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The end of World War II, 70 years later

Written By: Phillip Stone - Sep• 02•15

Seventy years ago this month, World War II came to an end. After six years of fighting (more than that if you include wars in China and Spain that many historians consider precursors of the full-blown war) and the loss of at least sixty million lives, the world entered into an uncertain and exhausted peace.

How did South Carolina Methodists react? The Advocate’s editor put it this way: “So this is victory? It is a victory with the edge knocked off. There is no celebration. No one feels like celebrating. Those of us with sons or daughters or close relatives in uniform are wonderfully relieved that these are safe from the uncertainties of battle or prison life and rejoice at the prospect of having them home. But as for celebrating a victory, significant as it is, the disposition is not in us. A dirty, nasty job came our way, and we did it. Now we feel like nothing so much as a good bath.”

The Advocate often carried letters from clergy serving as chaplains in various parts of the world. Chaplain Charles Brockwell of the Upper South Carolina Conference wrote of preaching in Australia, and in the September 6 issue, of building a chapel and presiding over an Easter service on an unidentified South Pacific island.

The Advocate carried a letter from a German Methodist bishop to the Methodist Board of Missions that was the first such communication in over four years. The letter described the condition of the Methodist Church in Germany, news of the destruction of many Methodist churches in and around Berlin, and of the deaths of many Methodists in air raids. The German bishop painted a bleak picture, with the potential for mass starvation in the upcoming winter, of refugees fleeing in the face of the Soviet Army, and of the loss of most of their savings with the collapse of the German government. However, he noted that in parts of the country, churches had survived and presented an opportunity to rebuild German Methodism. In a more optimistic note, he wrote “we as Methodists seem to have in Germany an opportunity so great, so promising, and so helpful to the life of our people as to surpass anything our fathers dreamed.”

The Advocate came out against compulsory national service, which some civic leaders were supporting in the wake of the war. The editor felt that Americans would support a continued large standing army and navy, and recognized that Americans would have to occupy other countries for the foreseeable future, but that drafting every 18 year old was not the answer to that problem. The editor’s reasoning, however, reflected the strong pro-temperance position of many Methodist clergy of the day. “With an administration that seems to favor so clearly the liquor interests… which lets so many temptations surround those in service, we fear that to send every boy into service for a year would not be the best thing in the world.” In other words, the presence of alcohol in the military made the Advocate suspicious of universal military service.

The war’s effect on life in the state and in the conference did not go unreported. Wofford College was preparing to open its Fall 1945 term, and did not expect to be anywhere near its pre-war enrollment. They anticipated a student body of only 100 or slightly more, President Walter Greene reported. Greene also said that “plans for a football team were not definite.” In fact, not enough students were on campus to resume football until 1946.

These were some of the stories that South Carolina Methodists were reading in September 1945.

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