I Was Saved by the Book

“I Was Saved by the Book,” New Era, Feb. 1976, 18

Participatory Journalism:
I Was Saved by the Book

You’ve heard about being saved by the bell—

“Hey, Brother Wallace, why doesn’t the Holy Ghost just tap me on the shoulder when he wants to tell me something?” one 11-year-old asked flippantly. Then he snickered and nudged his friend. Other class members chitchatted among themselves. As a rookie from the Teacher Development class, I knew I’d lost my group. My hand closed over my serviceman’s Book of Mormon in my pocket.

“Well, sometimes we hear, and sometimes we’re not in tune,” I said. “You know, fellas, I was a radioman in the infantry during the Korean War. My walkie-talkie was so heavy on my back that I had to wrap a towel around my neck to cushion it. Since I was a radioman, the enemy knew that if they could knock me out, there could be no communication to the rear. In the same way, if you’re knocked out spiritually, the Holy Ghost can’t get through to you.”

Now they were listening!

“When I was in Korea,” I continued, “I carried my small Book of Mormon and the book Principles of the Gospel that the Church supplies to all LDS servicemen. Habitually I slipped my Book of Mormon into the breast pocket of my uniform and read it during every available moment. Having studied it in seminary, it meant a lot to me. And even though I can’t carry a tune in a barrel, I liked to sing the hymns in the back of my Principles of the Gospel book when I was alone.

“On October 4, 1951, we were caught under fire in some rice paddies and could almost feel the whiz of shells overhead—they were that close. There were 150 men in our company. We managed to pull into a draw where we waited to advance up a sparsely covered mountain 30 miles from Uijongbu.

“Next day the Air Force laid a smoke screen around that mountain to prepare for our attack. Hearing orders to advance, I started to put my Book of Mormon in the breast pocket of my fatigues, as usual, then instantaneously dropped it into my deep hip pocket and moved out, keeping close to my platoon leader, a first lieutenant.

“We were near the top when the North Koreans stopped us with a volley of grenades. I was knocked out! When I came to, I looked down at my leg. My pants were completely soaked with blood. I spotted the lieutenant lying on the ground nearby—a twitching finger told me he was dead. That one shell got seven of our platoon right there. I was the only live soldier in sight. And I knew I wouldn’t be alive very long if I didn’t clear out. Boy Scout training saved my life. I pulled the towel from under the radio at my neck and put a tourniquet above the gaping wound in my thigh. At that point I didn’t know what had happened, but I did know the shrapnel had hit my thigh and traveled down my leg. Why hadn’t it blown my leg right off?

“My radio wasn’t knocked out. ‘Groucho one! Groucho one!’ I spoke into the set. That was our code. Headquarters responded. I said, ‘Platoon leader KIA. I’m hit. Send a medic. We’re in heavy fire.’

“At last a medic arrived. Removing the tourniquet, he put on a big compress bandage. As he prepared a shot of morphine for the pain, shells again exploded, and he took off. My buddy Harold Wiggint from Minnesota and a Spanish-American buddy found me and dragged me down the mountain. Once my foot was caught in the crotch of a fallen tree. The pain was unbearable. Finally I reached the hospital ship Repose.

“My doctor, from Logan, Utah, was the first LDS man I had found in Korea. Following surgery, he came to my bed and handed me a riddled, blood-soaked Book of Mormon.

“‘This was in your hip pocket. If that shell hadn’t been stopped by this book, it would have taken your leg with it,’ he said.

“‘And in my position, it probably would have gone right through both legs,’ I added.

“‘Could be. It takes tremendous force to go through a book like this,’ he replied.

“I was later sent to a general hospital in Sendi, Japan, where my leg received further treatment from another LDS army physician, Sherman Thorpe from Salt Lake City.

“In my letters home, I hadn’t told Grandma I’d been injured seriously. (Grandma had raised me.) But Dr. Thorpe’s mother lived in Salt Lake City, and she called Grandma, so my secret was exposed. The Church makes this a small world.

“In Japan as soon as I was able to get out of bed, Dr. Thorpe arranged for Church services to be moved to the hospital so I could attend in a wheelchair for the first time since I’d been in Korea. Then when I was well enough to get up and around, he took me into town to church. He was like a father to an 18-year-old soldier.”

Taking the stained, riddled Book of Mormon from my pocket, I let eager class members examine it. I now stood squarely on both my legs—saved by a prompting of the Holy Ghost to put the book in the proper pocket.

Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn