Printer Friendly

Baptists in Arizona during World War II.

Arizona in 1941 had seventeen churches with 3,647 members in a state-with a total population of 510,000. "World War II brought tens of thousands of soldiers and airmen into Arizona to train for combat overseas. Between 1939 and 1945, nearly 150,000 Americans trained in Arizona.... The year-round mild weather was a prime factor.... The deserts of Southwest Arizona became a huge training ground for General George Patton's soldiers prior to the invasion of North Africa." (1)

Tucson and Phoenix both experienced spectacular growth which was a tremendous challenge to the small number of churches in the state. First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix, the oldest Southern Baptist congregation in the state, led the way in supporting the war effort. A new bulletin board went up just for information about service personnel. By 1944, "the number of members in military service had grown to ninety-nine, and church members had purchased $2,000 in war bonds to honor them, donors selecting individuals as a memorial." (2) Following the death of Pastor Vaughn Rock, letters from the servicemen were found among his personal papers along with a copy of the letter of encouragement he sent to each of them. On October 25, 1944, Wendell R. Hopkins sent a letter saying, "I received another copy of the church bulletin this morning ... and your personal letter. I do not believe your letter could have come at a more opportune time.... I am now serving my thirty-third month down here and am looking forward to a furlough home during the early part of next year." (3)

Mrs. Ed (Mary) Cain wrote telling of her recollections of First Southern Baptist Church of Tucson during World War II. She spoke of how she met Ed Cain who was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Corps Base at a church picnic: "Ed was in one of the three Squadrons to open Davis-Monthan Air Corps Base March 31, 1941.... All of the G.I.s who came to First Southern were invited to different homes for home cooked meals and fellowship every time they came to church.... In Europe, one of the members of First Southern wrote a letter stating the needs of children in the area where he was stationed. Our WMU led the church in supplying the need for children's clothing. Duffel bags were filled and sent." (4) On August 23, 1942, Mary and Ed were married in First Southern where they still attend.

After America entered the war, the Chinese government sent hundreds of air corps cadets to the United States for training, many coming to airfields in Arizona. The Chinese Center, sponsored by Central Baptist Church, Phoenix, became a real blessing to some of the Chinese military personnel. One of the Chinese officers later wrote to say that he had become an instructor in the Chinese Air Force somewhere in India, and it was his wish to make his cadets as happy as his Christian friends had made him while he was training in Arizona. On the Sunday following V-J Day, some Chinese who had never come before attended Sunday School at Central Baptist Church. They indicated that they wanted to come where there would be prayers of thanks to the God who had brought victory.

In a book detailing the 100-year history of First Baptist Church (Northern) of Phoenix, its records show that their December 14, 1941, bulletin reported that workers were needed to make surgical dressings for the American Red Cross. The pastor wrote, "Mrs. Mattie Williams has kept in touch with our men in service. Homes have been opened to servicemen from nearby training fields." (5) On Easter in April 1944, a dinner was given for all men and women in the military following the morning service.

Marie Faust Faver wrote that "during World War II, the WMU of our church, First Southern Baptist Church of Buckeye, Arizona, would send `goodie' boxes to the servicemen of our church. On one occasion during that time, we were also preparing for Vacation Bible School (VBS). My mother, Ida Faust, was involved in both of these projects. She made cookies for the `goodie' boxes and my sister, Evalyne Faust Brabbin, went to see mother and tasted one of the cookies. She exclaimed, `These cookies are terrible' which really incensed Mother, and she wanted to know what was wrong with them. Evalyne replied that they were `as hard as rocks.' Then Mother recalled that back at VBS, a fellow worker had brought a sack of plaster of paris for a handicraft activity! Mother had inadvertently used plaster of paris instead of flour. Thankfully, the cookies were not added to the `goodie' boxes." (6)

A memorial service for Ida Faust's only son, Joseph David Faust, was held on May 20, 1945, at the Buckeye church. He was killed instantly in Januarys, 1945, when the Serpens on which he was serving was struck by a Japanese torpedo. The ship, loaded with ammunition, was totally destroyed. Of the crew of 189, only 2 survived. In Joseph's memory, the family presented a flag set (American and Christian) and four offering plates to their church.

