Armageddon – Part 1: Lessons from the Berlin Airlift (1948 – 1949)

If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!
But passion and party blind our eyes,
and the light which experience gives us
is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)

This is the first of a three-part series inspired by the novel Armageddon by Leon Uris (1963). A remarkable fictional story based on actual history, from the American perspective, of the end of World War II in Germany with a particular focus on the administration of Berlin.

What can we learn from these events? Can we see any parallels with our situation today? I believe we can learn invaluable lessons to strengthen our faith. I believe we can be inspired by the courage and passion of the men and women who sacrificed all to serve and protect their former enemies, and I believe we can be supported in our stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our generation.

The End of World War II (1945)

I find it impossible to imagine the physical and psychological carnage experienced on a daily basis at war’s end.

Berlin was a city of millions that had been all but demolished at the hand of the Allies — British, French, American and Russian forces. With precious little infrastructure left to sustain the surviving population, the Allies divided the city into administrative sectors: Northwest, French; West, British; Southwest, American; and East, by far the largest sector, Russian.

I am sure that all of you will know of the Berlin Wall. It began on 13 August 1961 and was taken down on 9 November 1989. Most of you will associate it with the beginning of the Cold War between the western nations and the communist eastern bloc.

But fewer will know of the Berlin Blockade and the Berlin Airlift that lasted 462 days from 26 June 1948 until 30 September 1949 — the Western powers’ answer to the Communist blockade. I am not going to recount the history per se, but I commend these resources for those interested in understanding the background in more detail:

The Destruction of Nazism and the Leadup to the Blockade of Berlin

There were two opposing currents pouring through the bombed-out Berlin streets. The Nazis had been defeated and now the Allies’ responsibility was to mop up all remaining Nazis and herd them off for trial and imprisonment. But how would you define a Nazi?

Surely one descriptor could include ‘all German and conquered peoples who went along with the Nazi machinery’? Under that definition, nearly all Germans would fall into that category. But on the streets, the round-up of surviving Nazis left millions of Berliners to be administrated, who were now deemed victims of the war, not perpetrators.

The opposing current was the sense of responsibility towards the German people, to support their survival amidst the ruins and to start the rebuilding of a city, a nation and a people. How would the Allied forces manage their emotions as they sought to support ‘the people’ responsible for the death of family and countrymen by their complicity with the Nazis? This stream was Uris’ focus in Armageddon.

The Russian method of administration could be described as the rape of German women and girls and the rape and pillage of anything of value that could be salvaged from the ruins of Germany. There was some of this at the hand of the western Allies, but far less.

After a little while, when the liberating forces had settled into their roles, the western Allies began to take the Russians’ behaviour to task. I think this tension between their opposing values could have been the seed of the Cold War to come.

A further distinction between the western Allies and the Soviets was their respective understanding of the value of democracy. Prior to the Russian blockade of Berlin, the Russian communists took every opportunity they could to intimidate or silence the voices of the freedom parties at any of the local elections and at the appointment of the Oberbürgermeister (Lord Mayor of the city).

The Russians only knew one party, the Communist Party, so by process of elimination, anyone who could not swear allegiance to The Party, was, by definition, an agitator, a protester, a rebel and one to be removed or silenced. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1973) depicts the machinations of the Community Party over many decades in the treatment of their own people, and I am sure that the Berliners knew something of this reputation in the immediate years after the war. Imagine the Russians’ attitude to any Germans who would not conform! They had been ‘given’ a sector to administrate, so they naturally saw their Berliners as their responsibility to indoctrinate.

What Provoked the Russians to Blockade the City of Berlin?

The Soviets’ own information channels to their own people perpetrated the myth that they alone, the Russians, had ‘liberated’ Berlin from the dictates of Hitler’s Fascist, Nazi Party. In reality, it was most certainly a team effort involving all the Allied forces.

The Russians were shown the evidence on numerous occasions, but they barely believed the western powers, putting this rhetoric down to, western propaganda, much in the same way as they knew their own machine was at work creating Soviet propaganda. The result was that the Russians felt cheated by the western Allied claims, even if they could not prove it.

It has been widely argued that the central provocation for the blockade of Berlin was the Allies’ introduction of the new German currency, the Deutschmark, on 20 June 1948. This included a special currency for use in Berlin, the B Mark, the new Deutschmark with a B stamped on it. This angered the Soviets, as they knew that whoever controlled the currency, controlled the economy and the people.

So, the Russians’ response was to cut the power supply to West Berlin, most of the power being generated in the Russian Eastern sector. They really wanted to consolidate the communist bloc and they did not want to see a few rebellious suburbs thwart their plans.

