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Jay Brady: “Let Us Pray”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 10, 2012

This letter was written by non-Mormon Kitty Gwendoline Padfield Sumpster (1898-1994) to Elder Norman Dunn (1882-1960), then president of the Birmingham District and holder of many other responsible positions; it is dated 14 April 1946.

Dear Mr. Dunn,

You will probably be surprised to hear from me again. I have had rather a guilty feeling because I never answered the kind letter you wrote me last September in reply to mine asking if I should be in order in taking Sacrament at Ravenslea [the Church’s London headquarters]. Unfortunately, owing to your change of address and delay in post, your letter did not reach me until the day after the visit to Ravenslea, so I did not feel justified in partaking on that occasion. However, I have a very real plan, if I am still well and able, to pay a round of visits to my “adopted sons” in America in several years time; so when I spend some time in Utah I shall avail myself of the opportunity then afforded.

Had I met you in your Church when I paid either of my visits, I had intended to tell you the following true story; but perhaps it will come even better in this form, as I should undoubtedly have been handicapped in my telling by the presence of the hero of the story, Jay Brady [of Sanpete County, Utah; inducted in March, 1943; still living, so he won’t be further identified here]. He is a very modest lad, and would probably have made every effort to side-track me. Remembering your “Five Minute Stories” in Sunday School, I wondered if you would like to use this for the help and encouragement of your little community, which must now be feeling the loss of many vital young lads who have returned to their homes in America.

The story, as I know it, begins back in September, 1943, when the Camp near our home was given over to American troops. The Minister of our Church here had worked very untiringly for the British troops who formerly occupied the camp, and in common with many other families from the Church we had regularly invited several soldiers to tea on Sundays. When the Americans arrived our Minister contacted their Chaplain (a truly splendid young Christian) and before many weeks we were once more expecting “Soldiers to tea,” only this time I felt even more trepidation than usual over offering the very humble hospitality which was all I could afford. When my sixteen-year-old son finally said, “Here they are,” I felt dreadful! However, I opened the door to two very nice boys, one of whom, Jay, was even shyer than the other, and that was saying something. Thinking to set them at ease, I hurried tea along, and, of course, “No tea,” and even “No coffee,” and the reason quietly proffered that it was against his religious principles. (Anyway, it cleared that difficulty up for him for all time in my home, for he never was offered such a drink after that.)

The topic then turned to where their far-off homes were situated, and I at once recognized Utah as the home of the Mormons, and discovered Jay was of that community. At the time it certainly was not at all a recommendation in my eyes. But I was, nevertheless, very favourably impressed by a twenty-year-old lad who had the courage to declare his principles so uncompromisingly to complete strangers in a foreign land. Throughout the whole time he was in England he was the only Latter-day Saint in all that camp, so he had his battles to fight single handed, except for the growing sympathy and understanding which he engendered in fellow-Christians.

But I’m a long time getting to my story, for, so far, I expect you can duplicate this in the lives of many of your Church members. The following is what impressed me as moral courage of a very high order:

The boys were Glider Troops, and, as such, were trained to fight and exist in small isolated groups. Their Chaplain was very much alive to the fact that once they were in action he would probably be unable to maintain regular contact with all groups. So he decided to organize “Company Fellowships,” and one member of the “Airborne Christian Council” in each company was appointed as “Sky Pilot,” to organize Company Fellowships in his own company. Jay was on furlough in Scotland when this decision w as reached, and he returned to find himself faced with this big responsibility. I believe he did feel a little dismayed, but he prayed about it (perhaps I should say I prayed about it, too)and he took on this great task. Now it was left to each Sky Pilot to make this proposed weekly Company Fellowship known to his Company in the way he thought fit. Most of the boys were content with posting notices on the Company Notice Boards, and hoping for the best. Not so Jay. He sought permission to address the Company after one of the usual Saturday morning gatherings when the officer of the Company addressed the men on their forthcoming schedule of work and such-like Company matters. The officer concerned was not a Christian, but he had a respect for Pfc. Brady, and agreed to his request to put the matter to the men at the conclusion of the normal Saturday morning proceedings. At the appointed time, young Jay walked out to the front and commenced his announcement with the words: “Let us pray,” and there and then led that whole company, of all denominations – but mainly pagans – in prayer. Then he announced the formation of the Company Fellowship, and asked the co-operation of all. Can you believe the strength of character that was required to quietly lead those men in prayer on such an occasion? It must have been quite a shock to a vast number of those men to find themselves all unwittingly in the presence of praying men.

