Thursday, June 10, 2010

Letter to Pastors - June 11, 2010

June 11, 2010
Dear Preachers:
In our Holy Bible, which we would not have, had it not been for the Jews, we read in Psalm 72:16, “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.”
Lebanon [leb ‘a-non; white, from the snow on its peaks,] the loftiest and best known mountain range of Syria, forming the northern boundary of Palestine, is really just a branch running southward from the Caucasus, and at its lower end forking into two parallel ranges—the eastern, or Anti-Lebanon, and the western, or Lebanon proper.
The Mountain chain of Lebanon begins at the great valley connecting the Mediterranean with the plain of Hamath ["the entrance of Hamath," Numbers 34:8] and runs southwest till it sinks into the plain of Acre and the low hills of Galilee.
This past week, Preachers, Jonathan Magas and I stood at an observation post, and were briefed by an IDF Colonel and Major, whose full time jobs are that of Liaison Officers from the IDF to the UN "buffer force" there to keep the peace between the Jews of Israel and Hizballah of Lebanon.
Lebanon’s extreme length, Preachers, is 110, and the average breadth at its base about 20 miles. Its average height is from 6,000 to 8,000 feet; the highest peak — Jebel Mukhmel— is about 10,200, and the Sannin about 9000 feet.
Most generally the highest peaks are covered with ice and snow, and the line of cultivation usually reaches to the height of about six thousand feet. In the Mountain recesses wild beast range, as of old [2 Kings 14:9]. At the Hanita Museum the other day, Jonathan Magas and I took pictures of a Leopard’s hide hanging therein.
Lebanon’s climate varies greatly. In the plain of Dan, at the source of the Jordan River, the heat and vegetation are almost tropical.
The coast along the western base of Lebanon, though very sultry during the summer months, is not unhealthy.
The sea breeze setting in in the evening keeps the night comparatively cool, and the air is dry and free from malaria, about which Mark Twain wrote when he visited Palestine in the mid 1800's.
The plains around Damascus used to be called Coele-Syria; and there on occasion, snow falls, sometimes as much as eight inches deep.
The original Lebanese were independent, warlike tribes, some of whom Joshua conquered near Lake Merom [Joshua 11:2-18]. They were said to have been of Phoenician stock as 1 Kings 5 implies.
Farther north were the Hivites [Judges 3:3], the Giblites, and Arkites. The Israelites never completely subdued them, but the Phoenicians appear to have had them under their power, as they supplied themselves and Solomon with timber from their forests [1 Kings 5 and Ezekiel 27].
In the fourth century B.C. the whole country was incorporated with the country or kingdom of the Seleucidae. Today, ancient Phoenicia’s influence is still seen among the inhabitants.
Several years ago, Preachers, it was this man’s privilege to make the acquaintance of Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Woody Williams. Woody was a "Flame-thrower-operator" in the invasion of Iwo Jima.
In World War II, the Japanese called it Volcano Island because of Mt. Suribachi, and it was valueless— except to an invader hammering at the gates of Imperial Nippon.
Sitting on the little Island in 1945 was a little brown man, a Lieutenant General in the Imperial Japanese Army and his name was Tadamichi Kuribayashi.
Kuribayashi had a protuberant, soft little belly and a round head—and unfortunately for the United States Marines, that soft little belly was full of fighting spirit and the round head contained the hardest tactical brain Americans would ever meet in World War II.
Therefore, Kuribayashi would sit atop the volcano and watch the tides of the Pacific War, but he knew the US raced toward his island during the winter of 1945.

Volcano Island—Iwo Jima—lay athwart the main bomber route form the Marianas to Tokyo. Beneath its bleak exterior nestled the largest concentration of anti-aircraft artillery in the Japanese empire, and from its two completed air strips "angry Zero fighters" rose to intercept the long range B-29s then winging in on their homeland, and to harass and kill the unfortunate cripples limping back from the aerial battles to the north.
Its radar stations beamed early warning to the home isles. Because of it, thousands of American airmen were dying.
Kuribayashi commanded 23,000 first-class troops—all the island could maintain—crowded the island called a "waterless waste."
Guns Kuribayashi had in profusion—from 50mm knee mortars to huge 320mm monsters. He had eight-inch rockets and five AT battalions.
Kuribayashi had more than American Intelligence dreamed that he had. In addition, he knew his island. His men, said, not as a joke, that if a certain hole made by a rat were mentioned, Tadamichi Kuribayashi knew its location.
Discipline Kuribayashi understood. The troops were given no time to brood on this cheerless place. Day and night, they were occupied, digging, digging, digging.
Volcanic ash mixed well with cement to form its superior concrete. Every gun, every rifle pit, all places of combat, on Volcano Island were placed beneath the surface of the earth.
Men who saw it later, after the war, or after the battle, said no similar area of the earth’s surface was ever equally fortified.
Kuribayashi's mimeographed copy of Courageous Battle Vows were posted in each position where fighting would be:

Above all, we dedicate ourselves to the defense of this island...
We shall infiltrate into the midst of the enemy and annihilate him...
Each man will make it his duty to kill ten of the enemy before dying...
Until we are destroyed to the last man, we shall kill the enemy.
On February 16th, 1945, great gray American Battleships rose out of the mist off Volcano Island, lifted their 14 and 16 inch rifles, and with a noise out of hell, slammed monstrous projectiles over and into the long rollers smashing against the barren lava.
For three whole days — the 16th, the 17th, the 18th — they fired while Kuribayashi and his men waited safe in the bowels of Iwo Jima.
When it was 6:40 AM, on February 19th, 1945, one half hour before dawn, ten thousand assault troops from the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions were in their AmTracs, running with the tide, 30 minute's time from the narrow beaches of southeastern Iwo Jima.
While the Marines came in, in the AmTracs, they nodded to each other and agreed that the "gods of war" had given them a break. It was the only break that they would get for the next thirty-six days.
More than 80,000 men were in the Fifth Amphibious Corps, the largest Marine force ever sent into action, and they felt that Iwo could be quickly overrun, albeit with high casualties.

Lt. Gen. Kuribayashi made only one mistake in that battle, and that was failing to fire on those first Marines, allowing them to gain a foothold on Iwo Jima.
Marine Intelligence had erred badly. They had predicted firm sands, but the entire beach and island beyond was loose, coarse volcanic ash. Men sank in to their knees and tracked vehicles bogged down, moving only with difficulty.
As I said the other day, to an IDF General, a Colonel, a Major, and a Captain, "Were I an IDF officer I’d study the battle of Iwo Jima particularly," to learn what the IDF needs do about the Hizballah enemy they face behind the UN buffer in Southern Lebanon.
May God Almighty grant those young officers special doses of wisdom to be students of warfare, so that they can learn what to do to minimize the casualties among the Sons of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and King David when this up-coming fracas kicks off.
The General looked me in the eye, hugged me, and said, "Pastor Vineyard, when this thing starts, you come, and you can be here with me!" I am planning to go!

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