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                           JOE’S ARMY DAYS


“I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. — and He doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”  Daniel 4:2, 35

There are variations; take my enlistment as a draftee.  I was not a volunteer, yet I was willing to be taken in.  I offered no resistance in the sense of flag burning or contempt for my draft card.  There may have been a bit of hedging and stalling because at the time there was a flood of advice and much proffered counsel.

The opinion of the Defense Administration, from the angle of security was that the young men of the nation were the foundation upon which the “Ends of the world” were obviously resting.  There was much to be sorted and organized in the avalanche of instruction and directives which engulfed us.

“But Daniel purposed in his heart—.” Daniel 1:8.  In 1942 Adventist young men were in general, men with tender conscience.  We wanted to bear up the standards of righteousness, and we yearned to honor our Lord and Savior.  Many of us had been taught well in Christian Schools.  We were strong on the idea that God gives us the right to choose for ourselves.  But, suddenly the “Philistines” were upon us and our options now seemed restricted, to say the least.

Somehow during those stressful times in the bewilderment of relating to an unwelcome situation, there were some general guidelines which became vital to us as we secured ourselves to the needed anchor point.

(1)If my Heavenly Father indicated that the Army was where I should be, I had best accept His assignment and learn to like it.

(2)As a Christian, I was to submit myself as a conscientious objector, not to bear arms.  This was a tough one for me to understand and accept, it still is.  From the present viewpoint, I am satisfied it was the best choice for me, everything considered.

(3)Then there was Sabbath observance, which I had been led to believe was not impossible, even in the Army.  In my young mind the case was settled; there were no pro’s and con’s, but it did have me worried.  This problem loomed greater than any other.  Either I would prove up or I would become a hopeless failure.  I may have been taking too long a look at my own meager resources, in time I would begin to understand.  My apprehensions were mostly unwarranted, and that’s the focal point.

God is great beyond the elastic limits of our created concepts.  He is omnipotent, He is omniscient, and He is everywhere.  He knows us by our names, the hairs on our heads are numbered.  We each stand before Him as individuals directly responsible to Him.  His character and His laws are as eternal as He is.  It is the very nature of these attributes that makes eternity all it is.

Amazingly, nothing in all of its vastness is stereotyped.  No two of us ever returned from military service with identical reports.  Each of God’s children has been programmed, motivated, and reached fulfillment by a totally different pattern.  Our trajectories across the stage of time and distance have never followed precisely the same route.  Apparently some come through unscathed, while others have faced the most horrendous problems.

In all the Middle East from Iran across to Turkey, south through Lebanon, Syria, TransJordan, and of course in Egypt and Palestine, we had an estimated 1,000 Seventh-Day-Adventists.  Moslems had fixed concepts and were firmly set in their ways.  The essence of the gospel found slight acceptance in a world so thoroughly absorbed in the physical and the carnal.

God knows who and where His servants are, and the Holy Spirit has power beyond what we can add or detract.  He still penetrates the hearts of men, as He has done in the past.  He spent three full weeks on an especially important case - one of His “Shepherds” who was also described as “anointed”.  Isaiah 44 and 45, also Daniel 10:13

I became well acquainted with a young man and his wife, my age group, who arrived in Cairo while I was there .  They settled in a fourth floor apartment just a short walk from the Adventist Auditorium in the suburb of Heliopolis.  Their home became a spiritual haven for Adventist Soldiers representing Allied Forces from far-flung countries.

Sabbath Services were unique.  While our “Auditorium” was nice and well appointed, its size and our numbers were modest.  Compared to long lines at cinema ticket booths, our congregation was anything but impressive.  But, we were one in spirit and in truth.

Bob Tretheway, our Sabbath School Superintendent, was a soldier from New Zealand.  I represented the United States Army, and between us were men from South Africa, England, and others, with more soldiers form Australia than any other country represented.

The Sabbath problem was really shaping up for me.  As I saw it, I would soon be taking my stand for God’s Holy Day, come whatever.  I would do everything right, and not procrastinate to the last moment.  I would instigate and act out this momentous drama.  Another life or death struggle was about to dominate my world.

