Robert L. Backman-World War ll

Drafted on June 10, 1944, Robert was assigned to the Forty-third Division in the Anny after it had taken severe losses. This future General Authority served as a Latter-day Saint group leader during the war.

I did not know how many Latter-day Saints there were in the Forty-third Division. I had no way of finding out from my position. One day the chief chaplain of that division, a Catholic, came to our particular sector and visited. His assis¬≠tant was a Latter-day Saint from Salt Lake City, Keith Wallace. I told him I had been appointed a group leader and did not know if there were any Latter-day Saints in the group. Keith arranged for me to meet with the chaplain who said, “Let’s find out. I’ll help you organize a meeting so your people can have their religious service that they need to have.” That dear man really helped us. He publicized the meeting throughout the division, reporting that there would be an LDS service held on Easter morning at the rear command post. Easter morning came, I did not know what to expect, how many men we would have, or if anybody would come. I arrived at the rear command post and found a bombed-out house. The only thing standing were the walls. But it gave us a little bit of privacy. I scrounged some ammunition boxes and formed a pulpit and sacrament table from those. I found some spent shell casings and some little wild flowers that had survived all the battles, and set them up for a little bit of atmosphere. We had a field organ, which I played. I had to use my knees to pump it to make any music. I waited impatiently to see how many would come.

Then the trucks started coming in. By the time we had our service, there were about fifty Latter-day Saint young men there. They had come directly from combat and their fox¬≠holes. They were dirty and unshaven. They had their combat gear, ammunition belts, canteens, steel helmets, and their rifles. They got off those trucks and rather than have them carry their weapons inside the house, we had them stack them outside the walls. They sat on their steel helmets, because that was the only thing they had to sit on. We enjoyed one of the most spiritual services I have ever attended in my life. Some of those men had not been in a Latter-day Saint service since they left home. A number of them had gone astray. I will never forget, as we partook of the sacrament, the priests knelt at the table and could not get through the prayers because they were so emotional about it. I watched some of the men who acted as deacons, tears coursing down their cheeks as they passed the sacrament in our mess gear to the congregation and those receiving it feeling the same spirit, tears in their eyes. After singing some hymns, praying, and partaking of the sacrament, we turned it into a testimony meeting. I do not know when I have heard more fervent testimonies. Men who on the spot repented of things they had done and said, “This is going to change my life just by having this association, singing these songs and feeling this fellowship, and renewing my covenants with the Lord.” It was one of those experiences I will never forget. I think that was the highlight of anything that happened to me in the war.

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