Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #216
November 11, 2018
Bom dia! I am pleased to announce that we will hold a “super reunion” of all the early Brazilian missions—meaning basically all missionaries who receive the Brasulista—at Orem, UT, at next April General Conference time, probably on the Thursday before conference. This will include an afternoon of visiting, break-out sessions for mission president groups, and fine Brazilian food, followed by an evening chapel session. More details will be forthcoming. Please spread the word and plan to attend. We have planned these super reunions every three years and have had some wonderful experiences.
In this issue:
Missionaries served God and country in WWII
Mission calls to Georgia, Massachusetts, and Portugal
Missionaries served God and country in WWII
NOTE: Dear Elders and Sisters, As I write this it is Veterans Day weekend. I would like to share a memorial account regarding missionaries who served in Brazil at the time the USA entered WWII. This is service information I compiled in 2010 when I wrote this account.
Missionaries served God and country in WWII
Brothers and sisters, I am not an historian. I write newsletters. But I hear some pretty good stories along the way, and enjoy sharing them. Please recognize that what I am about to share is incomplete and inadequate, but worth telling. It is about some of the missionaries who served in Brazil before World War II and some of what they did after their missions. I want you to hear their names. We honor them today by remembering who they were and the sacrifices they made for God and Country. You will recall that the Brazilian Mission was organized in 1935.
Six years ago (2004) I stood on Corcovado Rock, overlooking Rio de Janeiro— at the foot of Brazil’s iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, the magnificent representation of the resurrected Christ, arms outstretched, the marks of atoning sacrifice in his hands.
In my tour group was Barlow Briggs, then a spry 86 years old, who had been a missionary in Brazil as a young man. He recalled how one Sunday after church he and his companion rode the Corcovado train up to admire the statue, which had been erected only 10 years before. The next day, he said, bold newspaper headlines announced “Guerra no Pacifico!”-- “War in the Pacific!” Pearl Harbor had been bombed that Sunday. No more young missionaries would be called to Brazil.
Barlow’s mission president, 39-year old J. Alden Bowers who had served a mission in Germany ten years earlier, was a reserve artillery captain in the U.S. Army. He was replaced five months later and went almost directly to Europe, never expecting to come back.
President Bowers and his replacement, 67-year old William Seegmiller, who became a caretaker mission president, counseled their young American missionaries to return to the U.S. and serve their country. Many, many did just that—returning and enlisting in the armed forces or reporting to their draft boards.
Barlow signed on for Marine Corps OCS and was commissioned a Naval Officer to train gun crews on ships. John Koch used his mission German language as an Army interrogator in France and Germany. Alma Kruger was a Sergeant in the Army infantry. Dick Platt shut down the Brazilian Mission in 1943 and served as a radio operator in the Air Force during the war. Mel Morris was an officer with the 7th Infantry Division and the Chemical Warfare Service, and later served during the Korean conflict.
Jim Imlay was a 2nd lieutenant in the Philippines. Levier Gardner served as bombardier and 2nd lieutenant in the Air Force during the war. Ferrel Bybee would win two bronze battle stars in the Army and Davis Grant would serve in WWII and Korea.
I don’t know many of their stories. Mostly just what a widow or family member tells me or an obituary mentions.
Esbee Orin Myler, one of the earliest Brazilian missionaries, was in the Army. Ellis Packer was in the Army. Quentin Andrus, Rulon Haacke and Howard Taylor joined the Navy. Ray Zenger was an Army officer. That’s all I know about their service.
Ross Christensen served in the European Theater in the Army. Norton Nixon served in both Europe and occupied Japan in the Army. Wayne Johnson fought in Italy alongside Brazilian troops and retired a lieutenant colonel. Ensign Grant A Fisher served on ships in the Pacific Theater.
Jim Asper served with the 10th Mountain Division and received the Brazilian Service Cross in 1951. Because he spoke Portuguese, Jack Turner was sent to Washington DC and then guarded President Roosevelt at Camp David. Franklin McKean was in occupied Japan and went on to become a 2-star general in the Army Reserves. Orson Pratt “Bud” Arnold enlisted in the Army Medical Corps and served 4 years at a disembarkation hospital.
Army soldier Wayne Call landed in Normandy six days after D-Day. Don Ashworth, also Army, entered the European Front at France on Omaha Beach the day after D-Day and went into Germany, and later served in Korea. Kenneth Boss served in the U.S. Air Force in the China, Burma and India Theater of the War. Howard Robinson was in Italy with the Army.