Then came the bombshell!  Early one morning as we were standing in chow line, the raucous announcement blared over the PA, “All Seventh-Day-Adventists report to the company commander, right after breakfast.”  Now what?  I no longer saw myself as the aggressor.

Captain Catalano was telling us where we stood.  We would be issued our Sabbath passes.  We would report for KP duty on Sundays.  We would be in Basic Training for only eight weeks which was as far as his responsibility extended.  He again emphasized the importance of saluting the commissioned officers and keeping our uniforms properly buttoned.  He advised us where we could get transportation to town.  His manner was clear, simple, and almost casual.

Fifty-one years ago is distant.  That morning there were three of us, and there may have been a fourth.  That God’s Spirit was present cannot be denied.  William Voss was from Oklahoma, Lester Hudman was from New Mexico, and I was from Oregon.

Not one of us could possibly resent what we had just heard.  We were all reassured; we found ourselves liking our captain.  How could it have been any other way?  I was back at my own level, learning to follow the best captain, my own Heavenly Father.


We could thank our Church Leaders for all our efforts to smooth they way for it’s young men.  We could appreciate the positive impressions of our young Adventists who had preceded us.  We were grateful for our country, the great United States of America.

In true military tradition, the commanding officer must have the final word.  Captain Catalano offered the closing remark, “When you boys get into actual combat you will likely not receive these considerations.”  We could all understand that.  The dark cloud still obscured the distance, and that horizon could not be too far away.  My apprehensions were not entirely sublimated, so I continued to worry.

My next stop was at Fort Bliss, above El Paso, Texas.  Here I faced the commanding officer alone.  From this point on, I would usually be alone as a Sabbath keeper.  At Fort Bliss I went through channels.  The Sergeant wore a smirk as he escorted me to the captain.  Captain Omohundro had not faced this problem before.  He would let me know after discussing it with his superior.

The captain came personally to look me up later that day.  His attitude could only be taken as kindness and consideration.  In his opinion, this Army stuff was at best tough.  He had no desire to make a hard situation even worse and said that any time I wanted to go to church on Saturday, he would sign my pass.  He seemed pleased that he could do it.

Memories of those days keep flashing back, instant replay.  My four or five months in El Paso stand out as happy ones.  Lawrence Clifford was there, just being inducted, after recently being married.  Lawrence had a favorite observation, “You can’t get ice cream any more.  The government froze it.”

His sister Hazel was also in town that winter.  They both remembered me from the year before when we had been students at Union College in Nebraska.  Like her brother, Hazel was a genuine and nice person.  They represented the Lone Star State in the grand manner.

Others who knew the blessings of God’s Sabbath were scattered across the camp and around Beaumont General Hospital.  Doctor Page was there commissioned as captain.  The pair I remember best was Claude Smeed and Orville Hilscher.  A complete list from this point of time would be a problem.

At Fort Bliss I finally knew what service I was really in.  Still in the Medical Department, I was described as “Veterinary” service.  This subdivision was split into “Animal Care”, and of all thing, “Food Inspection”.  By Army definition I was qualified for either type of service, and I was still listed 1-AO.  Great!

Sometime preceding the vernal equinox, our cadre boarded a Southern Pacific train.  There were at least twenty-five cars as we were cautiously drawn out of town.  After clearing the rail yards, we headed boldly into the sagebrush toward the west.  It was fascinating to catch an occasional glimpse of the two big steamers.

There were twelve, possibly fifteen of us plus officers in our car.  One of our group had been carried bodily into the car by his close buddies.  He was thoroughly drunk, really stoned out.  I had never been addicted, and was thankful then, and still am.  I can easily understand how inevitable it could have been.  Except for special grace from God and our faith in Him, we are the victims of circumstances.

True, some will maintain that it’s otherwise, but often that contention is only for the sake of argument.  We are born into a sinful environment with sinful tendencies.  In all fairness, it should be added; none of us was given a choice of birthday, or of parentage.  Christ can break the bonds.  He can make the difference, and he wants to do that.

