Fifty years has not erased the memory of World War II from the minds of many Church members affected by the fighting.
Today they still speak different languages, live in different parts of the world and remember members of the military who fought on different sides of the battle field, but they have one thing in common – they know from experience the price mankind paid for peace.As a 5-year-old, John Clarke was sent with his English classmates away from their homes and the air raids that consistently shook Lowestoft, England, the coastal city where he lived.
"I remember being put on the train with all the school children," said Brother Clarke, now bishop of the Nuneaton Ward, Coventry England Stake. "Our mothers waved us goodbye not knowing if they would ever see us again. I don't know how they did that."
However, the living situation did not work and six months later he returned home, where he spent many hours during the remainder of the war in an air-raid shelter at his uncle's house.
Bishop Clarke is not sure that as a child he comprehended the full meaning of peace. "I understood the war was over and that there wouldn't be any more air raids," he explained. "We hoped there wouldn't be any more fathers lost in war." He also understood the excitement everyone around him personified. To celebrate both the Japanese and German surrenders he joined his neighbors at street parties with "lots of good eats."
However, at the same time in other parts of the world, the war's end brought mixed feelings to Church members who were not sure if a celebration was appropriate.
Heinz Rahde, an LDS soldier in the German army, did not attend any parties. He was on his way to guard Hitler's bunker when he heard that "all was lost" for the German army. The then 17-year-old and his buddies took off their German uniforms and went home to their mothers, he said.
Brother Rahde, now a member of the Holladay 27th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay South State, called the war's end "a sad joy."
"We stood in front of nothing," he explained. "What was in the past collapsed completely. We lived with kind of a desperate hope that everything would turn out OK."
Brother Rahde added that peace also brought good things to Germany. "What struck me and what stuck the young people the most was freedom. There was suddenly freedom we weren't aware we were missing."
Brother Rahde said it is impossible for anyone to understand what peace really means until they have gone through war. "War makes animals out of men," he said. "Peace transforms then back into human beings."
Daniel J. Auger, who fought with the U.S. Marine Corps, agrees. Underneath their uniforms, he said, there was no difference between the military members from all the countries involved in the war. They were all scared and they all had a prayer in their heart, he explained.
Brother Auger added that he will never forget the day news of the Japanese surrender reached Utah, where he was taking five-day leave to get married in the Logan
UtahT Temple. From the courthouse he watched the celebrations that rocked the American streets. Because of the news, Brother Auger had a hard time getting the clerk to sign his marriage paperwork.
"She was throwing everything; hats and newspaper. We finally got her settled down long enough to sign our papers," Brother Auger remembered. Now a member of the Rose Park 9th Ward, Salt Lake Rose Park Stake, Brother Auger called the celebrations a sharp contrast to the battles he saw in the South Pacific just a few months earlier. "I have never seen such destruction in all my life," he recalled. "It was just horrible."
Yukio Okada, who fought for his native Japan, was on the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean when he heard news of his country's surrender.
"At the bottom of my heart I felt a great relief, being anxious to go home," he recalled. "However, as we had been brainwashed into believing that Americans and Englishmen were savages, I had both a fear of being killed and a hope to go back home alive."
Brother Okada, now a member of the Maebashi Ward, Takasaki Japan Stake, was 20 years old at the time of the Japanese surrender. "It is regrettable that I spent my youth, which is the most important period in my life, quite meaninglessly. . . . The experience has remained to be a deep scar in my life," he said.
Like Brother Okada, many Church members say they still occasionally reflect on the scars they received as a result of World War II. And as they remember the events that took place during the war, they celebrate not only the peace treaties that ended the war, but also the peace that still remains in many parts of the world today.
Brother Okada said he believes the foundation of happiness for all mankind lies in peace.
"Because all kinds of strife stems from our heart, we must build a fortress of peace in our heart to bring happiness to mankind," he said. "It comes from the love of Christ."