From John D. Nash,Retired Professor of History, Modesto Jr. College: My name is John D. Nash. I served with the LDS group in Pusan from early July 1953 until I rotated home in April 1954. My military assignment was to 704th CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) Detachment. It was a small unit assigned to Songdo, south of the city, facing the Sea of Japan. I arrived in Korea in May, spent two weeks in Taegu where I received a rudimentary training in reading and speaking the Korean language. I was assigned to POW Command HQ at K9 Air Force Base outside of Pusan. This was a short assignment, and then I was posted to Songdo-Pusan in late June. For the seven months I was in Pusan I had free access to a jeep, plus an interpreter. All this made it possible for me to be involved in the Servicemen's Group on a regular basis.
I cannot write everything in this note, but what I write, and the dates I use are based on the dates of several 35mm slides I took, plus the letters I wrote home. My mother saved them and gave them to me a few years ago. I did not keep a journal. A confirmation of some dates is found in some of the testimonies in Spencer and Shirley Palmer's book, "The Korean Saints". In 1997, I summarized my information, along with several documents, including letters from Koreans to me, original copies of "The Pusan Chingoo, a monthly newsletter we began publishing in March 1954, and copies of slides of the Korean members and investigators. These documents are now in the Church Historians Office.
July 10, 1953 - (letter home)..."There are quite a few Koreans coming to the Church here and not many of them are members. They have a great desire for learning the Gospel and they truly have a wonderful spirit."
July 19, 1953 - Hyun Kun Sup testimony in Palmer indicates that we had a baptism then. Lt. Howard G. Hall did most of the baptisms.
August 1953 - My August letters are missing, but my slides tell me what had another baptism that month.
September 15, 1953 - "...Sunday morning a few of us went down to the beach where we baptized three Koreans into the Church...." (Grant Heaton article gives names of Koreans that were baptized that summer). Also, my letter says that I had just been sustained as 2nd Counselor to Lt. Junius Gibbons (Scottsdale, AZ), with H. Grant Heaton (SLC) as 1st Counselor. Immediately I asked my parents to send some Sunday School manuals. I repeated the request in my next letter. The reason for the request had to do with one of the more remarkable events that happened in my seven months involvement.
The Korean War officially ended in late July. By the end of August we had nearly 30 Korean members, plus several investigators. To my knowledge, all of these were either members of Dr. Kim Ho-Jik's family, or friends that came at his invitation. However, as soon as the war ended, most of the refugees from Seoul and other parts of Korea returned to their homes. I was surprised to learn that this move included all but one of our new members. They were gone by September.
Our group presidency thought about this a great deal, and the result was that we designed some posters to be placed in the various universities and schools. We offered to teach English and Christianity. We mentioned that we would teach Mormon concepts, but I do not recall how we worded it. The result was absolutely overwhelming. We held Church services every Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday. The advertisement was for Tuesday and Saturday. My next letter tells of the response.
October 7, 1953 - "Last night we had 76 Koreans to church. I have a funny feeling that by next Tuesday we will be rather swamped with people. Right now we are swamped with work trying to figure out what to do to keep their interest. They speak a little English, but still we want to teach them more and then, of course, the Gospel. Right now I am in the middle of preparing English lessons for them and if you don't think it is difficult, try sitting down and making up lesson plans for people who speak absolutely no English; some know the ABC's, and some speak a little bit. I am trying to arrange material for all of them. The fellows are quite enthused about it..."
We taught the Koreans on Tuesday and Saturdays, and more and more of them began coming to our Sunday Sacrament meeting. My letter for Oct 12th says we had 132 Koreans at the Saturday session, and 80 came the next Sunday."
There were very few facilities that could handle such large numbers. Fortunately we began meeting in a fairly large auditorium near the Pusan Railway Terminal. The place even had a balcony and a stage. Once we saw that our numbers were increasing, we began separating the Koreans in classes - divided by age and English abilities. Generally, we planned to have 12 to 15 classes of 20 or so in each class. And that was because that was about how many GI's we could expect to have. Not many of the GI's could ever guarantee their attendance, because of military responsibilities. Junius Gibbons and I were always there, and so was Grant, except sometime that winter he was sent to Seoul for two months or so.
In late October Grant Heaton and I arranged to take a ten-day leave to Tokyo. We were able to travel together, and we went immediately to the Mission Home. President Robertson had been Grant's mission president in Hong Kong, and so we were warmly received.
We pleaded for help. We told him about the large numbers of Koreans we were teaching, and how we were uncertain about some things. I recall that he did not fully grasp what was overwhelming us, but he listened. In fact the next week he came to Pusan to an LDS Servicemens Conference. (I have a picture of the group). Six chaplains were there, and Pres. Robertson. We had 90 GI's.
Tue 3 Nov 1953 -..."Just returned from Church and I might say that it was one of the most spiritual gratifying experiences ever. There were 288 people to Church, of which 242 were Koreans. Pres. Robertson and the chaplains that were here were truly amazed at the spirit that prevailed. There is just no end to the work we can do."...
We planned for a Christmas program and we invited Pres. Robertson to return, to which he agreed. We were short on musical talent, but Grant Heaton (I think) taught our many Koreans to sing "Silent Night". The night for the program came and there was no Pres. Robertson. We waited some and then had to proceed. Those Koreans sang in English, then in Korean, and then hummed a verse. President Robertson happened to arrive in the middle of the song. If you know anything about Koreans of that time period then you know that song was one of the few ways they could express themselves during the Japanese occupation. The song was so moving, and again it touched everyone's heart.
President Robertson returned to Japan and cabled Church Headquarters. That led to Elder Harold B. Lee coming to Korea the next summer, and the assignment of the first missionaries to Korea.
In December a major fire swept through Pusan, leaving tens of thousands homeless. It destroyed the core of the city. We lost our auditorium, but I am not certain if it was because of the fire or some other reason. We made arrangements to meet at the Navy chapel on Pier One. But that presented us with a problem that was so difficult to resolve. I had received a phone call from a Navy officer asking me to visit with him (By title, I was known as Mr. Nash, and some people assumed that I was a civilian, and thus in charge of the LDS Group in Pusan). He advised me that the Navy could no longer allow such large numbers of Koreans onto the Navy Pier. He agreed to allow some, but they were to be escorted by GI's.
The consequence was that we could no longer invite or teach the hundreds who were attending our services. We were forced to limit it to about thirty. Perhaps you can understand our anguish as our Group Leadership dealt with the problem. Finally, we issued specific invitations, and they were allowed to attend Church on Pier One. It took us a while to find other places where classes could meet, but the interruption had an impact on what we were doing.
I have several slides of the Koreans who attended services at Pier One. They were exceptional people - both the men and the women. All were young. Almost all were graduate students in medicine, law, and engineering. They were outstanding. They, plus the original group that moved to Seoul, became the core of the Church in Korea.
Sometime that winter, Grant was transferred to Seoul and I was set apart as 1st Counselor, with Kenneth Hedin as 2nd Counselor. In March we began the "Pusan Chingoo", with Heber Lamb as Editor (copies in Church Historian's Office). In April I returned to Idaho.
Those seven months were immeasurably important to several people, both Korean and GI. I watched GI's take hold and teach and lead. And I know of at least one who came home and went into the mission field. We stumbled a lot before we figured out how to teach the Koreans. Many were Christian, but not all, and their thought processes differed from ours. In all, it was a memorable experience. I have a list of 24 GI's who were involved between September 1953, and April 1954.