellner
It was the famous 19th century German general Helmuth von Moltke who said, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” No matter how thorough the planning, training and preparation, the shock and complete unpredictability of actual combat throws a wrench into the machinery of any plan. Boxer Mike Tyson put it more bluntly: “Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.”
The truth of von Moltke’s dictum was proven during the airborne pre-invasion of France in the early morning hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Allied airborne units had been training in Britain for more than a year in preparation for the invasion. But D-Day was perhaps the most complex undertaking in all of human history, so something was bound to go wrong, and just about everything did!
Thousands of troop transport planes flew over France beginning a little after midnight on D-Day. The mission of these airborne troops was to take certain key bridges, road intersections and gun emplacements that could potentially stop the main invasion force, which was coming by ship to the Normandy beaches at daylight that same morning.
The planes came under enemy anti-aircraft fire as soon as they reached the coast of France, and frightened pilots dropped most of the parachuting troops many miles short of their objectives. Most of the soldiers had no idea where they had landed, and many were alone and separated from their units.
If the troops had panicked or become dispirited at the poor execution of the original plan the entire invasion would have failed. But small groups of soldiers (many had never met each other) began to move inland, joining up with other small groups as they went along, and began attacking enemy units and strongpoints as they came upon them. Though many of the original plan’s objectives were never taken, somehow the collective effort of the troops, however disorganized and confused, was enough to disrupt the enemy’s defenses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the normal functioning and ministry of many of our corps for more than a year now. Most of our well-laid plans and traditional ways of operating didn’t survive first contact with the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, and many Salvationists are still struggling with how to accomplish the mission of The Salvation Army in this limiting environment.
Still, individual Salvationists and small groups of Salvationists didn’t panic, and have found ways throughout the pandemic to continue to minister to those in need. Even in the face of the dispiriting Delta variant, perhaps we are now at the point where, like the airborne troop of D-Day, individuals and small groups can begin to link up and attack the forces of Satan wherever they find them. Enough small unit attacks on Satan’s strongpoints, however disjointed, can have the same effect as a well-planned large-scale invasion.
It takes more courage and endurance to fight this way, but the battle continues whether Plan A is working or not. When we feel frustrated and powerless at how long it is taking to get back to “normal” in our corps let’s remember who is leading our Army.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your god is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)