The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo by Walter Lord. Open Road Media (Reprint edition). 370 pages. 2017
I read this book after watching Christopher Nolan’s excellent film Dunkirk. This is a very detailed and well-researched (written source materials, more than 500 interviews) book. I appreciated the book, but some may get lost in all of the details.
The book tells the amazing story of approximately 400,000 Allied troops that were trapped against the coast near the French port of Dunkirk. Hitler’s advancing tanks were only ten miles away. On May 26, “Operation Dynamo” began. By June 4, more than 338,000 men had been evacuated safely to England in one of the great rescues of all time. It was a crucial turning point in World War II.
The book tells the reader the backstory of Dunkirk, and fills in the gaps that the movie viewers may have had. How did the troops get to the beach and into an evacuation situation in the first place? I read about the surrender of the Belgian Army, and the at times contentious relationship between the British and French.
There were many challenges in evacuating the troops across the English Channel to Dover. There was the difficulty of loading at water’s edge. Once loaded, the departing boats faced bombings from the air by the Germans, running into underwater mines or encountering German torpedo boats.
It was Captain Tennant who came up with the idea of using the eastern mole or breakwater of Dunkirk harbor as an improvised pier. A steady stream of destroyers, minesweepers, ferries, and other steamers would ease alongside the mole, load troops, and then head for England. Dinghies, rowboats, and launches would load at water’s edge and ferry the troops to small ships waiting offshore. These would then ferry the men to the growing fleet of destroyers, minesweepers, and packets lying still farther out. When filled, these would head for Dover. It was a practical, workable scheme, but it was also very slow.
The author writes about a mass of dots coming over the horizon that filled the sea on May 30. The dots were all heading toward Dunkirk. The “dots” were every kind of boat manned by regular British citizens, many without any navigational equipment or experienced captains. They were joining in the rescue effort for Operation Dynamo.
The author states that there were several miracles of Dunkirk.
- The weather. The English Channel is usually rough, and rarely behaves for very long. Yet a calm sea was essential to the evacuation, and during the nine days of Dunkirk the Channel was a millpond. He writes that “old-timers” still say they have never seen it so smooth.
- Hitler’s order of May 24, halting his tanks just as they were closing in for the kill.
- Another miracle was provided by the German bombers. The German planes rarely strafed the crowded beaches. They never used fragmentation bombs. They never attacked tempting targets like Dover or Ramsgate.
He writes that whatever the reasons, these lapses allowed additional thousands of men to come home.
Britain lost 2,472 guns and 63,879 vehicles were abandoned, but 224,686 men returned home safely. The rescue electrified the people of Britain, welded them together, gave them a sense of purpose that the war had previously lacked. The author writes about the sense of national participation that Dunkirk aroused.
When the evacuation began, Churchill thought 30,000 might be saved. In the end, over 338,000 were landed in England, with another 4,000 lifted to Cherbourg and other French ports still in Allied hands.
- Conversion: How God Creates a People. Kevin Halloran reviews Conversion: How God Creates a People by Michael Lawrence. He writes “My prayer is that this book would revolutionize churches. Pastors should consider reading it with elders and thinking through how to shape the church’s ministry and language around a biblical view of conversion. It might mean eternal life for many in their church.”
- Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids.David Murray writes “Of the books I’ve written, Exploring the Bible is the one I’m most excited about. My hope and dream is that through it many children will learn the holy life-long habit of daily Bible reading.”
- Book Review: The Art of Turning. Sean DeMars reviews Kevin DeYoung’s new book The Art of Turning. He writes “In just four chapters, DeYoung masterfully hits the high points of what the Bible says about conscience, as well as helping the Christian understand how to pursue a pure one.”
- Christianaudio Free Audiobook of the Month. This month’s free download from Christianaudio is a good one – Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman. Read my review of the book here.
- The Rise and Fall of the Christian Bookstore. Jonathan Merritt writes “These three developments — the purging of religious kitsch, better quality prose, and a greater diversity of ideas — means the loss for retailers is a gain for readers. Hallelujah.”
- The Reformation Wasn’t a Mistake. Stephen Nichols reviews Matthew Levering’s book Was the Reformation a Mistake? Why the Catholic Doctrine is Not Unbiblical. He writes “Levering’s book does succeed in showing these real and clear differences between Rome and those who follow in the Reformation traditions—which is to say, his book succeeds in showing that the Reformation is still necessary.”
- Popular Author Stumbles – What Should We Do With His Books? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper offers four observations to the question of what should we do with the books and sermons of those who, somewhere along the way, depart from biblical faithfulness in these and other serious ways?
- C.Sproul’s Awakening to the Christian Faith. Watch this less than two-minute video in which R.C. Sproul he recounts his conversion to the Christian faith that took place sixty years ago.
- New Tim Challies Podcast. My favorite blogger recently introduced a new podcast “The Art of Godliness”. The first episode is on conflict in the church.
- Protestant and Catholic: What’s the Difference? Kevin DeYoung writes “Should Catholics and Protestants treat each other decently and with respect? Of course. Will we labor side by side on important moral and social matters? Quite often. Can we find born-again Christians worshiping in Catholic churches? I’m sure. But are the disagreements between Protestants and Catholics, therefore, negligible? Hardly. The differences still exist, and they still matter.”
- Charles Spurgeon’s Unlikely Friend. Christine Hoover reviews Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on a Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey, about the story of the friendship between Spurgeon and a freed African-American man.
BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch. Baker Books. 224 pages. 2017
In this important new book, Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making, draws on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, and shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered. He takes readers beyond the typical questions of what, where, and when and instead challenges them to answer provocative questions like, Who do we want to be as a family? and How does our use of a particular technology move us closer or farther away from that goal? Anyone who has felt their family relationships suffer or their time slip away amid technology’s distractions will find in this book a path forward to reclaiming their real life in a world of devices.
Chapter 2: Shaping Space
- Fill the center of your life together—the literal center, the heart of your home, the place where you spend the most time together—with the things that reward creativity, relationship, and engagement. Push technology and cheap thrills to the edges; move deeper and more lasting things to the core.
- If you do only one thing in response to this book, I urge you to make it this: Find the room where your family spends the most time and ruthlessly eliminate the things that ask little of you and develop little in you.
- This is the central nudge of the tech-wise life: to make the place where we spend the most time the place where easy everywhere is hardest to find.