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The Ebb and Flow of Time

U 995, Marinemuseum in Laboe bei Kiel

U 995, Marinemuseum in Laboe bei Kiel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am somewhat of a WWII history buff, mostly interested in aviation on the one hand and the submarine struggle on the other. I know that is a weird combination, but hey, consider the source. I am particularly interested in the U-Boat offensive that the Germans launched against the British, and later, American shipping. I am utterly fascinated by how just a different decision here, a changed emphasis there, and the war could have ended with a completely different result.

Consider Admiral Doenitz‘s request at the outset of the war against England that he be given 300 U-Boats. He wanted 100 on their battle stations, 100 in their ports being repaired or refitted, and 100 in transit, either on their way to their battle stations or returning home. At the outset of the war he had far fewer than 100, many of those were not battle ready, and Hitler had no intention of taking resources away from his surface navy or from Goering’s air force. Mistake number 1.

Or consider the design of the U-Boat. Technically, it was far superior to anything the allies had, but it was still just a “submersible” surface craft, with greatly reduced underwater speed and limited battery life. However, German technicians had the capability of building a true “submarine” that could stay underwater for significant lengths of time and at speeds that could outrun any British or American surface warship. Had Hitler decided to pursue these later designs, and produced them in significant numbers, the results would have been catastrophic for the allies. Mistake number 2.

Three, consider the invention and deployment of radar. At the beginning of WWII radar was in its infancy, but British and American designers worked feverishly to both reduce the size and also increase the power of radar units. The result was that radar equipment could be installed not only on small surface vessels such as destroyers, but also in airplanes. German U-Boat commanders could not figure out how a destroyer could pop out of a fog bank bearing down on them at full speed with guns blazing. Or, how in the middle of a pitch dark night a bomber could train a spot light on them and then attack mercilessly. Doenitz had been warned that such electronics were possible, but he was convinced that with the low profile of the U-Boats, radar would be ineffective. It took increasing losses and the urgent pleading of his surviving commanders to press for more elaborate counter-measures, which only allowed the U-Boats to dive sooner. They often survived, but their effectiveness was greatly curtailed.

So, if Hitler had listened to Doenitz, if the Germans had invested heavily in the newer submarines, if Doenitz and his technicians had been more open to the idea that the allies had greatly improved the radar technology, how different would the war have been? No one knows, no one can know. Hitler was, among many other things, a fool. Doenitz, although a brilliant military leader, missed some critical information himself.

Time and circumstances ebb and flow. Ecclesiastes contains as much truth today as it ever did. There is nothing new under the sun. There is a time and place for everything. Nations come, and nations will go (even the United States!). Greater knowledge is only valuable until someone else out smarts you. Studying is a great weariness to the flesh.

Only one thing remains – to fear God and to honor his wisdom. Enjoy the life we were given, and quit worrying about the life that we have no idea what it would have looked like if it had been given to us. The past is dead and gone – the future is unseen. Worry changes nothing, so why do it?

I have often wondered if God had a special hand in protecting the world by helping the Germans make those wrong decisions. Just one different decision here or there and how much the world could have changed. But, time ebbs and flows, and our leaders today seem utterly bent on destroying what generations of our fathers and mothers built. Is God’s hand visible in the inexorable decline of the “American dream?” What will my daughter’s world look like 20, or 30 or 40 years from now?

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc. 12:13, ESV). Time ebbs, time flows. But God remains true and faithful. Let us put our trust in him.

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