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Church leader salutes World War II hero

Former POW was never bitter

On an occasion when heroes were honored, President Thomas S. Monson, former national board member of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, paid tribute Feb. 19 to an outstanding hero of his acquaintance, A.C. "Ace" Christensen.

Brother Christensen of the Elwood Ward, Tremonton Utah Stake, was among an assortment of honorees recognized by the foundation's Utah Chapter at its annual National Awards Luncheon in Salt Lake City. He and other local citizens spearheaded the construction of a monument at Midland Square in the center of Tremonton, Utah, to honor the area's military veterans. (See Church News, Aug. 25, 2001.) The project received the foundation's National Meritorious Award for Special Events.

In remarks at the beginning of the luncheon program, President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, reminisced that he received a request from Doris Christensen to come to Tremonton on Aug. 18, 2001, to dedicate the monument, where her husband, Ace, would be master of ceremonies.

"I read a little of Ace Christensen's biography and told her if necessary I'd walk to Tremonton to pay tribute to a real hero himself," President Monson said.

"He was in the worst possible place to be when World War II broke out — Bataan," he said. "He was taken prisoner and put in a prison camp in the Philippines for maybe a year and then crowded in the hold of a freighter with 999 other prisoners under terrible conditions, an unmarked ship. American submarines were sinking them, not knowing they were carrying prisoners on our side."

Brother Christensen spent another three-plus years as a prisoner in Japan, President Monson said. Under those trying conditions, he would trade items provided by the Red Cross for fish heads as a source of protein, he said.

But Ace Christensen never became bitter, President Monson noted. He came back alive, true to the prediction of the patriarch of the family who died just before his return. "What was particularly heroic is that a few years later, he and his wife, as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were called to go to Osaka, Japan, to teach people what they believe. Former enemies were now brothers and sisters."

To his friend, he said, "So Ace, I'll be seeing you when you step up here, and I'll give you a good Navy salute."

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