Brigham Young High School History

From 1941 to 1950 ~
World War II, Peace & Cold War

Golden L. Woolf, Brigham Young High Principal
Principal Golden L. Woolf
1935 ~ 1946

In 1941, Golden L. Woolf was still serving as principal of Brigham Young High School. The war in Europe was worrisome, but the development of radar had helped Britain resist German attacks.

Then on December 7, 1941, Japanese planes launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The planes came in two waves; by 9:55 a.m. it was all over. By 1 p.m., the Japanese carriers that had launched the planes from 274 miles off the coast of Oahu, were heading back to Japan.

Behind them they left chaos, 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included eight damaged or destroyed battleships. In one day the Japanese action silenced a debate that had divided Americans since the German defeat of France, which had left England alone in the fight against the Nazi war machine. Franklin D. Roosevelt requested a Declaration of War from Congress, and received it.

Some students at BYH joined the military before graduation. So many male students left BYU to join the military that women soon outnumbered men on the university campus six to one. During the course of World War Two, 119 BYU students lost their lives. At least three BYH students were among them, including:
Philip James Christensen

Killed in Italy in 1944. BYH Class of 1941. Philip James Christensen played football at BYH. He was also involved in an opera production while in school. Philip was born March 4, 1923 in Lehi, Utah. His parents were Harold D. Christensen and Nellie Catherine Needham. He was killed on April 17, 1944 in Italy, during World War II. Interment, Provo City Cemetery.

Paul Hone Smith

Missing in action France. BYH Class of 1941. Paul Hone Smith, Lt. U.S. Air Force, was born December 1923 in Provo, Utah. His parents were John S. and Myrtle H. Smith. He was declared missing in action (MIA) over France on May 26, 1944. This 21-year-old Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force was a bombardier on a B-17 Bomber. During operations over the Mediterranean the bomber fell out of the sky in flames, plummeting into the ocean. Part of his crew was seen bailing out of the bomber as it fell and some were eventually rescued, but Lieutenant Smith was nowhere to be found. It had been his 26th and was to have been his final combat flight. Lieutenant Smith had entered the Air Force on April 12, 1943 at Ft. Douglass in Ellington Field, Texas. He was then transferred to Big Springs, Texas for a twelve-week training course on August 14th. Preparatory to going across seas, Lt. Smith was stationed in Salt Lake City and left for Europe in January of 1944. After he was reported missing, services and honors were rendered on behalf of Lt. Smith. He was awarded the Air Medal for "meritorious achievement in aerial flight while participating in sustained operational activities against the enemy from April 15 thru May 12, 1944." Before his military service, Lt. Smith studied at Brigham Young High School in Provo, Utah, where he was captain of the basketball team, manager of the debate team and member of the tennis team. He had one brother, John Aldwyn Smith, and two sisters, Marjorie Smith Hyatt [BYH Class of 1932] and Ruth Smith Sowards [BYH Class of 1939].

Leon Ross Milner

Killed in Action 1945, Germany. Class of 1938. Leon Ross Milner, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Air Corps Reserve. Born 1 March 1920, Provo, Utah to Mr. and Mrs. Amel S. Milner. Death: Killed in Action, 8 April 1945. Leon R. Milner graduated from Brigham Young High School in 1938 and attended Brigham Young University for three years before serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Southern States. He was an Eagle Scout in Troop 50 of the Manavu Ward. He married Barbara Payne Milner and was the father of two sons, Robert Seaton and Stanley Leon Milner. Lt. Milner joined the Air Corps Reserve June 2, 1942, and entered training March 1, 1943. He went overseas January 1, 1945, where he earned the Air Medal with several Oak Leaf Clusters and a Presidential Citation for his action in Germany. He was the lead pilot of a B-17 (Flying Fortress) which received a direct hit in the gas tank during a flight over Hof, Germany. The plane burst into flames and exploded just a few seconds after Lt. Milner had assisted the last of his crew out the escape hatch. Four members of the group survived.

A fourth veteran is often mentioned in connection with BYH:

David Harris Vance

Missing in Action: August 13, 1944 over France. David Harris Vance, Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, was born on June 19, 1917, in American Falls, Idaho, to Arthur and Stella Vance. David Vance was an active member of the LDS Church and a recipient of the Hiller-Harmon Award. After graduating from high school he graduated from Brigham Young University. Following graduation he took a job as an auditor at the Marine base in San Diego, California. He was a newly married husband to Jane Newell, BYH Class of 1936, when he entered the forces and was trained to serve as navigator for the B-17, or Flying Fortress. In June of 1944, with his wife seven months pregnant at home, he was called overseas. Two months later, David Harris Vance was reported missing in action over France, on August 13, 1944. His wife and daughter, Jane and Peggy Jane Vance, revere him as husband and father, and his nation remembers him as a patriot. His wife, Jane Alice Newell, was born on July 22, 1919 in Provo, Utah. Her parents were Myron Clark Newell, Jr., and Jennie Buckley. She married David Harris Vance on February 12, 1941 in Provo, Utah. Beginning in the 1946-47 school year, Jane Newell Vance taught Physical Education, Girls Athletics & Dance at BYH. She died on May 28, 1996 in Provo, Utah.