By this time I knew I was forming a positive attachment to other members of our group, and realized some of the soldiers had like feelings toward me.  Any normal person can sense that.  We all knew what lay ahead; somewhere beyond the sunset there was a staging area and our port of embarkation.  We knew why we were going.

We knew what equipment we had crated and shipped along with us.  We were Veterinary Aid Men.  Out there in the Pacific, no doubt, was a big mountainous island.  The Army would use pack mules to transport supplies, probably many miles.  We would watch for sick ones and attend the injured.  One of our men, Gene, always anticipated the answers.  He said this one had to be New Britain.

Gene Ramero had become a good friend of mine.  On one occasion at Fort Bliss, he confronted Sergeant Clarke.  Gene, unknown to me, had volunteered to walk my post.  There was simply no sense to Clarke’s way of doing things.  If my conscience balked at carrying a rifle, what would be gained by insisting I do it.  After all, what are friends for?  Clarke cooled off, considerably.

We laid over at Camp Stoneman, adjacent to Pittsburg, California.  There were immediate changes.  I never knew all the details, I did not need to know.  To some of our officers, and some enlisted men, a conscientious objector was a weak link in any plan to subdue the Japanese.

I was admitted to the base hospital for a hernia which I never knew I had.  There followed a long convalescence with later waiting it out in the casual center.  There would be reassignment.  Under this order of things, there would be no Sabbath problems, except an occasional hassle.  I attended church in the nearby town of Antioch.

Sometimes I think it was a clever play by our officers to eliminate the conscientious objector.  My cadre went on without me.  The last I heard, they were somewhere in Australia awaiting further orders.

1943 was the year, it must have been early May, when a large number of us were marched aboard an old ferryboat.  Could it have been the “Catalina”?  We went for an evening cruise down the river.  During the night we debarked and were directed up a long, steep incline.  We were packing both of our barracks bags as I now recall.

In the dim, fuzzy light it was difficult to discern what we could see at the distant and remote top.  An indescribable something was there in the eerie darkness.  It absolutely dwarfed the warehouse on the dock.

The Nieuw Amsterdam, while not to be compared with the Queens, Mary and Elizabeth, was huge and by any standard she had been palatial.  She was still quite new, possibly six or seven years old.  However, she had been converted to a troop transport.

In the morning we lay at anchor, way off south of the Long Bay Bridge.  That afternoon it was “destination unknown”.  We glided past Alcatraz, beneath the great suspension span, and through the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean.

I have never heard an authoritative estimate of the number of humans on that crowded sailing, but as enlisted men we were akin to herded cattle.  No doubt the large number of officers at least had a token of amenities.  Women in uniform were also in evidence, mostly Army Nurses.  Seven or eight thousand people aboard would have probably been a conservative guess.

After a week, it seemed there was no end of all that water.  There was no sign of land.  Only once did we sight a distant freighter.  We were apparently uninhibited by any threat of submarines or of any enemy aircraft, we traveled alone.  Our liner was throbbing at full steam ahead.

Daily and consistently, our clocks were retarded one half hour.  On the thirteenth day we spotted a snowcapped mountain.  A bit confusing at first, it sure looked like Mount Hood in Oregon.  Actually, we were approaching New Zealand.  Two weeks earlier it had been Spring, now we were well on into the Fall.  If granted a rerun, my choice would just have to be New Zealand.

But, “Remember the Sabbath Day”.  I have since been impressed by global maps that the South Pacific is literally plastered with islands.  How vast the ocean has to be!  Only one Sabbath was possible during that short, yet long interval.

At some time in thirteen days of extended light, an entire twenty-four hours was dropped from our calendar.  On a Friday night I went to sleep, and do you know, the next morning was Sunday!  No, I did not attend church, but in my own spirit I remembered my precious seventh day.  Subsequently, I went back to following the calendar.  This was a packed troop ship, if there were other Sabbath keepers aboard, I never knew it.

After a full month, we were some where on the southeast portion of the Indian Ocean.  Several days had lapsed since we watched the Port of Freemantle vanish behind us.  During this passage we were escorted, often by a British destroyer.  Sometimes a plane circled overhead, some times we had both.  Our ship occasionally would change course, but forever she continued plowing ahead with determination.

