Today marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in United States history. I’ll quote the immortal words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt…
Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack… (read more)
In the end, over 2,400 Americans were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and countless more were killed as the result of this act plunging the United States into World War II.
Today, December 7, is a day that we honor the great sacrifice of the men and women who gave their lives in service of our nation on that fateful day. Today, we remember a generation — the “Greatest Generation” now in its twilight years — characterized by courage, sacrifice, and raw determination. Today, we acknowledge the lessons we can learn through their lives… lessons of service, devotion, patriotism, and heroism.
But there is another lesson to be learned… a spiritual lesson that comes from one of the little known, little remembered facts about that fateful day. Typically, when we think of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it conjures images of massive aircraft carriers, hundreds of airplanes, bombs falling from the skies, and the fire and smoke rising from the wreckages of the U.S.S. Arizona, the U.S.S. West Virginia, the U.S.S. California, the U.S.S. Oklahoma, and many, many other ships. But what we miss is something that was discovered much later; something that lies beneath the surface of the chaos and destruction of that day.
The Japanese “midget submarines”.
Historical records and testimonies have later shown that, hours before the bombs began to fall like rain on Pearl Harbor, five Japanese submarines had moved into the waters just a few miles from Pearl Harbor, releasing their payloads: Each sub carried a smaller, “midget submarine” that was about 1/4 the size of a full-size sub, and carrying a two-man crew… and two 1,000 lb. torpedoes.
According to the NOVA documentary “Killer Subs in Pearl Harbor“, when the five midget subs were deployed, they were tasked with going to “Battleship Row” at Pearl Harbor and firing their torpedoes at the ships lying at anchor, effectively crippling or destroying them. The 1,000 lb torpedoes that the subs carried had the potential to cause far more damage than the 500 lb torpedo bombs the planes carried. The idea was for the subs to sneak in virtually unnoticed during the melee caused during the air assault, causing catastrophic damage.
But the plan did not go as planned. Of the five subs, only one is thought to have reached a target and done any damage at all. That sub fired both of its torpedoes, with one believed to have possibly struck the U.S.S. West Virginia (speculation varies). The other torpedo was believed to have been a dud. Of the other four subs, three were sunk without inflicting any known damage, and one ran aground, giving the United States its first Japanese prisoner of war.
Had all of the midget submarines reached the harbor undetected, the results could have been far more catastrophic than the tragedy that befell the fleet that day.
This tactic used by our then-enemy in a time of war offers some keen insight into the way the enemy of our souls operates in the battles of life.
When we are entering into conflict, we see the obvious. We take note of that which is before our eyes, that thing making the situation or circumstances seem dire. We brace ourselves, or we build up defenses against the torrent that is coming straight at us.
Then — suddenly — the torpedo from beneath the surface strikes… the one we never saw coming!
We pick ourselves up off the ground, wondering what just hit us. We try as best we can to minimize the damage, stop the “bleeding”, and circle the wagons as we take inventory of the situation.
All of this because we forgot three key principles when dealing with this particular enemy…
- We forgot that the Enemy is always on the prowl and doesn’t play fair.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls
around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. ~ I Peter 5:8
Lions don’t fight fair. Lions will single out the small animal in the herd, isolate it, and take it down. Lions look for the weak one in the crowd, patiently waiting for the right time to pounce.
- We forget to put on the whole armor of God.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the
day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you
have done everything, to stand. ~ Ephesians 6:13
Without proper and complete armor, we won’t last long on the battlefield. Putting on the full armor of God is an every-day discipline. (Read the rest of Ephesians 6 for more about the armor of God.)
- We forget to immerse our lives in prayer.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. ~ Colossians 4:2
Above all, we cannot allow our prayer lives to falter. Prayer is our lifeline to the heart of God. James 5 say that the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Prayer is a weapon and a discipline that goes hand in hand with the armor of God. The two are inextricably linked.
What happens in the natural is mirrored in the spiritual (or vice-versa). Renowned Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu once said…
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ~ The Art of War
So, understand your enemy.
Put on the full armor of God.
Be diligent in prayer.
And be watchful… not just for what seems obvious. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as He makes you aware of what lies beneath.