Exactly 100 years ago, men from all over the world were fighting for a cause bigger than their own.
World War I—thought to be "the war to end all wars"—put global issues into perspective like never before. And Latter-day Saints were right in the thick of it, alongside their neighbors. They participated in typical war initiatives like planting victory gardens, buying war bonds, and using ration books. They sent sons off to fight and had their hearts broken when some of them didn't return.
Here are 5 things you may not have known about Mormon involvement in WWI.
22,500 members served in World War I.
Of the approximately 370,000 Church members at the time, a staggering 22,500 served around the world at the time of the conflict.
600-700 members died.
16 million men died during the course of WWI, with exponentially more wounded. 600-700 of those that died were LDS.
Some of the guns used in WWI were invented by a Mormon.
Latter-day Saint John Browning, son of the original Nauvoo gunsmith, licensed one of his early machine guns to Colt a decade or two before the great war. The early Browning machine gun led to the development of many new guns that became key weapons in WWI. Other Browning guns introduced in WWI include the Browning Automatic Rifles.
Six of Joseph F. Smith's sons served.
President Joseph F. Smith, the prophet at the time of the conflict, had six sons who served during the war. Every single one of them returned home safely.
There were three LDS chaplains.
A chaplain is a religious leader that serves in congruence with a branch of military. During WWI, Elder B.H. Roberts of the Seventy became the first LDS chaplain appointed by the Church, serving in the U.S. Army. Called along with him were Calvin S. Smith (son of President Joseph F. Smith) and Herbert Maw (future governor of the State of Utah). LDS chaplains in the Navy and Airforce would not come for several more decades.
More than 460 Brigham Young University students served.
Of those 460 BYU students who fought, 16 were killed in combat.
The war ended eight days before President Joseph F. Smith's death.
World War I ended on November 11, 1918, with the signing of the armistice agreement. Eight days later, on November 19th, President Joseph F. Smith passed away from pneumonia. He was 80 years old.
Don't forget to check out Gerald Lund's new book, Fire and Steel, Vol. 2: The Storm Descends, which tells the story of the Latter-day Saints in Germany at the end of World War I.
"Suffering the devastating impact of defeat in the Great War, the people of Germany must find ways to face widespread food shortages, crippling unemployment, skyrocketing inflation, and the forced disbandment of the German military. The nation becomes a hotbed of revolutionary attacks, bringing the fledgling government to its knees. Conditions are so grim that the German people are desperate for someone—anyone—to step forward and bring stability back to their beloved Fatherland."
If you missed the first book, check it out here: Fire and Steel, Vol. 1: A Generation Rising.
"As volume one begins, life could not be more promising for the Eckhardts. They finally have a son, Hans, the male heir they have longed for and a child of such brilliance and promise that his success seems certain. But as youthful Hans’s ambition takes him away from his family and their small Bavarian village, the winds of unrest in Europe are about to erupt into the greatest war the world has ever known."
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