First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale (then called Calvary Baptist Church) sent copies of the state Baptist paper to all their members serving in the war. In April 1945, seventeen men of the church gave a wiener roast (since steak was not available) at South Mountain Park. A soldier present, who was a native of one of the Pacific Islands, made a profession of faith. The Arizona Baptist Beacon (ABB) reported that a "Memorial Service honoring five sons who paid the supreme sacrifice for our liberties in the theaters of war was conducted at the Calvary Baptist Church of Glendale, Arizona, August 12, 1945." (7)

In 1942, Miss Elizabeth T. Watkins, missionary from Japan, was appointed by the Home Mission Board to work with Japanese in Arizona. These were Japanese Americans who were uprooted from their homes and property on the West Coast, since initially there had been fear of a Japanese invasion. In many cases, the people were given only forty-eight hours to settle all their affairs. Two of these relocation centers were in Arizona. Poston was along the Colorado River and eventually had a population of 18,000, becoming Arizona's third largest "city." The other was on the Gila River in the central part of the state.

Marry Masugago, in her recollections said, "Fewer than nine months after the stunning dawn attack on Pearl Harbor, more than one hundred thousand men, women, and children had been rounded up.... Located within Indian reservations, Poston and Gila River sites were barbed wire enclosures maintained by a small detachment of military police. (8)

In the summer of 1944, six young people from the Gila River relocation camp attended the Southern Baptist Camp near Prescott, Arizona. The ABB reported that "the six Japanese Intermediates ... proved a blessing to the camp. Our boys and girls delighted in fellowship with them." (9) Several churches underwrote the expenses of the Japanese children. First Southern of Phoenix sponsored a Sunday School at Poston; fifteen to thirty attended each week.

Ira Hamilton Hayes was born in Sacaton, Arizona, in 1923, on the Pima Indian Reservation between Phoenix and Tucson. He enlisted in the Marines at nineteen and was in the initial assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945. Joe Rosenthal, in late February, took a photograph of five marines and a navy corpsman as they raised the American flag on the top of Mount Suribachi. Ira Hayes is at the left in this picture. Three of the men survived the battle and were shipped home to promote war bond drives. Unable to cope with this and expressing a deep sense of guilt that he had survived and so many others did not, Hayes started to drink heavily, dying of exposure at thirty-three on January 24, 1955. A memorial park, named in his honor, is located just a few miles from where Ira was born.

Sara Cook Bernal, his niece, lives near the park. In speaking of him, she called him a reluctant hero who only wanted to be left alone. In 1939, the C. F. (Frank) Fraziers were appointed as full-time missionaries to the Pima Indians where he pastored the First Pima Baptist Church of Sacaton. Through the influence of this well-loved Baptist preacher, the Hayes Family presented the flag from Ira's coffin to the Arizona Baptist Archives.


(1.) Marshall Trimble, Arizona: A Cavalcade of History (Tucson: Treasure Chest Publications, 1989), 294.

(2.) Ralph T. Bryan, A History of First Southern Baptist Church, Phoenix, Arizona 1921-1996 (Phoenix: First Southern Baptist Church, 1996), 25.

(3.) Letter from Sgt. Wendell R. Hopkins to Dr. C. Vaughn Rock, October 25, 1944.

(4.) Letter from Mrs. Ed (Mary) Cain to Nelda Kent, February 2001.

(5.) Earl Zimmerman, ed., First Baptist Church Phoenix, Arizona: 100-Year History, October, 1983.

(6.) Letter from Marie Faust Faver to Nelda Kent, March 4, 2001.

(7.) Arizona Baptist Beacon 6 (August 30, 1945), 6

(8.) Anne Hodges Morgan and Rennard Strickland, ed., Arizona Memories (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1984), 267.

(9.) Arizona Baptist Beacon 5 (August 24, 1944), 12.

Nelda Kent is curator/archivist Arizona Baptist Archives, Phoenix, Arizona.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Baptist History and Heritage Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Kent, Nelda
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Geographic Code:1U8AZ
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Previous Article:Alabama Baptists and the Second World War.
Next Article:Baptists, music, and World War II.

Related Articles
Patterns of Canadian Baptist life in the twentieth century: Baptists in Canada met in the summer of 1900 in Winnipeg to organize an all-Canada Union.
Another way of being a Christian in France: a century of Baptist implantation: France is the largest country of Western Europe. Its cultural...
Japanese Baptists' compromise with nationalism in 1941: the historical ancestors of Japanese Baptists were the defenders of religious liberty....
Pilgrims through the years: the bicentennial of First Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia: an overview.
Freedom for and freedom from: Baptists, religious liberty, and World War II.
Signs of peace and sanity: Baptist women and World War II.
Baptists in Florida during World War II (1).
Alabama Baptists and the Second World War.
The American Baptist Publication Society chapel cars on the western frontier of faith.
Fellowship in the gospel: Scottish Baptists and their relationships with other Baptist churches, 1900 to 1945: Scottish Baptists began the twentieth...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters