Remembering Latter-day Saint veteran Ted Tuttle

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Veterans Day is set aside to honor and thank those who served in the United States Armed Forces. On this day, memories are shared, events are retold and loved ones are remembered.

A. Theodore Tuttle, BYU graduate, former General Authority of the LDS Church and WWII veteran, was involved in the invasion of Iwo Jima and played an active part in raising the American flag at Mount Suribachi.

In the book “Saints at War”, written by Religion Professors Robert Freeman and Dennis Wright, Tuttle’s self account of the famous event is recorded.

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Ted Tuttle as a young man during World War II.
“Lieutenant Shrier took his platoon up the hill,” Tuttle wrote. “In his backpack he had a small American flag, I will never forget the cheer Colonel Johnson gave when he saw Old Glory raised on that hill. He lifted his hat and cheered, and we all joined in with him. It was a small flag, not easily seen. The colonel turned to me and said, ‘Tuttle, go down to the ship and get a large battle flag.'”

Tuttle met some resistance when he returned to the ship to retrieve a larger flag.

“I made my way to one of the ships, went aboard and asked an ensign for a large battle flag,” he wrote. “Since I had no identification or insignia showing, he wondered who I was. I said, ‘If you want to be able to see a flag on top of that mountain, you will bring me one’ … In a few minutes, I returned with a large battle flag.”

Upon returning to the field, Tuttle asked his commanding officer whether he should take the flag up the hill.

“He said yes,” Tuttle wrote. “I started up when he  called me back and said, ‘No, I will send it with a runner who is taking fresh batteries up for the walkie-talkies.’ I gave it to Corporal Gagnon. He was one of the men who helped to raise it on Mount Suribachi.”

Although Tuttle didn’t accompany the banner up the hill personally, it was the large battle flag he retrieved that became the subject of Joe Rosenthal’s famous  Feb. 23, 1945 picture.

Ted Tuttle’s wife, Marne Tuttle, said her husband braved treacherous conditions to retrieve the flag.

“He was the one who went out, under fire, to the ship after they had been fighting for almost four days,” she said. “He went under fire, dodging to fox hole to fox hole, and brought back a big flag that had been in a ship.”

Despite his courageous actions, Marne said her husband’s involvement in the raising of the flag wasn’t something he advertised.

“When he came home, he didn’t talk about the war,” she said. “We didn’t realize he was the one who got the flag until he’d been home a while.”

Marne met Ted at a homecoming social in 1941 as students at BYU. Ted, who had recently returned from serving in the Northern States Mission, asked freshman Marne Whitaker to dance. Two years later, they were married in the Manti Utah Temple.

Ten days after the wedding, Ted Tuttle left for boot camp in South Carolina.

“He was proud to be a Marine,” Marne said. “But wished he didn’t have to go to war.”

Upon completing his training, he left to fight in the Pacific.

“He was gone in for about a year and a half,” his wife said. “When he got home, he had a 13-month-old son.”

Marne said although they were separated, they worked hard to keep their relationship strong.

“We wrote a lot of letters back and forth,” she said. “It wasn’t easy.”

Aubrey Luddington, a junior from Riverton, who works as a research assistant for Freeman, is transcribing the Tuttles’ letters to piece together their love story during Ted’s time in battle.

“I love how they talk about the future, their own relationship and how everything is working out so well between them even though so much is happening with the war,” she said.

Luddington said the Tuttle letters show the couple stayed positive throughout their separation.

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This famous WWII photo could not have happened without Ted Tuttle.
“They mention they miss each other and that they want to be together, but a lot of it is very hopeful,” she said. “He tells her about his spiritual experiences and she’ll ask him questions about the gospel, they have this really good correspondence.”

By reading the couple’s letters, Luddington said she feels like she has come to know Ted Tuttle.

“He was a very responsible person,” she said. “You can tell he was a very passionate and honest person and a hard worker who really cares about his family.”

Marne said she appreciates the example Ted was for their children.

“He was the best father they could have had,” she said. “He loved his kids — he loved teaching them. We’ve been fortunate to have him for our patriarch of our family.”

She said her husband found great joy in sharing his love of the gospel.

“He had a very firm and beautiful testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel,” she said. “He tried to teach everybody he could to help them learn the joy he experienced.”

During the war, Ted Tuttle was appointed group leader for the 5th marine division where he helped organize and lead Church meetings and counsel fellow soldiers under the direction of the Church chaplain.

Luddington said she’s thinks Ted Tuttle’s time as group leader for the 5th Marine Division gave him valuable experience that contributed to his later Church positions.

“When he was called as group leader, he says it’s one of the greatest opportunities and responsibilities he’s ever had in his life,” Luddington said. ” Several times he talks about how he’s writing letters to the widows or counseling other soldiers.”

Marne said her husband’s knowledge and spirituality helped prepare him to accept his calling as a General Authority from 1958 to 1986 at age 39.

“He was well versed in the Bible and the Book of Mormon and the history of the Church — he was a great teacher,” she said. “Of course we didn’t anticipate that — we were surprised when he was called to be in the First Council of the Seventy. We were very surprised but thrilled to serve in that capacity.”

Marne said she is grateful for the opportunity she had to spend her life with such a great man.

“For me, he was just a very special man,” she said. “I felt privileged that he would choose me among all the pretty girls that were at BYU.”

She said words can’t adequately describe how she feels about her husband, who passed away on Nov. 28, 1986.

“I wish I could express to you what a special man he was,” she said. “He was honest in every way and tried to be obedient to every commandment. I’m still working to try and catch up with him — that’s why I’m still on the earth.”

Ted Tuttle is survived by his wife Marne, seven children, 46 grandchildren and 53 great-grandchildren.

To read more accounts of Latter-day Saint veterans, visit saintsatwar.org.