The West saw red. This provoked the highest-ranking American Army General from Berlin to fly back to Washington DC and offer these impassioned words to the American President and his team:

We cannot abandon the one place on this planet where we hold an offensive position. “This is no ordinary city. Berlin… is our Armageddon.” Hansen leaned forward, his knuckles pressed against the table and turned white. He looked now at the President alone, “In the name of God, Mr President, the future of freedom on earth requires our presence.”
~ Uris, Armageddon (1963), p. 441

In Uris’ terms, the argument had been going the way of withdrawal prior to this impassioned speech. It certainly stuck a chord, as the President of the United States responded just a few hours later with his authorisation for the stand against the blockade, and he endorsed the general’s plans for the Berlin Airlift:

General, I am going to send you those Skymasters you wanted. You get back to Berlin and tell those people we intend to stick by our word.”

It is going to take a little time to convince everybody here, but you just leave that to me. You can depend on the first squadrons arriving within the week. Now, what else do you need?”

~ Uris, Armageddon (1963), p. 442

The Berlin Blockade and the Airlift

All land, road, rail and waterways between West Germany and West Berlin were cut by the Russians. But they did not block the air corridors. It is my understanding that the Russians never once sought to block landing in Berlin, as their airfields were in West Berlin and to do so would have been to provoke military retaliation. For this reason, they never opened fire on any Allied aircraft, though some Russian pilots ran scare flights around the Airlift planes by flying far too close for safety.

At the height of operations, Allied planes were landing every 45 seconds. In about a year and a quarter, 2.3 million tonnes of cargo were flown in, two-thirds of that being coal for power generation, heating and cooking. One of the greatest achievements, in my mind, was the dropping of 23 tonnes of parachute candy. Thousands of little parachutes were made and attached to bars of chocolate and the like for the children. The planes would drop these from the back of the planes just before landing so that the children could seek them out and have a little joy in their otherwise near-starvation diets.

Nevertheless, even though this was not ‘warfare’, there were 101 fatalities from the Airlift, 40 British and 31 Americans — 17 American and eight British planes crashed, mostly the result of bad weather. Some of the casualties were Germans whose homes the plans had crashlanded into.

Lessons from the Berlin Airlift (1948–1949)

There is nothing uplifting about war, but the Berlin Airlift has certainly lifted my spirits. First of all, it highlighted the victors’ compassion and commitment towards the defeated. The Allied forces did not turn tail and leave Europe to pick itself up and start over again defeated and alone. No, they stayed, they battled to serve, with at least 71 armed forces personnel paying the ultimate price for their service.

I have been struck by the contrasts between the western Allied forces and the Soviet forces in the aftermath of war. The West’s self-sacrifice and commitment to an extraordinary work ethic contrasts with the East’s regimentation, the constant haemorrhaging of deserters, even from the highest-ranking officers, and the painstaking surveillance of every single one of their people. This is to say nothing of their whole focus being on control, destruction, and depravity.

Most of us don’t study the impact of Communist Party operations on a routine basis; rather, we think that the communists are just another political party, like all the others — they probably have their good points and their failings.

My study of the Berlin Airlift and the events that led up to it which made it imperative for the western Allies to fight for freedom and democracy, has shown me that the Communist Party, the Russians’ police state, is not really a political movement at all: it is pure nationalistic totalitarianism.

Armageddon can be defined as:

  1. The place where the final battle will be fought between the forces of good and evil (probably so-called in reference to the battlefield of Megiddo. (Revelation 16:16)
  2. The last and completely destructive battle
  3. Any great and crucial conflict, especially one seen as likely to destroy the world or the human race.

The western democratic powers saw these events as their ‘Armageddon’ with the eastern bloc’s communists. Thankfully, it was only a Cold War, but extremely frightening nonetheless. I can remember nearly being frightened into the Gospel by the Cold War in the 1960s. The Berlin Blockade and Airlift teach me so graphically about the seriousness and the severity of the physical and spiritual battles between good and evil.


Photo: US Government/Wikimedia Commons

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Tell Me Sweet Little Lies – March 6th, 2023

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The Project’s Persecution of Christians Shows the Bible Is True

By Samuel Hartwich

The vulgar joke by queer comedian Reuben Kaye on Channel Ten’s The Project has once again raised this issue: Why is Christianity the target of jokes, ridicule and even outright persecution? While at the same time, other faiths are not treated with the same disrespect?

Why the disparity?

According to the Rt. Rev. Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, in his Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians, 80% of all religious persecution is directed against Christians. Yes, that’s 80%! Yet statically, just over 30% of the world’s population is regarded as Christian. This vast disproportionality between the rate of religious persecution versus the number of adherents is a startling fact. How can it be that Christians are the target of just so much religious persecution?

There are of course many varied and legitimate reasons that could explain this phenomenon.

