Saints at War

Elder David B. Haight recommitted himself to God in a plane on the way to Pearl Harbor. Don C. Bloomfield had a near-death experience in a POW camp.

David B. Haight
As a young husband and father in his mid-thirties, David left his regular employment and accepted an officer’s commission in the Navy where he served for the duration of the war. Decades later, he was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The following incident took place on a troop airplane flying to Hawaii.

I believe that people have their roads to Damascus in different ways. That night on that plane was my road. I was assigned to attend an important conference at Admiral Chester Nimitz’s headquarters at Pearl Harbor.

My family took me to Treasure Island where I bid them goodbye and boarded an old Boeing Clipper for the flight to Hawaii.

San Francisco was under blackout and as we flew over the Golden Gate, I had some concern whether I’d be back to be with my family. The plane was filled with senior medical officers, assigned to the Pacific because of upcoming invasions. The bunks and seats were assigned to the senior officers, with the other officers taking what was available.

As a lieutenant commander I was considerably down the ladder in rank so I and others were given sleeping bags, and we slept in the tail of the plane.

I was where I could see the starboard engine of the plane through the window. It was spewing out so much fire that I thought it was on fire, which caused me some concern.

I wondered about my own commitment to the Lord. I had been involved in the corporate world and had spent a great deal of time working for success on business.

I wondered about my family–whether I would see them again.

As I lay awake through the night and prayed, I made a commitment to the Lord that if I got out of the war alive and back with my family that the Church would always come first in my life.

I shall always remember that long, sleepless night. Before then, it seemed to me that I didn’t have my priorities in proper order. That night I reappraised my life, and I recommitted myself to the Lord.

2001 Covenant Communications

Don C. Bloomfield
Don was stationed at Clark Field and served with MacArthur’s forces until the fall of Bataan. He spent the duration of the war as a POW. The following account is provided by his wife, Rosemary.

Prisoners of war taken by the Japanese suffered horrendous treatment at the hands of their captors, and Don was no exception. They had poor food and not enough of it. Their everyday fare was a type of Japanese “radish” made into watery soup with few nutrients in it, and if they were lucky, an occasional piece of fish. They had little, if any, medical care. Don had malaria several times, plus other health problems. They had inadequate clothing. They worked in extreme cold in a coal yard, shoveling and carrying coal in shoulder pole baskets. As an example of the inhumane treatment they suffered, prisoners on the voyage to Japan were crowded live livestock in the ship’s hold without any sanitary facilities, food, or water. Some men kept alive by drinking their own urine.

Upon his return to the United States, Don told of his near death experience. He had malaria and had been put in the “dead tent.” (The Japanese had two large tents, one for the sick men and one for the dead ones.) Don said his spirit had left his body and had gone to the other side, where he begged “those in charge” to let him return to life long enough to bring his body back to the States and be able to see his loved ones once more. The next thing he knew, he was walking out of the “dead tent.” The Japanese guard said to him, “What are you doing here? You’re dead.”

He replied, “I’m not dead.”

Because of the deprivation and disease, Don’s health was ruined, and he died a little over a year after he returned to the States, six weeks before our little daughter, Candace, was born.

Don never lost his testimony of the gospel. In one of his letters he asked that tithing be paid out of his paycheck. In another letter to his parents, he said of me (I was a Baptist at the time), “Someday we’ll be married in the temple. My blessing said in time I’d be married in the temple. So I will.” I did eventually join the Church, and Don and I were sealed with Don’s brother, Jay, standing in for him.

2001 Covenant Communications

Artur Schwiermann
As a sixteen-year-old member of the Church, Artur was drafted into the German Army and trained to serve in an antiaircraft unit. When the war ended, he was placed in a Soviet prison camp.

It took weeks before we arrived in Brest, a former Polish city occupied by the Russians, which had shifted their boundaries westward. Our camp was located on the outskirts of the city and consisted of a bare field surrounded by a wire fence and four observation towers equipped with searchlights and machine guns. For a place to sleep we dug holes, lined them with cement, and used burlap sacks as a cover. At the onset of winter, we were exposed to snow and ice which caused great misery. The kitchen was very primitive, but since our food did not require much preparation it did not matter. Three times a day we received soup, or in other words, warm water and a slice of bread. If we would have found a mouse in the soup it would have added at least some protein. The bread was handed out in loaves, and it was up to us to cut and divide it. After the bread was sliced, a blindfolded person called out our names while someone else pointed to the bread. That was our way of making sure that no one would be short-changed; still everybody felt he had received the smallest portion and had been cheated. There was no trust among the men, and friend would turn against friend for a crumb of bread. Since the only water in the well was typhoid infested, it was off limits. The Russians used this water only for the laundry. Instead of water, the prisoners received coffee. Not knowing that the Russian people were drinkers, the Americans had shipped enormous amounts of coffee to Russia. To the delight of the prisoners, the coffee was a daily treat except for me. I was determined to adhere to the Word of Wisdom. At night, I filled my canteen with the contaminated water and put my trust in the Lord.

2001 Covenant Communications

F. Keith Davis
Keith was ordained an elder before he was inducted into the Army, where he served from June 1943 to December 1945 under General Patton. After landing on Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion, he spent nine months on the front lines in Europe participating in the Battle of the Bulge.

I was present at the liberation of the Ohrdruf concentration camp. That was the first concentration camp liberated by the Allies on the Western Front. It was the camp that Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton came to view. It was covered in Life magazine. There were over three hundred Nazi concentrations camps in Germany. We entered the camp, and the Nazis had just machine-gunned many prisoners and had run before we got there. I took some pictures of the people who were gunned down; they did not even bleed. They were so thin from starvation that only a yellow substance drained out of the bullet holes.

There was one young German soldier (about my age of nineteen) hiding in a culvert under the roadway entrance. By that time, hundreds of American soldiers were in the camp (from all types of military outfits). The American soldiers were so mad at what they saw, they wanted to do away with that German soldier then and there. Someone took him away, I do not know where. He was the only Nazi soldier we saw at Ohrdruf.

Conditions at Ohrdruf were indescribable. I was only there for about three hours, but saw many things. Many barracks had no toilet facilities, and the one that did had only an outhouse-type hole in the middle of the room with no walls. In the large front yard/courtyard, they had dug a hole that looked like it was sixteen feet square. They had built a bench type seat around this hole, and the inmates were to go to this hole for a toilet. This had no walls or roof–hot in summer and cold in winter and open for all to see. The smell was awful. The people still alive I am sure died very soon. They wore striped pajama-looking clothes. Their faces were sunken in, and their eyes looked large. They were afraid of us at first, because they thought our new uniforms were only more trouble for them.

After leaving the concentration camp at Ohrdruf, we saw many thousands of concentration camp victims on the roads and highways. At first when we saw those people, we offered them our food. We found out too late that our food would kill them, as it was too rich. They needed soup-type food that was not hard on their systems. Many died after they were liberated because they were so weak.

2001 Covenant Communications

 

 


2001 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.