What impresses me was the courage of these men to serve God and then country, some at the cost of their own lives. David Herman Plewe was killed in action on January 6, 1945 in France. Arthur Carl Zollinger’s headstone says “Private, 161st Infantry, World War II.” He died on April 26, 1945.
While Dee Wilson was a missionary he lost his brother in the war, but Dee went on to serve in the Merchant Marines, as did LeGrand Forsyth and Ted Beck. Daniel B. Harrison was sought for his language skills and went back to Brazil to work for the U.S. Consul General. Nevertheless, he was drafted into the U. S. Army and served as a translator and interpreter during the war. Jack Tittensor was in Europe in the Army. Asael T. Sorensen landed at Normandy on D-Day plus two with the Army Intelligence Corps attached to Patton’s Third Army.
Some of these brothers instructed that they not be made to sound like war heroes at their funerals.
Willard Call served as a bombardier navigator during the war, and later as an intelligence officer during the Korean War and became an LDS Chaplain in the Army Reserves. Ralph Charles Gunn was selected to study Japanese and Military Intelligence at the University of Michigan and took part in the liberation of Europe and the occupation of Japan. John Rich enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941 and was a member of Carlson’s Raider Battalion in the South Pacific. Lynn Sorensen was a navigator and bombardier on a B-29 during the war.
Ted Benson served in Okinawa and with the Army of Occupation in Japan. Later he was Secretary to the Joint Brazil U.S Military Commission in Brazil and was awarded the Order of Military Merit by Brazil. In Vietnam he was a decorated Green Beret commander.
Roger Rose went into France after D-Day with the Army Signal Corps. Heber Stevenson was in Casablanca and followed Patton across Europe. Earl Norman Keate was an artillery and intelligence officer in Germany and France, and said the German language he learned in Brazil helped save his life during the war. Captain Max Shirts and 1st Lt. James Faust served in the Army Air Corps in Intelligence and were at New Orleans and Baltimore together. Lloyd Hicken piloted a B-24 Liberator on 27 bombing missions in the Pacific Theater from New Guinea to China.
You will recognize some of these names. As a rule, almost all of these men went on with lives of service to family, church and community.
Grant Bangerter was a U.S. Army Air Force pilot and training squadron commander. Major Calvin “Gail” Cragun flew 21 bombing missions as well as the Berlin Airlift and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Warren Cromar served in the South and Central Pacific theaters and was a Lieutenant Colonel when he died in 1953. Paul Harmon went to Harvard for officer training and served three years in the South Pacific in the Navy. Jay Smart was in the Army until the malaria he had contracted in Brazil returned. Lester Taylor served in the Air Force Intelligence Corps in the Azores during the war. Gerald Werrett enlisted in the Army Air Force and served during the war.
1st Lt. Hal Johnson was a bombardier on a B-24 and flew 43 missions in the South Pacific. Paul R. Merrell married and joined the Navy, earning five stars during many battles in the Pacific. Seth Alder served in the Coast Guard during the war, before returning to the Idaho ranch and a lifetime of church service.
Ralph Jones assisted in the war effort in translation and espionage investigations as a Special Agent of the FBI. Master Sergeant Warren Porter served in the Military Intelligence Service as a translator and interpreter for Brazilian army officers being trained in the United States.
“Bim” Holbrook served in the American Embassy in Brazil and in the Merchant Marines during the war. Jay Byron Hunt joined the Army and served in the Intelligence Service in Europe as a German-speaking prisoner-of-war interrogator. He rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves.
I honor these missionaries-turned-soldiers, most of them gone now. They served God and Country.
I spoke with Mirl Hymas last week. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was stationed at Recife when called into the Army Counterintelligence Corps. He served the rest of the war in Africa and India. Robert Scott tells me he was in Okinawa on the USS Pine Island, a Navy sea plane tender. Lee Anderson says he went to France with the Army Transportation Corps to bring home the troops by ship at the end of the war.
“When all is said and done,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2003, “we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. . . . This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy.”
Barlow Briggs’ generation proved that. God bless those who so serve today.