With World War Two came an increased demand for food production that boosted Utah agriculture. Important military installations, the Geneva steel plant, and other war-related industries brought new payrolls to the state.

Utah was also the location of prisoner of war camps and of Topaz, a relocation campus for Americans of Japanese ancestry. Topaz operated near Delta, Utah from 1942 through 1945.

At Brigham Young High School, students organized a Victory Corps club, participated in selling war bonds, provided reading materials to those in the service, cultivated Victory gardens, and carefully rationed fuel, food, and other items in short supply. Daily life was influenced by the war.

Victory Corps of Brigham Young High School 1943

In 1944, the D-Day landings on Normandy marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, and the war came to an end in the summer of 1945. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945, and President Harry S. Truman was left with the difficult decision about whether to drop atomic bombs on Japan. He chose to do so, hastening the end of the war, saving the lives of countless others who would have died had the war continued.

World War II resulted in the direct or indirect death of anywhere from 50 to 60 million people, over three percent of the world population at that time. It is estimated to have cost more money and resources than all other wars to that time: about 1 trillion US dollars in 1945.

The aftermath of the war in Europe was ugly and discouraging. More than fifty countries had been involved in the war over a period of more than five years. Millions of people in Europe and Asia were without adequate food, shelter, and clothing. Sorrow, hatred and dispair stalked through nations and homes.

After 26 years as President of the Church, Heber J. Grant died on May 14. After his funeral, George Albert Smith became President on May 21, 1945. In November 1945, President Smith called on Harry S. Truman, then president of the United States. President Smith described the visit this way:
"When I called on him, he received me very graciously -- I had met him before -- and I said: 'I have just come to ascertain from you, Mr. President, what your attitude will be if the Latter-day Saints are prepared to ship food and clothing and bedding to Europe.'

"He smiled and looked at me, and said: 'Well, what do you want to ship it over there for? Their money isn't any good.'

"I said: 'We don't want their money.' He looked at me and asked: 'You don't mean you are going to give it to them?'

"I said: 'Of course, we would give it to them. They are our brothers and sisters and are in distress. God has blessed us with a surplus, and we will be glad to send it if we can have the co-operation of the government.'

"He said: 'You are on the right track' and added, 'we will be glad to help you in any way we can.'

"I have thought of that a good many times. After we had sat there a moment or two, he spoke again: 'How long will it take you to get this ready?'

"I said, 'It's all ready.'

"The government you remember had been destroying food and refusing to plant grain during the war, so I said to him:

" 'Mr. President, while the administration at Washington were advising the destroying of food, we were building elevators and filling them with grain, and increasing our flocks and our herds, and now what we need is the cars and the ships in order to send considerable food, clothing and bedding to the people of Europe who are in distress. We have an organization in the Church that has over two thousand homemade quilts ready'." [George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, October 1947.]

First Counselor J. Reuben Clark, Jr.,
LDS President George Albert Smith,
and Second Counselor David O. McKay
photographed in May 1945.

Following that, President Truman and General George Marshall implemented an almost unprecedented relief and rebuilding effort for Europe called "The Marshall Plan" in 1947.

In 1943, the very existence of BYU, the parent institution of BYH, had been threatened by an enrollment drop from 2,375 to a low of 884. However, the fall enrollment in 1945 jumped to 2,700 as veterans returned to campus. Students and faculty at BYH breathed a collective sigh of relief.

In 1945 the United Nations was formed, placing the United States in the center of engagement in world geopolitical events. One such historic event was the transformation of British India to the new nations of Pakistan and India in 1947. In 1948 the nation of Israel was created. In 1948 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed, and the Cold War began.

In 1946, A. John Clark, who had been a physics and art teacher on the BYH faculty since the early 1940s, and sometimes as acting Principal, was named Principal. He served through 1949.

The Church launched a major celebration in 1947, marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Mormon pioneers in Utah. It served as a way to reintroduce the Church to the nation and the world. BY High students participated in many Centennial activities. Also in 1947, membership in the Church reached an historic one million members world-wide.

In 1948, Bell Labs invented the transistor, which would eventually eliminate the need for vacuum tubes and introduce solid state electronics. Transistors also began miniaturatization in electronics and computers. BY High students, long fascinated by radio and television, would also begin decades of learning about computers.

Arts Building, 1947, BYHS Building
Brigham Young High School Building in 1947

Herbert K. Christensen was named Principal of BY High beginning with the 1949-50 school year. He had been a teacher of Problems in Democracy, Religion, Social Studies and English at BYH. Sadly, he died in Provo of a heart attack just a few weeks into the new year, on January 21, 1950, after serving only six months in that office. He was only 43 years old.

A. John Clarke, Brigham Young High Principal
A. John Clarke
1946 ~ 1949

Herbert K. Christensen
1949 ~ 1950
Herbert K. Christensen, Brigham Young HS Principal

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From 1941 to 1950
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Mount Timpanogas above Utah Valley
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