Author Archives: Daryl Densford
“Christmas Time in Baghdad” Written and performed by John Proctor, an Army Chaplain Assistant who has served in Iraq as well as a number of other overseas locations. Christmas Time in Baghdad is a “true account from Christmas 2003 which was celebrated in Baghdad, Iraq with the 82nd Airborne.” The 2nd verse begins, “The Chaplain preached the Gospel..”
For as long as we’ve been a nation (and even before) American Service Members have been deployed during the holidays. Here’s a short video that shows some of the Christmas scenes from wartime deployments and the home front during war.
With this video goes out a special “Merry Christmas!” to our armed forces wherever they may be serving this Christmas.
On this day in 1944, a 21-year-old Army Private pulled his Jeep into the tiny farming hamlet of Cutter France. He was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 87th Infantry Division of Patton’s Third Army. The temperature was around 5 degrees. He was grateful that tonight he would finally be sleeping under a roof. But not before attending Midnight Mass in the local church. PFC Francis (Frank) Williams, my Dad, drove a Jeep as a Reconnaissance Specialist (Scout). He was the guy who would drive across enemy lines to report their movements. Many times, in the middle of the night. He dubbed his trusty Jeep the “Last Chance.” Most of Cutting, France had been evacuated by the Germans in 1940 but the local priest and a handful of residents were allowed to stay. The rest went to the south of France until the end of the war. Upon arrival to the town, Chaplain Timothy Doody, a Catholic Chaplain, met with his counterpart asking for permission to conduct Midnight Mass services that evening.
The Christmas truce during World War I has become legendary, especially among those who long for peace, even in the midst of war. This phenomenon has most recently been portrayed cinematically in the French movie, Joyeux Noel, also mentioned on this site in the section, Chaplains in the Movies.
On Christmas Eve in 2014, Time Magazine published on its website a great summary of what really happened in 1914. Written by Naina Bajekal and appearing here, it’s reproduced in its entirely (including links) on The Chaplain Kit for educational purposes, but more than being educated, I hope that you are encouraged that peace can be found in the midst of war, even if only for a short time. This temporary peace during World War I came as a result of the birth of Jesus, and its celebration. True and final peace will ultimately come with the return of Jesus.
Silent Night: The Story of the World War 1 Christmas Truce of 1914
Exactly a century ago, the men in the trenches heard something unusual: singing
On a crisp, clear morning 100 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front. In the hundred years since, the event has been seen as a kind of miracle, a rare moment of peace just a few months into a war that would eventually claim over 15 million lives. But what actually happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1914 — and did they really play soccer on the battlefield?
110 years ago this month (28 December 1909) the Army officially established the MOS, Chaplain Assistant, though Soldiers have been assisting chaplains since the Revolutionary War. Here’s a brief video showing some of the history of Religious Affairs Specialists, a few famous ones and a few courageous assistants from their history.
While the Navy sustained the most casualties during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army -with their Air Fields- also sustained much damage and many casualties. Here is a brief look at the ministry and insights of some of the Army Chaplains engaged in combat ministry on 7 December 1941.
Combat Comes To The Chaplains
At 0755 that fateful Sunday morning Chaplain Terence P. Finnegan prepared for Mass. He stopped at Schofield Barracks chapel to get extra candles for service in the assembly hall. As he came in front of the little chapel, he saw the planes dive on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field; they flew so low he could see the pilots. He drove his 1931 Buick in a mad dash to the artillery area to disperse the men assembled for Mass. His car was strafed on the way. Finnegan dispersed the men, but a bomb fell and killed six men as they took up positions. He said the last rites for the dead, drove to the hospital in an ambulance full of \rounded men, and ministered there to the living and dying. More than 400 litters filled the hospital. In the afternoon he went out to a plane that crashed and burned, to pull out the broken body of the pilot and administer the last rites. He ate breakfast at 5 o’clock that afternoon and didn’t get his clothes off for the next three days. Assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, he was the only Catholic chaplain who served the Schofield Barracks hospital.
With 7 December upon us, it is good to remember the ministry and valiantry of Navy Chaplains during the Japanese attack on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor. The following article is from Drury’s Navy history.
Navy Chaplains at Pearl Harbor
“In a well-coordinated attack, which revealed detailed information about the disposition of the ships in the harbor, the Japanese planes dropped their torpedoes and bombs with devasting effect. According to reports, one Japanese pilot realized a dive bomber’s dream by dropping a bomb down one of Arizona’s stacks.2 A tremendous explosion followed. The forward magazine blew up. Oil from her tanks poured out upon the water and began to burn. In an instant the proud Arizona was a roaring inferno, entombing most of her crew. Only a few escaped the holocaust and Tom Kirkpatrick was not among them.”
Four enemy torpedoes plunged into the port side of the Oklahoma, in which Chaplain A. H. Schmitt was serving his first tour of duty at sea in the Navy. The vessel began to list to port as water poured into her hold. Gradually the ship rolled over, settling with the starboard side of the bottom above water. Many men were trapped. Chaplain Schmitt made his way with several of the crew to a compartment. An open port-hole afforded means of escape, and through this the men, one by one, with the Chaplain’s help, crawled to safety.
During World War Two, there was a theater of operations less well-known than the European and Pacific theaters: North America. More specifically, the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, where the Japanese managed to take and hold a couple of islands for a time, repelling Allied bombing and amphibious attacks until they were able to be rescued by a small Japanese convoy that evaded U.S. patrol ships.
While in the United States, poppies are traditionally worn on Memorial Day, in many of the British Commonwealth countries, they are worn on Remembrance Day, 11 November, to commemorate the end of WW1. Here’s the story of the poem that began the drive toward the adoption of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS POEM
The World’s Most Famous WAR MEMORIAL POEM
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
(Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium)
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