L. Tom Perry Special Collections
During the Vietnam War, several general authorities of the LDS Church visited the land. Among them was Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, fifth from the left. In 1966, he dedicated the land of Vietnam for the preaching of the gospel. He later spoke in general conference about the "silver threads" of war and how God works to make good come even amidst the violence of military conflict.
Editor's note: This is an excerpt from "Saints at War: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Valor", published by Cedar Fort this month, which includes stories shared about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who served in the armed forces. Click here for more about the book.
One thing, talking about whether you had an influence or not, in the Navy … they had an officer's wine mess. And so there we were, with all of the war going on, and the battles going on, but the Navy still shipped in a wine mess. Each officer was allotted so much of wine or whatever, maybe it was whiskey, and beer. And so every month, we'd get an order of wine mess, and it would be picked up, and brought to the camp.
Well, I was the only Mormon. We used to keep landing craft pontoons. These are big six-foot steel cubes that were laced together and they'd put on the side of a ship, and the ship would go toward the beach, and before it got to the beach, you would cut these landing, well they weren't barges, but that's what they developed into, and the ship would turn around and move away, and the cubes that had been put together would float on into the beach, and they would be then stacked up, and they would be used as wharves, for when they were landing, to get some of the equipment off.
Anyways, we got one of those cubes, oh, and so they wanted me to take care of their whiskey. I got a cube — a six-foot cube, I cut a hole in the side, put a hasp and hinges on it, and I kept their whiskey, and I had the only key. I put the whiskey in there, so when they had time for their party or their drinking time, this was all after the island was secured, they'd go get me to come and open the door for them so they could get their whiskey. They got it, and then I locked it up again and kept the key. Anyway, they saw me. I was very good friends to them, and many of them came by to visit me after the war, in Phoenix. I kept contact with quite a few of them, have passed away now, but that was an interesting experience. How effective it was in bringing them to the gospel I'm not sure, but anyway, they did know the Mormon boy didn't need a drink.
H. Burke Peterson, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, went on to serve after the war as first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the LDS Church and as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.