The Chaplain Corps’ Birthday

In 2001, Chaplain (MG) Gaylord T. Gunhus, then Army Chief of Chaplains,  wrote this letter to chaplains and chaplain assistants, about the Chaplain Corps’ birthday on 29 July:


The Chaplain Corps’ Birthday

by Chaplain (MG) G.T. Gunhus, Chief of Chaplains

“We have come a long way since the Continental Congress officially established in 1775 the position of chaplain in the Continental Army. The stipend of $33 per month was established for the chaplains, an amount equal to the pay of a captain.

“During the Revolutionary War the Chaplaincy was a representation of the nation’s religious denominations: 90 Congregationalists, 41 Presbyterians, 20 Anglicans, 11 Baptists, two Lutherans and one Roman Catholic. Since that time, we have ministered to the soldiers and family members of the U.S. Army in war and peace. Our numbers have varied fro a very few in the 1800’s to a high of 8,117 chaplains in World War II.

“It wasn’t until 1914 that chaplains wore the official uniform of an Army officer. The original insignia, a shepherd’s crook, signified the pastoral role of the chaplain. The chaplain’s crook was replaced by a Latin Cross on May 31, 1898. It was authorized for use by all Protestant and Catholic Chaplains. During World War 1, when a large number of Jewish rabbis served in the Army, the Tablets of the Law, with the Star of David, was authorized for them. Those two insignia and the crescent surmounted with a star, the insignia for the Muslim chaplain, are the insignia which identify all of us today.

“Since the beginning of World War II, chaplains have been required to minister in combat unarmed. The signing of the Geneva Convention entitled chaplains to a noncombatant role and protected person status. However, of the 33 chaplains interned by the Japanese in the Philippines, 18 died and many of the survivors were beaten for attempting to invoke the Geneva Convention in an effort to minister to their soldiers. Also, during World War II, 124 chaplains were killed in action, in Korea 13 lost their lives, and 13 were killed in Vietnam.

“Connected to the heritage of the Army Chaplaincy is its history of creative ministry and appropriate pastoral care. The Army is a better institution in which to serve because the Unit Ministry Teams (UMTs) have continually delivered the message of hope and made practical applications to that message. The UMTs’ loan closets and the chaplains’ multifaceted counseling have become institutionalized in what is now known as Army Community Services. When commanders were troubled by problems of racism, rights of individuals, and drug and alcohol abuse, chaplains responded with programs that are now known as Equal Opportunity, Total Army Quality, and the Army Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Program. Today our Chaplain Family Life Centers set the pace for the Army Family Support Activities.

“The Army Chaplaincy is facing new challenges: reduced force, numerous deployments, reduced resources and the impact of those factors on the quality of life for the soldier and family members. As we celebrate the 226th Anniversary of the Army Chaplaincy, may we renew our call to the service of the Lord. May our pastoral care and ministry renew the spirit and soul of our soldiers and family members. May we bring hope and strength to all of those we serve. This is my prayer for you, for all the Army Chaplaincy and the people we serve.




From a letter to Lutheran chaplains from Chaplain Stake dated 19 August 2001, from the personal chaplain papers of Chaplain Paul Howe (TCK Archives).



About Daryl Densford

I am an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene serving as an active-duty Army Chaplain. I am currently an ethics instructor at the U.S. Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Posted on 29 July 2020, in Chaplaincy, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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