Missionary moments: Earthly sojourn

A patriotic farm boy from Oklahoma was too young to join the military during World War I, so he waited until he was of age and joined the U.S. Navy after the war. Navy schooling gave Cliff East the opportunity to be educated in electrical communications. After completing his commitment to the Navy, he became a radio operator for the burgeoning U.S. airline industry.

Then, during World War II, the U.S. Army Air Corps began taking volunteers from the nation's commercial airlines. This released more pilots, navigators and radio operators to fly in action. The Oklahoman welcomed this opportunity to serve his country.

During the war, the Italian military moved its fighting front into Northern Africa. Carrying supplies over and bringing wounded servicemen home, Cliff East flew between Brazil and Africa. Later, the flight pattern was across the North Atlantic from New York to Greenland, Scotland and finally into Paris.

Cliff East experienced challenging, exciting and sobering times, including facing German submarines in the North Atlantic (supply planes flew unarmed; submarines on the surface could fire machine guns), landing a heavily loaded cargo plane amidst huge bomb craters on an air field in Paris, spotting a German submarine lying inside Boston harbor, and seeing St. Elmo's fire (a charge of electricity rolling along the plane's wings).

A pilot with whom Cliff East flew often shared how life's experiences are all part of the earthly sojourn. The radio operator, having been raised a Christian by good parents, became interested in the overall plan the pilot shared.

The war ended, and Cliff East returned to his work for the commercial airline, first in Arizona, then in Southern California. He became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1963. Years later, he discovered that the pilot who had shared his testimony during those flights was a cousin of his wife and lived in an adjoining city. There was a joyful reunion between Cliff East and Frank Hart. — Marla East Miles, Provo, Utah