ELWOOD – An American patriot passed on Wednesday Sept. 22: Allen C. Christensen of Elwood. He lived to be 100 years old. He was born Feb. 20, 1920 and was known to some as a school bus driver or a mail carrier. But those who knew him best remember him as a man who had given his heart and soul to his country.
Christensen had seen some of the worst humanity had to offer as a prisoner of war during WWII but somehow found the best in people.
Before his death he roamed the halls in his wheelchair of Our House Assisted Living of Tremonton. His room was always decorated with flags and patriotic memorabilia.
There was a time the Tremonton area made a big deal about his patriotism. His granddaughter, Melissa Hess, said he organized the 4th of July celebration for Elwood, complete with flag raising ceremony, parade and candy drop from an airplane.
Christensen, known as A.C. and Ace to most people, was also asked to help create a veteran’s memorial for the City of Tremonton. The monument stands on a grassy area on Main St.
The farm boy’s life started quite unremarkable. He graduated from Bear River High School in 1939. He was more of a farm boy than a combat soldier. Christensen joined the U.S. Air Force and in 1941 was sent to the Philippines, to turn a pineapple field into an airfield.
With no guns or ammo to protect themselves his unit was captured by the Japanese army. Christensen was one of 45 soldiers who returned home, the another 100 did not.
For three and a half years, Christensen endured sickness, starvation, beatings and was a slave as a prisoner to the Japanese Army. After two and a half years in the Philippines, he was sent to Japan aboard a Hell Ship.
“The weather was as hot as the name of our Hell Ship, making conditions almost beyond human endurance,” he wrote in his life history. “Men had died, gone crazy and some almost given up all hope; they would be the next to die.”
There was a time when he, too, wanted to give up. He couldn’t take the abuse any longer.
“I couldn’t work another minute,” he said. “I dropped the hammer and went to the guard and said ‘I work no more.’”
After beating him the guard took Christensen back to the barracks.
“I was about to give up all hope,” he said. “I’d seen others give up hope, and by morning they were dead.”
He said as he laid in his bed he thought of his parents and knew of their prayers in his behalf and his cherished blessing held promises yet to be fulfilled. He decided he could go on.
He endured not only the treatment of his captors, but typhoons, earthquakes and bombings by American and Allied airplanes.
When the war ended, a malnourished and abused Christensen came home. He married Doris Farnsworth in 1947. They had two children: Timothy Jay and Rebecca (Becki).
After the war, Christensen never said a negative word about the Japanese people.
“I can’t remember him saying anything bad about anyone, much less the Japanese,” Hess said. “He had a lot of neighbors who were of Japanese descent. He said there are good Japanese and bad Japanese, just like there are good people and bad people in the world.”
He and his wife Doris were called to Japan as missionaries in 1987. The mission president was a neighbor from Elwood, Shigiki Moriyama and his wife Mary.
Christensen was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where he served in many callings from home teacher to Bishop of Elwood Ward. He had a strong faith in the gospel and served as an example to his family, friends, and community through his faith and service.
A viewing will be held Friday, October 2 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 3 from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Funeral services will be held Saturday, October 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Rogers & Taylor Funeral Home, 111 North 100 East, Tremonton, Utah.
Interment will take place in the Elwood Town Cemetery. The family suggests the wearing of masks and proper social distancing.