On Thursday, 24 August 1939 the First Presidency ordered the evacuation of all missionaries from Germany and Czechoslovakia. They instructed Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was in Europe conducting the annual tour of missions, to take charge.
The evacuation of the missionaries, particularly from the West German Mission, posed great challenges and provided the setting for some remarkable examples of divine assistance.
The First Presidency’s telegram arrived in Germany on Friday morning, 25 August. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith and M. Douglas Wood, mission president, were conducting conferences in Hanover, but President Wood and his wife immediately returned to mission headquarters in Frankfurt. By Friday afternoon they had telegraphed all missionaries, directing them to leave for Holland at once.
In Frankfurt, President Wood gave one of his missionaries, Elder Norman George Seibold, a former football player from Idaho, a special assignment:
“I said: ‘Elder, we have 31 missionaries lost somewhere between here and the Dutch border. It will be your mission to find them and see that they get out.’ . . .
“After four hours on the train he arrived at Cologne, which is about half way to the Dutch border. We had told him to follow his impressions entirely as we had no idea what towns these 31 Elders would be in. Cologne was not his destination, but he felt impressed to get off the train there. It is a very large station, and was then filled with thousands of people. . . . This Elder stepped into this station and whistled our missionary whistle—‘Do What is Right, Let the Consequence Follow.’” Thereby he located eight missionaries. 3
In some towns Elder Seibold remained on board the train, but at others he was impressed to get off. In one small community he recalled, “I had a premonition to go outside the station and out into the town. It seemed silly to me at the time. But we had a short wait and so I went. I passed a Gasthaus, a restaurant there, and I went inside and there were two missionaries there. It was fantastic, in that they both knew me and of course they were quite happy to see me. . . . As surely as if someone had taken me by the hand, I was guided there.” In Copenhagen on Monday, 28 August, President Wood learned that fourteen of the thirty-one missing missionaries had entered Holland safely. That afternoon he received a telegram from Elder Seibold stating that the remaining seventeen would arrive in Denmark that evening. 4
4. David F. Boone, “The Worldwide Evacuation of Latter-day Saint Missionaries at the Beginning of World War II,” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981, pp. 39–40; see also pp. 35–43.
Elder Norman George Seibold