July 30, 2009 by Kristi Young
Some people have all the luck. Jennie Gwilliam Austin told the following story about her husband, Ray Gwilliam:
Ray “had finished his training and was just waiting for assignment overseas. He came home one night and said ‘I have orders to go to [the] Europe[an] theater tomorrow.’”So we packed up and got me a train ticket to go back to Utah. He went on base the next morning and had said goodbye and thought that he was leaving. He called and said ‘Have you heard the news? Today the war ended in Europe.’ And [it] looked like he didn’t have to go. So that was Victory Day in Europe–VE Day. I can’t remember the length of time between that and the next time he was assigned.
“We were transferred from Sioux City, Iowa to Monroe, Louisiana. He called and said ‘I’ve for orders to go to the Pacific. I’ll come home and we’ll pack and serve.’ We packed and bought a train ticket for me to go home and we said our prayers before we went to bed. I cried most of the night. He reported the next morning and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. The war ended in the Pacific today.’ So that was VJ day–Victory in Japan.” MSS 2350, No. 1404
V-J day was August 14, 1945.
June 26, 2009 by Kristi Young
Sgt. Charles W. Eastwood was in the army during World War II. His following experiences are part of the Veterans History Project at L. Tom Perry Special Collections:
“I had the privilege of attending Church services in a tent set up on the beach. We were few in number, coming from different units around the tent chapel, but we enjoyed having the wonderful privilege to partake of the Sacrament, and to sing the hymns of Zion. Assigning bretheren, or sisters (a couple of WACS from the army infirmary) to speak was difficult because we never knew when a unit would be deployed to another place of action. Testimonies were strong.”
Eastwood later in his account says, “The biggest scare I had happened while I was walking guard duty at the Signal Corps School in Oro Bay, New Guinea. I had just passed the makeshift morgue and was walking along a narrow path leading through deep jungle foilage when I heard the rustling of the bushes ahead of me. I lowered my rifle for quick use when a Wallaby jumped out of the shubbery and ran along the path ahead of me. Whew! What a relief! ” (MSS 2350, No. 1358).
May 26, 2009 by Kristi Young
Army Chaplain Charles “Harry” Washburn wanted a United States flag to display over a cemetery in Hamlein, Germany on the first Memorial Day following the surrender in Europe in 1945. However, there were no regimental sized flags readily available. So, Washburn commissioned a group of nuns to create an American flag. The flag was constructed from habits for the field of blue, muslin sheets for the stars and (against the nuns’ wishes) red fabric from a Nazi banner. In exchange for their services, Chaplain Washburn paid the nuns 20 pounds of sugar and 50 pounds of white flour for their efforts
May 6, 2009 by Kristi Young
D. Reed Jordan was assigned to the public relations section of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). He writes the following about May 7, 1945:
“We got word that the Germans were willing to meet our demands for an unconditional surrender shortly after midnight on May 7, 1945. I wrote Special Communique Eight, releasing this long-awaited news to the world. I had only a very short time. I realized I would never pass down another document that would mean so much to people worldwide….
“I was witness to the German signing of World War II surrender documents in the war room in SHAEF Forward Headquarters in Reims, France. It was 2:00 A.M. There were no reporters or photographers present. It took only fifteen minutes; there was no messing around. It was a time of joy, but also a time to lament the horrible suffering and loss of life and the appalling destruction of property. It had been a vast calamity. For my part in this ceremony, I was awarded the Bronze Star, a decoration usually reserved for men in combat.”–Saints at War, Edited by Robert C. Freeman and Dennis A. Wright.
The surrender went into effect on May 8, 1945 and there was literally dancing in the streets in London.
March 16, 2009 by Kristi Young
When we last left Richard Petit, he and his crew were trying to decide where they should land. Here is more on their adventure: There was slight chance of finding England beneath the clouds. If we went that direction, we would probably have to land in the ocean–if we escaped the German fighters
Off to the left we could see the tops of the Alps. Should we try for Switzerland?
To me, the plane commander, the best chance was to try for Switzerland. Even then, if we made it, we would probably be unable to find a suitable place to land because of the cloud cover, and that meant bailing out. We had done that once before, so I gave the crew a choice.
I called the crew and said, “If any of you men have appointments tonight, I don’t think we’re going to make it. By the way, should we crash land, or should we jump?”
I got a one hundred percent response: “Crash land!” We had jumped once before. They didn’t want to do it again. So, towards Switzerland we headed.
We didn’t know where the German-Swiss border was. We could see mountains off to our left, above the clouds. I headed for them, thinking that Switzerland was in that general direction. I had an outline map of Europe, but it didn’t show any national borders. I did see a peculiarly shaped lake in the general direction we wanted to go, however. Becaus the enemy fighters didn’t see us leave the formation, we were not attacked.
Suddenly an opening in the clouds appeared and that strange-shaped lake was visible. I had recognized it as being on the border of Germany and Switerland, so I headed for the far side of the lake and, still descending because of the engine problems, looked for a flat place to set down. I hoped that the snow on the ground would cushion our landing somewhat.
As we came down through the opening, a Swiss fighter picked us up and escorted us to a mini-size air field. We weren’ gliding, but we were underpowered. Two engines were not working right. The fighter led us to the field, but we knew we couldn’t make it from that approach angle because of the small size of the field. So we swung right and went between mountains, then came back around and in at a diagonal. It is a mystery that the Swiss fighter did not shoot us down, as the Swiss had others, when we did not follow orders and land at once. We knew we would have to take every foot of that open field to land. The co-pilot still insists that we took off a chimney from a house as we came in too low.
We landed on the snow, fences ahead of us and coming up fast. I cramped one brake and revved the outboard engine. That stops your forward motion. I skidded with the brakes and slid sideways into a ground loop, coming to a stop just a few feet from the fence.