When World War II in Europe ended with the German surrender in May, 1945, the United States and its allies turned their full attention to the continuing war against Japan. The logistical challenges were immense–several million servicemen and -women then in Europe, and all their arms and other equipment and supplies, had to be reorganized and moved to the Pacific in preparation for the invasion of Japan, then planned for November 1945. The military established several camps, designated “staging areas,” near European ports, where men and materiel were gathered, reorganized, and loaded onto ships for transport. Three of those staging areas were located near Marseille, France, and were known as the Arles, St. Victoret and Calas Staging Areas.
The Calas Staging Area
President Hugh B. Brown of the British Mission, who had served throughout the war as LDS servicemen’s coordinator in Europe, recognized the opportunity presented by these large gatherings of soldiers, and traveled to the continent to hold conferences for LDS soldiers. On August 5, 1945, he was at the Calas Staging Area, where three meetings–one for each of the staging areas–were held.
Notices were posted, and LDS men and women from those three areas gathered at Calas for the conference. They seem to have ignored the instructions that separate meetings would be held for each area–they arrived as soon as they could hitch a ride to Calas, and stayed as late as they could. Many of them attended all three meetings.
Staff Sergeant Calvin G. Clyde was appointed secretary for the Arles Staging Area LDS group. He kept minutes of the last of the three meetings held by President Brown on August 5, and included in those minutes a list of every man and woman at the meeting–listing their names, ranks, unit, APO number and priesthood office held. He also kept minutes of the later meetings of the Arles Staging Area LDS group–but those are the subject of another post.
One soldier who attended those meetings later wrote of them: “Highlight of the time spent here was the LDS conference in Marseille. Pres. Hugh B. Brown was the main speaker at each of the three meetings held. It is impossible to describe the good feeling and the spirit which was at these meetings. For many of us it was our first contact with men of our own faith since leaving the States. Stanley Kartchner from home was there, so the two of us had a wonderful time exchanging home news between meetings.”1
MINUTES OF LATTER-DAY-SAINT SERVICES
Held at the Arles Staging Area
(near Marseille, France)
Minutes of the L.D.S. Conference Session held at the Calas Staging Area on August 5, 1945.
The meeting was called to order at 20:35. Bro. Irvin Nydegger conducted the services with President Hugh B. Brown presiding.
The opening song was “We are all Enlisted”2 after which Bro. Delbert Barney opened the meeting with prayer.
The second song was “Redeemer of Israel.” Bro. Spencer Madsen then addressed the congregation for a few minutes. After a vocal solo–“The Lord’s Prayer”–by Bro. Scott Thorn accompanied by Bro. Bennett, Bro. Alma Whipple spoke a few minutes. The next speaker was Bro. John L. Riley, after which a double quartet from the Arles area sang “Sweet is the Work.”
President Hugh B. Brown occupied the remainder of the time with an inspirational sermon. The closing song was “Oh, Say What is Truth.”
Bro. William McKay closed the meeting (concluding session of conference) with prayer.
Bro. Bennett was organist.
Bro. Calvin Clyde was secretary.
A roll of those attending the conference session (total – 105) is here.
- Eliot A. Butler Journal, Entry covering period 18 May 1945 to September 25, 1945. [↩]
- I suspect that not all of the soldiers were happy to be enlisted until “the conflict [was] o’er.” They had followed the news of the Japanese resistance at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and many feared that the war might not be over for two or three more years. They of course had no way of knowing that even as they were meeting near Marseille, the Enola Gay was approaching Hiroshima. The atomic bombing of that city and of Nagasaki three days later brought the war to a much speedier end than any of those men in Marseille would have expected. [↩]