Meek and Mild

Sky News host Paul Murray — a self-professed atheist — in an opinion piece puts forth the reason Christians are “soft targets” is because they won’t riot in the streets or turn violent.

Indeed, Jesus taught His disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Christians may tune out of the program, write letters of protest and call for an apology. But a joke, crassly spoken, will rarely elicit a more severe response than that.

Murray then comments about Reuben Kaye and his willingness to target other religions in this way:

“Let’s see what his reaction would be, and to his ‘bravery’, if he decides to do just a few words about Mohammad, maybe a costume or two. See what the reaction would be.”

As Murray wholeheartedly agrees, there is no room at any time to target people from any religion. “[A]nyone who uses their faith to repeat that hate on somebody from any community, well they are not going to get a champion in me.” And few would disagree with his comments here.

But is the fact that Christians are “soft targets” enough to explain the disparity?


Jesus taught that there was a deeper, fundamental spiritual reality behind the disproportionality. The night before He faced his own violent death, He prepared His disciples with these prophetic words:

“If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you…
If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18, 20)

And as John would later write, “We know that… the whole world is under the sway of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

It’s uncomfortable and flies in the face of modern society’s secular and naturalistic worldview. Nevertheless, Jesus and His disciple John point the finger at the condition of the sinful human heart and the evil supernatural realm as the real reason for the disparity.

This understood, the 80% statistic is actually an encouragement. It’s yet another reason to trust the Bible’s words: the situation is exactly as predicted. If the Bible really is what it claims to be ­– the very inspired words of the Creator God Himself (e.g. 2 Tim 3:16) — then isn’t the 80% statistic precisely what we would expect? It’s just as Jesus Himself said, “See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matt 24:25)


Let’s consider the alternative explanation. Let’s say that Jesus was simply an obscure, deluded individual who thought of himself as Messiah and God incarnate.

What is the chance that such a crackpot could accurately and pinpointedly predict the religious persecution lay-of-the-land some 2000 years later? How could someone so deludedly wrong predict something so accurately right?

It beggars all rational belief.

It is difficult and confronting. But disciples of Jesus are taught to consider themselves “blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.” (Matt 5:11–12)

We can now add another reason to rejoice. The ‘80% statistic’ confirms the Bible is true. Our Christian faith handed down to us through Scripture confirms the words of Jesus our Saviour, the One Whom we love.

This should ultimately encourage us, galvanise us and keep us pressing on — no matter the cost and no matter our circumstances.

Just as Jesus said: “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling.” (John 16:1)

May The Project’s disdain for Jesus further strengthen the righteous to be as bold as lions! (Proverbs 28:1)


Photo by Tofin Photography Creations.

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Dennis Prager: “The Left Loathe the West”

Dennis Prager is an American conservative radio talk show host and writer. He is the host of the nationally syndicated radio talk show The Dennis Prager Show.

Last September, John Anderson and Dennis Prager’s discussion focused on the Left’s ideology. This little piece picks up on a few of their most telling remarks. I hope it challenges you to listen to the short version (“They don’t believe in the West” (4 min)) at least; if not the full conversation (“Where is America Headed?” (59min)).


The conversation focused on the rise of the left that has been built upon the secular religion of environmentalism and the left’s loathing for all things West. Dennis described it as a culture of cruelty that has created the greatest division in generations. He said that the US was getting close to civil war as a result, unless something can be done to bridge the gap. He went on to say:

“They are crackpots! We now have energy poverty in Germany and England due to the new religion of environmentalism.”

Then John cracked a joke — “What did they have (for light) before candles? Electricity!”

Then the strongest challenge came from Dennis:

“Liberals (right wing, conservatives) are weak, non-confrontationists. If good people don’t fight, America is lost. If the USA is lost, liberty on the earth is lost.”

Yes, this commentary was by an American about Americans, but I think he is right about all liberals, conservatives, and the right side of politics in the western world. I include myself here; it’s in our nature to be generous and think the best of others, seeking to live at peace with all men (Romans 12: 18).

Original Sin

But are people intrinsically good? It’s nice to think the best of everyone, I get that. However no, they are not. Dennis describes how all of humanity is intrinsically evil. That’s why the left’s rejection of Judeo-Christian values has created such cruelty and barbarism. Hence, Dennis’ call to liberal, right-wing conservatives to rise up and fight, before it’s too late.

The majority, and certainly the mainstream media, still think that democratic societies are largely peaceful, tolerant communities, with the left standing up for the common man in the street, the workers, while the right stands for the big end of town, the employers.

According to John and Dennis, this is no longer true. Both the left and right of politics now stand for the abolition of God, the most intolerant society in generations and the cruelty that comes from blind obedience to the god of environmentalism. A vote for the left or the right will change nothing. However, if good people don’t fight, in other ways, liberty on the earth will be lost as we are plunged into totalitarianism.