I heard a very modest account of this from Jay when he came over to spend the week-end a few hours later, but it wasn’t until I saw the Chaplain that I learned all the details, and learned what a profound impression had been made on the Chaplain, by what he called “The best piece of work which had been done at the Camp.”

That Company Fellowship lived on from that day in March, 1943, until the regiment went home to America in December, and must have been a source of help and consolation to many. All the time the boys were on the Continent those meetings were held whenever circumstances made them possible, and it has occasionally been my happy privilege to furnish the substance for the talk, when conditions have made it impossible for Jay to prepare very much himself. I have counted it a rare privilege to be able to help in a small way sometimes.

After hearing this story, you will readily understand why I was always ready to help Jay to visit his Church on the very few occasions when it was possible for him to do so. I wrote, at the time, and told Jay’s mother of this incident, but in her sheltered little Rocky Mountain valley, where practically everyone is a real Christian, I don’t think he realised at all what it cost her son to say those few words: “Let us pray.”

Now Jay is back home in Utah again, and is completing his interrupted education in Brigham Young University. My prayers go with him, that he may continue strong in faith and courage throughout his life on earth. Perhaps one day in the distant future, when I have paid that hoped-for visit to the States, I can send you another five minute talk about the man who has grown from the lad of1943.

Please excuse the typewriting, and my unskillful use of the typewriter, but I am minding the Minister’s two tiny sons while his wife attends evening service, and the chance to tell my story tonight was too good a chance to be missed.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

(Mrs.) KITTY G. SUMPSTER

[Mrs. Sumpster did make her trip to America in the summer of 1954, traveling aboard the Queen Elizabeth.]



9 Comments »

  1. I presume that the “December” in which the regiment “went home to America” would have been 1945, since they wouldn’t have been “on the continent” until June 1944 at the earliest.

    Most of the American airborne troops in World War II were parachutists, but there were two glider infantry regiments, the 325th GIR and the 327th GIR, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division, respectively. The men would be loaded into a glider which was towed to the battle zone by a transport plane, usually a C47 (a DC3 in civilian life). The gliders were slow and unarmored and landing them presented substantial challenges–finding a field large enough, avoiding trees, buildings, lakes and rivers, enemy fire and other gliders also looking for a spot to land.

    So, the risks were high and so were the casualties. I can imagine many of those soldiers praying as they went into battle.

    The only hints about the location of the glider infantry regiments in England places them just outside Leicester. I don’t know if that is close enough to Manchester (about 90 miles) to have put it within the Manchester Conference.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 10, 2012 @ 8:15 am

  2. my “adopted sons” in America

    My children are all still at home so I can only imagine the feelings of gratitude Brady’s mother and other mothers must have felt on realizing that their sons were among friendly and helpful people in England.

    Comment by Amy T — September 10, 2012 @ 9:03 am

  3. Great story. Is there a date? Obviously sometime between 1946 and 1954.

    Comment by The Other Clark — September 10, 2012 @ 9:57 am

  4. A bit more sleuthing places Jay Brady in the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment. It turns out that a lack of transport meant that they landed with the 4th Infantry Division on Utah Beach, rather than landing in their gliders behind enemy lines. That didn’t mean that their time in Normandy was easy–they suffered substantial numbers of casualties during the nearly two months of that campaign.

