While stationed at Marseilles, France, I received an assignment transferring me to London. I headed to London by way of Paris. I had a few days before I had to report to London, and while in Paris, I looked up Sherm Brinton, an M.D. working in a Paris hospital, and Tom Adams who was assigned to the Provost Marshal’s office in Paris. They both held the rank of Captain and were in charge of the LDS Servicemen’s Program in the Paris area. During a church service which I attended in Paris, it was announced that Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve was coming to Paris within a day or two with the assignment to reopen the European Missions. He had obtained permission from the proper authorities to do this. In addition, he planned to bring welfare aid to the members of the Church in Europe. My orders permitted me to stay in Paris long enough to meet him. I went out to Orley Field with a group of about a dozen servicemen to greet him. One can imagine the thrill this group of young servicemen received when they met and shook hands with an apostle of the Church, especially after having been away from home for a couple of years. Many had been away for two years or more and the only contact most of us had with the Church was reading the Church News and our own experiences in attending LDS services throughout Europe when circumstances permitted.
Shortly after meeting him, he told us that he was anxious to find a serviceman who could accompany him on his tour throughout Europe. He had been told by both civilian and military authorities that it would be very difficult for a civilian to arrange travel and housing accommodations in military zones throughout Europe. He had concluded it would be best to get a serviceman to accompany him. Neither Brother Adams nor Brother Brinton could make the necessary arrangements to go with him, and it appeared that no one would be able to aid him in his mission.
Then, someone suggested that I might be able to accompany him. I thought it seemed rather unrealistic that the army would cancel my orders assigning me to London in order to accompany a civilian throughout Europe.
Nevertheless, just the thought of being in Elder Benson’s company seemed a wonderful privilege so I applied for the assignment. I went to the Chaplain Corps Headquarters in Paris and said to one of the senior chaplains, “I would like to have permission to accompany an apostle from my Church on his tour of Europe to reopen the missions for the Mormon Church.”
“Chaplain, I have never heard of any such request being granted, but we will process your application anyway. But, it seems quite unlikely that military authorities will approve your request. Come back in a couple of days.”
In a couple of days I returned, and he said, “I’m sorry, Chaplain, but there has been no word on your request.”
With some concern I said, This Church leader is most anxious to leave as soon as possible. Who can I see at headquarters who has the authority to grant me permission or turn me down.” [sic]
“Well, you might inquire at the Adjutant General’s office of Army Command. I’m sure someone over there can give you an answer.”
I went to the Adjutant General’s office and found an officer who could approve or reject my request. I was escorted into his office, and he asked, “What can I do for you, Chaplain?”
“Sir, I made out an application requesting that I accompany Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Mormon Church on his mission throughout Europe.”
“I’m sorry, Chaplain, but I haven’t seen your application. What did you say was the name of that Church leader again?”
“Ezra Taft Benson.”
“That name strikes a familiar note. I think I have something on that man.” He pulled open his drawer and pulled out a folder. He looked through the correspondences and came to a letter. The letter came from the Chief of Staff of the Army of the United States, and it stated that Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve of the Mormon Church would be visiting throughout Europe and stated that any assistance that might be provided by any military command would be greatly appreciated. “Well, Chaplain, it looks like Mr. Benson is some sort of V.I.P. I think that this letter is enough of an authorization to grant your request. I’ll issue your orders immediately.”
I received orders to accompany Elder Benson and his secretary, Brother Fred Babbel. In Paris, we purchased an army vehicle and Brother Babbel and I drove the vehicle into Holland where we met Brother Cornelius Zappy, president of the Netherlands Mission. This vehicle was to later prove invaluable in distributing welfare supplies from Salt Lake to needy brothers and sisters in Holland.
Our next assignment took us to Geneva, Switzerland where we met with Brother Max Zimmer, president of the Swiss-Austrian Mission. Part of Elder Benson’s assignment in Switzerland was to get permission from the Red Cross officials for the Church to send carloads of food stuffs, blankets, clothing, and other supplies from America into Europe for the Saints. In Basel, Switzerland, Elder Benson assigned President Zimmer and myself to go to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with the Red Cross leaders. We went by train to Geneva and met with the proper officials. They immediately gave the Church permission to send its welfare supplies to Church members throughout Europe.
Following Switzerland, we headed into Germany. Germany had taken a terrible beating. Many of the cities were in rubble, and few buildings stood intact. Nevertheless, we met with the Saints in all parts of Germany including Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart and Berlin. We soon learned that the faith of the Saints was still strong as we went from one bombed-out city to another. Our Saints met in schoolhouses that had been bombed out and other places that one would have to go through rubble to get down to an area where a little group of Saints would be gathered in some cellar of a home or meeting place. It was touching to see their faith and their love for Elder Benson and their appreciation for his visit. Often the scenes were so touching that they brought tears to the eyes of Elder Benson when he saw the destruction and conditions of the people. Many meetings were held where there was not a dry eye as members rejoiced in hearing the message and in feeling the love emanating from the Lord’s special witness at long last in their midst. We learned from many of the Saints in Europe that the aid furnished by the Church often was the difference between life and death to many members of the Church. But the most unusual thing about it was that although the Saints were grateful for the goods that were coming into Europe, their joy and appreciation were not for goods, but for the joy of having an apostle of the Church on the scene in Europe. . . .
While traveling with Elder Benson, I observed his masterful way of handling people. It was a thrilling experience to see the ease with which he moved among people whether one came from a high position or a lowly station in life. Their class or station meant no differenced to him and he put them right at ease. For example, while in Frankfurt, Germany, we visited with the commanding general of the occupation force in southern Germany. The general had a huge office with all the pomp and pageantry to go with the position. But Elder Benson was completely at ease with him, and in command of the situation. He told the general what he needed to accomplish his task and the general gave him permission to do just as he wished.
It seemed that everything he tried to do worked, and an unseen power was helping him do what was needed to complete his mission, while others were unable to accomplish the things he could do.
Chaplain Howard C. Badger, For God and Country: Memorable Stories from the Lives of Mormon Chaplains, p152–156.