Dennis concluded by recounting a visit as a young man to the war graves in Normandy, France. The sight of white gravestones as far as the eye could see drew this reflection:

“If they could die for America and liberty, the least I can do is live for America and liberty.”

This lit the fuse for his life’s mission, to influence people for good. Is your life being lived for you or for others? How do you influence people for good? How big is your platform? Desiring to reach a wider audience is surely a good thing. John Anderson is certainly a great example to us in his fight for good.


Photo by Centre for Ageing Better.

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I’m With Her 100% – February 6th, 2023

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You Have to Serve Somebody (Our Choices Matter)

Whom or what we choose to serve has serious consequences.

When Bob Dylan was in his Christian phase (I am not quite sure where he is at now), he released a few hardcore and full-on Christian albums. The opening track on his 1979 album Slow Train Coming was “Gotta Serve Somebody”. It won a Grammy Award and is a terrific song encapsulating vital biblical truth.

Just in case you have never heard it yet, you can have a listen here:

In the song, Dylan may have been referring to a famous biblical passage. In the last chapter of Joshua, as God’s people are being admonished after entering into Canaan, we read these words of Joshua (Josh. 24:14-15):

“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua made clear the choice that was before the people. They could do things God’s way, or refuse to do them God’s way. They could stay true to the Lord or they could run with the world. And those options are always with us. Even today we are being asked to make the same choice.

True Worship or Idolatry

To help make this text relevant for us, I might paraphrase verse 15 this way: ‘But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of popular culture, or the gods of secular humanism, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

Our choices matter. That is true of Christians as well as non-Christians. We are not pre-programmed robots, but we are morally responsible agents who are able to make choices that will have wide-ranging consequences. The non-believer makes choices that have real consequences.

But so too the believer. And the most important choice in life has to do with whom we are going to serve. Dylan laid it out quite clearly. Here is part of what he said in his song:

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody (serve somebody)
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody (serve somebody)

Who is the god you serve? Is it the one true living God, or is it some false god, such as yourself? The god you serve will have very real consequences. Whom we choose to make Lord in our lives will have results — for good or ill. While we all make bad choices and all want to serve false gods, we can get things right — we can turn things around.


Coming to God through Christ in faith and repentance is the first and necessary step to starting to make right choices, and putting the real God back in His rightful place. All the mistakes and bad consequences of our past can then start to be dealt with.

And God is even able to make something good of our past bad choices, if we let Him. The famous passages in Joel come to mind here. In chapter 2, verse 25, we find these words:

 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.

Even though we may have lost so much due to our bad choices, God is able to restore things, and turn bad into good, if we allow Him. See more on this great promise here.

To help you get some hope in all this, let me share a passage I again read in my morning reading. It is a very familiar story, but it tells us that even the bad choices of humans can be used by God to bring about very good outcomes.

We know about Joseph and all that happened to him from the book of Genesis. The last 13 chapters of the book are all about the remarkable man. You know how he was betrayed by his own brothers: they wanted to kill him, but ended up selling him as a slave. Yet God was at work, and Joseph soon became a big cheese in Egypt, and helped to save the people of Israel.

That included saving his own evil brothers. And notice what we find recorded in Genesis 45:1-9. It says this:

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.

And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said,

“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.’”

Wow. Three times he says it was God who was behind all this. Even their evil intent to get rid of Joseph was something God was using for His own purposes. And it was not just the preservation of Israel that happened as a result of all this, but the continuation of a godly line that eventually led to the Messiah.

Yes, our choices really do matter, and our bad choices are something we are morally accountable for. And yet by God’s grace, He is able to bring good out of our wrong choices. As Joseph also told his brothers in Gen. 50:20:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Again, the evil the brothers were involved in was real evil, and they were responsible for the choices they had made. Yet God is able to weave the events of life into good outcomes. We may not always be aware of what good is coming out of the things happening to us, including the bad choices others make about us.

Yet God is still on the throne, and He is still working out His purposes. As Romans 8:28 so beautifully puts it,

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

This was certainly true of Joseph. He loved God, yet suffered all sorts of hardships and difficulties, including spending some years in prison in Egypt (see chapters 39-41). And the betrayals by his own brothers would have especially been hard to endure. But God was still able to redeem the various situations and transform them into something very good indeed.

The moral of the story is this: our choices are significant, and there will be consequences for our choices. But we are not left stuck in that situation. If God is put first in our life, we can see Him doing amazing things, even using the suffering and tribulations we are going through to have a good result.

Yes, we all have to serve someone. But it makes a really big difference whom we choose to serve.


Originally published at CultureWatch.
Image: Jacopo Pontormo, “Joseph in Egypt” (1515-1518)/Wikimedia Commons

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