At times there was practice firing of our anti-aircraft guns.  Our huge vessel fairly bristled with them.  Our ultimate destination was revealed to us before we reached Colombo.  Our code, EGB - 402 - AAA, indicated we would as a group remain on this ship all the way back to the land of summer.  We would disembark in Egypt - the Nile, the Delta, the Pyramids, and the expansive deserts.  What next?

Our voyage to Suez had spanned forty-one days.  The harbor was shallow, so our great liner dropped anchor miles from land, was our impression.  She looked proud and grand as I turned for a last view, a distant and lingering farewell.

I must of necessity cut the account short, but what a climax!  This is a story of Sabbath blessings.  I fear its final narrative will be discredited by some because it seems so incredible, but I know it really happened.  I am not fanticizing or exaggerating.

Camp Russell B. Huckstep was our permanent U. S. Army Base near Cairo, Egypt.  (In this case “permanent” is only relative.)  At Huckstep there was a short two or three weeks until I received my first assignment as a soldier in wartime.

Following an overnight trip on a slow train, totally blacked out without even a subdued headlight, we arrived at Tel Litwinski, near the young and vigorously active city of Tel Aviv.  The country was still being identified as Palestine.  It was a year to the day since I had entered the Army Induction Center.

Finally I was introduced to my new Captain, William Sherwood.  Himself a veterinarian, he began to explain duties and general orientation.  He informed me that I was now a food inspector.  I was primed for the strategic moment, my Sabbath observance.

This was as close to battle zone as I would ever get.  Not too very long before, the Axis had been within sight of Alexandria.  What would the outcome be now that this threatening cloud rested so nearly overhead?  I felt I almost faltered; was I now doomed to failure?  This final test was everything in my estimation.  But, again as in the past, I never had a chance.

There existed all around me a reality, and my spiritual eyes were once again to be opened.  II Kings 6:17.  This surprise was all but sprung on me.  It was broad daylight and it was right there and then when I heard the captain continue, “Oh yes, Carr, get this straight, in this camp you report to regular duties on Sunday.  What’s that? “Saturday is our day off.  We all go to the beach or whatever — .”

It took me awhile for that to penetrate, but it was as he had said.  Large numbers of Jewish civilians were employed on the post, their Sabbath was thus recognized.  That was, of course, something of a trump for me.  (No, I am not a card player.)

I like to think that I hold truth in high regard.  I also admire people who are modest.  I simply state that for the next two and a half years I rode the crest of the wave in these ancient lands.

For one thing, I was an honored American GI, even privileged.  As a Food Inspector there were many different capacities, all intensely interesting and highly educational  There was extended travel on duty and ample time to improve the opportunities.

A small group of us were sent back to Fort Lewis in early January 1946.  Our C47 airplane landed in Seattle around 1:30 A.M.  We were in the same area where we had been inducted, but now we were being discharged.  Happy Day!

I had completed a trip all the way around the world.  If others who were present shared that record, they certainly made no fuss over the event.  As for me personally, I would never forget the guarantee of Isaiah 58, “If thou turn not away thy foot from the Sabbath, — I will cause thee to ride upon the high places”.

                             POST SCRIPT


Cairo was in wartime a crossroad of the world.  In every respect it was a melting pot of humanity.  Poverty and squalor abounded, professional beggars, and dirty children converged on us.  Native people seemed to swarm like insects.  There were refugees from Europe, and also detained alien citizens.

There were Allied Forces from every quarter of the “Free World”.  There was espionage from those whom we were so determined to crush, and we had our own Secret Service and Intelligence activities.

In a spiritual sense, we were deep within the land of the enemy. Cairo had an international reputation as the city of sin.  There was a mighty strong current in the wrong direction with an open invitation to join the throngs.

We had first hand contact with the Mohammedan world, and were also prime targets of commercialism.  Egyptians had techniques peculiar to themselves, we found it nigh impossible to avoid their sales promotions.  At least we had an option; we could either join the crowd and learn to haggle over prices, or else we could go bankrupt - in a hurry!