Note: I am indebted to Frederick S. and Frederick G. Williams for the list of names of those who served in Brazil pre-WWII, found in their book “From Acorn to Oak Tree,” Et Cetera, Et Cetera Graphics, 1987, pp. 363-366.
Mission calls to Georgia, Massachusetts, and Portugal
Senior Mission Calls
Elder Dick (BSM 61-64) and Sister Kay Silver of Frankfort, KY, write:
Alf, We responded to the need for a Portuguese-speaking couple in the Clear Springs Georgia Branch mentioned in Brasulista #214. We communicated with the Branch & Mission Presidents, and our electronic papers were completed last week Wednesday and forwarded to the Missionary Department in Salt Lake. We begin service the second week of November!
Alf’s note: The Clear Springs Branch is a Portuguese-speaking branch that serves six stakes in the greater Atlanta area. The Silver’s served senior missions in Mozambique (02-04) and again in 2006 as humanitarian missionaries. They have served in Luanda, Angola in a UNICEF immunization program. They have also served in Lexington, Kentucky, at the mission headquarters there in 2010. What a wonderful record of senior service!
Elder Cloyd Gatrell, MD, (SM 67-69) of Carlisle, PA and his wife Kathryn were hoping to serve a senior mission in Brazil, however after every effort it became impossible to get the special medication he uses into Brazil. He writes,
“Kathryn and I report to the Provo MTC 5 November to begin a 23-month mission in the Massachusetts Boston Mission as the Area Medical Advisor for the 8 missions in New England, New York and Eastern Canada. I am disappointed about not going back to Brazil, but Kathryn is greatly relieved that she does not have to learn Portuguese. There will still be a Brazilian aspect to the mission. There is a large Portuguese-speaking population in Boston, including a Portuguese Branch. As you later reported in Brasulista #214, when our call papers came, we learned that Fotio Mavromatis, the new President of the Massachusetts Boston Mission, and his wife are both Brazilian! We have since found out that President and Sister Mavromatis are dear friends of the Antonio Kogiaridis family Elder John Mencl and I had helped teach and baptize in Curitiba in early 1968. I was reunited with the Kogiaridis family during the 2007 Brazil Tour, as you related in Brasulista #93, and the Church News published as “Missionary Moments: Fruits of the Seeds” on May 17, 2008. The family then invited us back in 2008 for the dedication of the Curitiba Temple. We don’t know exactly why we are going to Boston, but we are excited, and know that it has something to do with Brazil and/or Portuguese. Cloyd Gatrell, MD”
Alf’s note: Don’t miss this account:
Alf’s note: I served in the Brazilian South Mission with David Marriott (62-65), and after the mission, in 1968, met him and his bride to be, Neill, when they took me out to dinner at a Virginia restaurant—one of the Marriott family restaurants—arriving to find a packed waiting area. One minute later came the announcement, “Mr. Marriott, your table is ready.” David said, “I hate it when they do that.”
David and Neill would raise a family of 11 children in Salt Lake City where he made his own successful business. I visited with them in São Paulo when they presided over the Brazil SP Interlagos Mission (02-05). I still carry in my scriptures the funeral program of their daughter Georgia who died in an accident at college in 2002 while they were serving in São Paulo. The program shares Georgia’s wonderful testimony.
You know Sister Neill Marriott as a counselor in the General Young Women Presidency (2013-18) and trusted representative of the Church in some important issues of religious liberty and fairness. I received this note from David recently:
Alf, Neill and I have been called to serve as YSA specialists in the Lisbon Portugal Mission for 23 months starting in January 2019. We will be there when the Lisbon temple opens, which is going to be exciting. Thought you would want to know. Abraço, David Marriott” (email@example.com)
Alf: This is a great church with such wonderful people! The pictures of the Lisbon Temple, under construction, remind me of the Curitiba Temple in design.
My comments here are anecdotal, based only on my own observations. I learned at the Madrid Temple a few years ago that the saints of Portugal are that temple’s most faithful caravan patrons, bringing their own officiators to help with sessions, as requested. Portugal has a total population of less than 11 million, but they note that there are a million Portuguese living in Paris and other large numbers of Portuguese live in many diverse regions around the world, some a result of Portuguese explorations and colonization in the last 600 years, and some because of more recent migration, such as to Massachusetts.
That’s all for now, folks. Happy Thanksgiving.
Um abraço, Alf Gunn * Brazilian South Mission 62-65 Gig Harbor, WA