Latter-day Saint Life

Watch: President Oaks and Holland on a miraculous modern-day ‘stripling warrior’ story you’ve never heard before

A few of the soldiers from the Utah 213th Battalion.
Photo courtesy of Brad Taylor.

A series of very fortunate events led to the uncovering of a Latter-day Saint Korean War miracle that had been lost to Church members everywhere. While serving as mission leaders in the Korea Seoul Mission, my wife and I received a cryptic text message from an old friend in Palo Alto, CA.

The text simply said: “Brad, thinking of you and your current-day Sons of Helaman in Korea. Check out this latter-day Stripling Warrior miracle that not many know about.” He then attached a link to a small story from the Richfield Reaper newspaper. The article told of Latter-day Saint soldiers who experienced an extraordinary miracle amid the Korean War.

Having performed missionary service for five years in Korea, I was very surprised that I’d never heard of this story. I asked many Korean Church members if they were aware of it; I especially sought out older Koreans whose Church memberships date back closer to the time of the war… but no one knew anything about it.

Now our curiosity was fully piqued.

The very next preparation day, my wife and I drove up to the tiny town of Gapyeong, South Korea (near the North Korean border). After a search expedition too long and winding to re-tell here, we finally found an old Korean road sign pointing toward a “Gapyeong War Memorial” site! We followed the sign’s direction up a small country road, still worried that it would lead to nowhere. But just when we were about to give up, the road opened up into a beautiful little memorial park site dedicated to the courage and heroism of the Utah 213th Battalion soldiers.

The Gapyeong War Memorial site.
Photo courtesy of Brad Taylor.

Tears filled our eyes as we viewed the monument statues and read the plaques in both English and Korean. This was a loving, gratitude-filled monument to 240 brave Latter-day Saint soldiers who were unexpectedly thrust into the heat of the war in Korea; on one extraordinary night they were suddenly and shockingly attacked by 4000 Chinese and North Korean soldiers, and in a miraculous “Stripling Warrior-esque” miracle they won the battle with not one of the 240 losing his life.

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The Utah 213th Battalion.
Photo courtesy of Brad Taylor.

The making of this film picks up where this LDS Living story left off back in 2020. When our mission was finished, we felt passionate about making a short inspirational film to share this story with everyone, especially youth. What added more to the making of this film is that both President Jeffrey R. Holland and President Dallin H. Oaks had a personal passion and connection to this amazing episode in Korean War history.

President Oaks’ connection was as a young Utah National Guard volunteer himself in 1951. He served in the Utah County 145th Battalion and was a colleague and friend to many of the Southern Utah Soldiers (213th Battalion) who were called into duty in the Korean War. He knew many of them personally and remained friends with them over the decades following the war. He shared a small piece of this story in his April 2011 General Conference address.

“I’ve had an enormous interest in it. I’ve made notes and interviewed many of the principal people who were involved in this action,” said President Oaks. When he learned that we were making this film, he invited us to his office and generously shared his extensive memories, files, and documents to aid in our production. He was very humble in reminding us that he was not one of those soldiers involved in the conflict in Korea, but worked with them in Utah, and has always admired their courage, obedience, and faith.

President Holland was enthusiastic about adding his short testimony to the film, too, but with his personal health challenges and the passing of his beloved wife, Patricia, it took almost three years to find the right day to film. When we were able to finally reconnect, we were touched beyond words by his generosity of spirit during every moment of filming. Despite his very busy day, he made us feel loved and showed his genuine interest and desire to share this story with the world.

President Holland described his connection to this story as follows: “These young men you are about to see were from my home area in Southern Utah, and were just a bit older than I. When I was 10 years old, and they were shipping off to Korea, I couldn’t have imagined what they were about to face in that war-torn country. None of us could, but we are so grateful for what they did.”

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President Holland recording his story for a new short film about the Utah 213th Battalion soldiers.
Photo courtesy of Brad Taylor.

Finding this story, sharing it with others, and producing this film has changed my life, and I hope that the story of these faithful soldiers will inspire and uplift generations to come.

You can watch the full short film with interviews from President Oaks and President Holland in the YouTube player below.

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