At any rate, we would be out there buying; we were their potential customers.  It was a national pastime.  They would not be ignored, and they would not take no for an answer.  Their ideas of hospitality demanded that we participate.

Street hawkers pushed everything at us from French newspapers (and women) to rusty razor blades and second hand toothbrushes.  There were petty thieves and yes, there were pickpockets.  Natives were efficient beyond our wildest expectations.  They could easily pry open a trunk and steal the spare tire.

There were Christian Missions and Missionaries from all over.  They each represented a broad spectrum of countries and denominations, at least it appeared so.  In a way it spelled contradiction, but then MISR (pronounced “MUSRA”) would have to be different.  “MISR” was English equivalent of the Arabic name for Egypt.

The impression could easily be formed that, rather than going to every nation, “Every kindred and tongue” had zeroed in on Egypt.  This, of course, was my personal conclusion, not necessarily factual.  Still, such an approach could have been quite streamlined.

This world is full of enigmas.  Historically the Middle East is where Christianity had its conception and birth.  Thousands of years later in the very geography given prominence in Scriptures, a Christian Missionary could feel alone and isolated.  They were a minority and anything but popular.  Oh, we could be sought after for our loaves and fishes alright, but progress in gaining converts is slow.  It could amount to heartbreak, it was definitely up hill.  It requires real fortitude and faith to labor in those lands.

I repeat, the above are my own conclusions, they represent no organized research or reference to any statistics.  I can recall a number of encounters with some missionaries and feel my life has been thereby enriched.  Be they Catholic or Protestant, any effort to relieve the sick or to minister to the hungry carries high priority in the records of Heaven.  I would not forget the hospitals, schools, and other institutions that bear the Star of David, or the name of Hadassah.

Elijah was admitted straight into glory land, and John the Baptist was laid to rest.  Each has been granted a specific measure, and it must be added.  Our Heavenly Father’s paternal instincts (the term may be way off) are not reserved for nor limited to Seventh-Day-Adventists.  He cares for all His children and His invitation extends to “whosoever will.”

My first Sabbath as a G I was in the Induction Center at Fort Lewis, Washington.  Three of us had somehow found ourselves together.  We found the Post Chapel entrance unlocked, and walked into the otherwise empty building.  A light was shining through an open door at the far end, and the chaplain invited us into the room with “No problem boys, go right ahead.”  We sat in a corner and quietly worshiped on our Sabbath.

I remember most distinctly the smoldering cigar on the chaplain’s ashtray.  Our first encounter had not been nearly as rigid and impossible as I had envisioned.  In my wild imagination we met the adversary head on.  We had taken the bull by the horns and gained our objective.  At least some of the tension was relieved.  I was not bothered about how the other two had reacted.  I may have been a bit self-centered, perhaps even more so than I now suspect.

In August we arrived at the Medical Replacement Training Center in good old Camp Barkely a few miles south of Abilene, Texas.  Time and distance had melted away like the early dew on a hot summer day.  By now it seemed that Army life was all I had ever known, although a couple of short weeks was closer to reality.

The typical sermon was delivered in English with a translator standing by the minister spieling it off in French.  I had studied that language two years at Laurelwood Academy, but this close proximity was different!  In the right rear section of the congregation, a local resident would be voicing the same message in Arabic.  With all deference to the gift of tongues, this situation did provide another approach to the phenomenon.

Among their personal things, the Wilsons brought along a copy of the 1942 “Golden Cords” (Union College, Nebraska yearbook).  That was a thriller for me.  In the future this young man would become a President of our General Conference.  In the 1940's that thought never occurred to me.  He remains, our one living Ex-President.

While they cannot be expected to remember me all that well, I know I will never forget them.  I am forever grateful to them for their positive Christian influence.

Lester Kenline remembers them too.  He was stationed at the U.S. Air Base near Cairo.  We met at the Wilson’s home during the last few weeks before I sailed to New York.  Yes, we not attend the same Adventist Church, South Salem in the Oregon Conference.  We are a living link with the Heliopolis Commando.


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