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Gideon and the strange story of Sergeant Leo Major


Zwolle, Holland liberated during World War II in a Gideon-style victory. Photo: sicco2007/foter/CC BY-NC-ND

Zwolle, Holland liberated during World War II in a Gideon-style victory. Photo: sicco2007/foter/CC BY-NC-ND

[by Dean Smith] Sergeant Leo Major (1921 – 2008) served in the Canadian army during World War II and Korea. He served in the Regiment de la Chaudiere during World War II. Oddly, he accomplished something that in many ways resembles Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites in Judges 6 and 7.

In that account, God called Gideon to lead an army and drive the Midianites out of Israel. Gideon who was more coward than warrior, raised up an army of 22,000 men. But God said that was too many, so Gideon gave permission for any who were fearful to leave. Twelve thousand men left that same day.

But still that was still too many so God had Gideon take the men down to the water to drink. Gideon chose the men who cupped water in their hand to lap it out instead of kneeling down to the water and sucking it in (Judges 7:4-7). Gideon was now down to 300 men.

That night, each man was given a trumpet and a clay pot with a light in it. They were divided into three groups and surrounded the Midian camp. Simultaneously, all 300 sounded their trumpets and broke their pots, lighting staves, and began shouting “for the Lord and for Gideon.”

In the confusion that followed, the Midian soldiers poured out of their tents thinking they were being attacked and in the darkness turned on each other. The Midianite army then broke and fled (Judges 7:17-22).

Of course, most liberals have relegated this as a fable, but though the story of Sergeant Leo Major does not prove Gideon’s story, it shows the incident was entirely possible because it is strikingly similar to what happened in the battle to liberate the  Dutch village of Zwolle from the Germans during World War II.

But there are some differences. One, Leo Major was not coward. He won two Distinguished Conduct Medals, one of only three Canadians to receive a DCM in World War II. He is also the only Canadian to win a DCM in both World War II and the Korean conflict. The Canadian army awarded Major the first DCM in his Gideon-style victory.

Gideon on the other hand was a coward. Despite an angelic visitation, he still needed three signs from God (Judges 6:36-40) before he mustered enough nerve to lead the Israeli army in battle.

On April 13, 1945, Sergeant Major’s regiment approached the village of Zwolle with plans to drive the Germans out. At midnight, Major and another soldier volunteered to run a reconnaissance of the village and if possible make contact with the Dutch resistance. The Canadian regiment was planning to bombard the village the next morning.

A street was name after Sergeant Major in the Village of Zwolle. The sign reads: Leo Major Lane Canadian First Liberator of Zwolle (1921-2008)

A street was name after Sergeant Major in the Village of Zwolle. The sign reads: Leo Major Lane Canadian First Liberator of Zwolle (1921-2008)

As the two approached the village, the other soldier was killed, and Major proceeded on alone. As he entered Zwolle, the sergeant captured a German officer who being from Alsace also French. Discovering this, Major told the man the Canadian Regiment would attack that morning in force and then let the officer go.

Major then ran through the streets of Zwolle randomly firing his machine gun and throwing grenades. He did this several times through the night. The Germans believed the Canadian regiment was attacking and this was probably confirmed by the released German officer.

Through the night, Major also captured several German soldiers and took them to the Canadian soldiers stationed outside the village waiting orders to attack. He re-armed and returned to the village firing his machine gun and throwing grenades.

At 4:30 in the morning, thinking they were losing the battle, the Germans withdrew from the village and crossed over to the other side of the River Ijssel.

The next morning the Canadian army liberated Zwolle without a fight and intact.

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