    They did take to their gliders in the Market Garden operation, the ill-planned and poorly executed attempt to establish a bridgehead over the lower Rhine River in September 1944. Ultimately the assault failed and the Allies withdrew, suffering heavy casualties. After 73 days in continuous combat, the 327th were relieved, only to be sent to Bastogne during the Battle of Bulge in December 1944. There they held the southern sector of the defensive perimeter, and helped keep that important road junction out of German hands despite being surrounded for several days.

    Finally, the 327th was involved in the final assault across the Rhine in Germany in March 1945.

    That sounds like enough fighting to last a lifetime!

    On a completely different note, “sky pilot” is slang for chaplain. I don’t know if it was back in 1944 when the chaplain made Jay Brady and others “sky pilots.” For some of us who did not serve in the military, we learned the term from this 1968 song by Eric Burdon and the Animals.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 10, 2012 @ 10:08 am

  5. Whoops! I meant to mention the date — April 14, 1946 — in the intro line. I’ll go back and add that. Thanks, TOClark.

    Fun, Mark B.! Thanks for that glimpse into what Jay Brady was going to endure after the moments described in Mrs. Sumpster’s letter.

    There’s a motherliness that comes out in this letter that persuades us she really did look after “her adopted sons,” Amy, no?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 10, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  6. Sounds like the 327th Glider Regiment’s WWII campaigns paralleled that of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of Band of Brothers fame. That would have been a tough future to face, but of course unknown to Jay Brady and his companions at the time. Nice story about quietly influencing others through our service.

    Comment by kevinf — September 10, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  7. Since the 327th GIR and the 506th PIR were both part of the 101st Airborne Division, that’s rather to be expected, I think.

    The one major detour: the 506th PIR dropped into Normandy just after midnight on the morning June 6, 1944, whereas the 327th GIR, due to the lack of transport as I mentioned above, came ashore at Utah Beach on the afternoon of that same day. If there had been sufficient C47s and gliders, I suspect that the 327th would have had the same tough experiences that the parachute infantry had in that nighttime drop–ending up scattered over a wide area, suffering heavy casualties just from the landing itself, including drowning in the flooded Merderet River, etc. It wasn’t long, though, before they joined up with the other regiments of the 101st.

    And, you’re right, kevinf, about the tough future that faced them. Of course, they weren’t alone–the 1st, 29th and 4th Infantry divisions, which also landed on D-Day–the first two on Omaha Beach–were also in combat for a substantial part of the following 11 months, and all suffered heavy casualties.

    Finally, Mrs. Sumpster’s letter and Amy T.’s comment remind us that not all of the GI’s in England during the war fit the famed stereotype–”overpaid, oversexed and over here.”

    Comment by Mark B. — September 10, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

  8. What a wonderful example of how living the gospel is the best form of sharing the gospel.

    I don’t mean to downplay how important it is to actively give out Book of Mormons, go tracting, pray for missionary experiences, etc. However, in my experience, quietly living my life in accordance with the gospel and sharing the church as the part of my life the it is, has been much more effective than trying to act like a “missionary.”

    I have had eight close friends (including spouses) join the church. In each case, I shared my involvement in the church as a part of talking about my life, but with no expectation that they would join the church because I did so. I have many more friends who know more about the church because of our friendship, but have never taken a single discussion. I found being open about how I am and the role the gospel has played in shaping me, and then waiting to be approached has been the best way to make and keep friends, and have those that are searching feel that they can come to me, when they are ready.

    I always love stories about people who take a softer approach to missionary work, because I think it both shows the best about the gospel, and allows people to approach it when or if they are ready to learn more. Thank to Jay Bardy, and all the other brave soldiers who served their country, and their god, at the same time!

    Comment by Julia — September 10, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

  9. As he is still living, I wonder if Jay Brady knows about this post?

    And hurrah for another mention of Ravenslea :-)

    Comment by Anne (U.K.) — September 18, 2012 @ 3:55 am

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