Author Archives: Daryl Densford

In Flanders Fields

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.

The Chaplain Kit

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)

On May 2, 1915, John McCrae’s close friend and former student Alexis Helmer was killed by a German shell. That evening, in…

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A Chaplain’s Reflection on 9/11

Many men and women joined the military following -and because of- the attack on the United States on 11 September 2001. There are many stories that came out of the 9/11 attacks, here’s one chaplain’s…

The Chaplain Kit

September 11, 2001 began like any other day for me. I wasn’t a chaplain yet, but was a pastor at a civilian church in Upstate New York. It was a Tuesday, so I was meeting with men from the church for breakfast at the Corner Cafe just a few miles down State Highway 96 from my church in Clifton Springs, New York.

The breakfast for us was uneventful.  As I recall, there were just a few who showed up this particular week, but we enjoyed a great breakfast and good conversation as we always did. Eventually it was down to just Cliff and I finishing our coffee before we left, when another patron mentioned that a plane had run into the World Trade Center. I found that a bit hard to believe and Cliff and I exchanged looks of disbelief. I finished my coffee and headed home, only mildly curious what may…

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A Prayer of Benediction for Chaplain Dale Goetz

Nine years ago (30 August 2010), Chaplain Dale Goetz was killed in Afghanistan ministering to his Soldiers. Not wanting to forget his sacrifice, I’m reposting this short prayer I prayed at a Memorial Ceremony for him at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School.

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FT. JACKSON, SC (3 Sep 10) – Recently, the Chaplain Corps lost one of its finest chaplains, Chaplain (CPT) Dale Goetz, in Afghanistan. We received the news here at the Chaplain School while attending the Chaplain Captain’s Career Course. Since many of us knew Dale, and the rest of us felt the camaraderie of a “Brother in Arms,” we felt it appropriate to have a Memorial Service for him. My part was to pray the benediction. As I prepared the prayer, I felt very impressed that Dale needed to be remembered. His sacrifice needed to be remembered. As I post it here, I pray it again . . .

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Our most Gracious God and Father,

We thank you for your presence and love which helps us to endure through difficult times. We thank you for moments like these when we don’t have to be alone but can gather among brothers and sisters in the faith. We thank you for the peace that you have brought us today, your peace—that can exist within us even when all around us there is no peace.

As much as you comfort us who have gathered here today, we pray that in an even greater measure you will comfort Dale’s family, especially his wife Christy and their three sons Landon, Caleb and Joel. Be for them all that they need you to be just now and continue to provide for them in every way in the days, weeks, months and years ahead that they face life without their husband, father and son.

Finally Lord, we pray that you will bring real peace to our land, so that we can rest in safety and comfort and not have to send our sons and daughters into harm’s way. Bring to us, we humbly ask you, the time when parents don’t have to grieve the loss of their children killed in war; hasten the day when spouses don’t have to say goodbye to their loved ones because they serve their country; provide for us, dear Father, a world whose children do not have to grow up fatherless because of the sin that envelopes us; and be victorious, Almighty God, over the Evil One, establish your Kingdom on Earth finally and forever, that we may enjoy your loving and peaceful presence for all eternity.

Go with us now, Lord we pray, as we reluctantly return to the world out there. Please don’t let us soon forget our brother Dale but help us to honor his sacrifice through our lives lived for your glory and Christ’s life lived through us.

“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21)

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WW2 Padres’ Battle School

This article, published just over a month before D-Day, gives a brief glimpse at some of the expedited training British Soldiers received before going off to war.

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Padres’ Battle School1

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The modern padre learns the art of camouflage. Green webbing, a tuft or two of grass, and a smear with special camouflage paint, soon do the trick.

“The modern padre learns the art of camouflage. Green webbing, a tuft or two of grass, and a smear with special camouflage paint, soon do the trick.

“Like a swordless Crusader, the front-line padre prepares to go out with the armies of liberation. Straw and greasepaint hide his clerical collar, for he trains in his camouflage kit. But he is ready and eager to take back the things of the spirit to a Europe which has known little but filth and firing squad for nearly five torturous years.

“Today, in a lovely village in the Midlands, you can find this modern padre with a crusader shield as a ‘flash’ on his shoulder. For picked volunteers, young men and tough for the most part, go up there week by week to attend what is locally known as the Padres’ Battle School.”

(Continue reading “Padres’ Battle School” here…)

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Spiritual Rearmament

Just as chaplains participate in spiritual enrichment events today, about a month before D-Day, 75 chaplains of the Army Air Forces in England participated in a devotional day with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was reported in the 26 April 1944 edition of The Stars and Stripes, European edition. Here’s the text from the article:

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Archbishop Will Conduct Service for U.S. Chaplains1

“A devotional day for U.S. Army Air Forces chaplains will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury Friday in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Sq., London. Seventy-five chaplains will attend.

“‘Spiritual Rearmament’ will be the theme of the service, beginning at 11:30 AM. The U.S. contingent will be headed by Arthur S. Dodgson, senior USSTAF chaplain; Chaplain Walter A. Dore, of the Eighth Air Force; Chaplain John F. Smeltzer, of the Ninth, and Chaplain Oakley Lee, of the Base Air Depot Area. In charge of arrangements will be Chaplain Walter P. Plumley, who will assist the Archbishop.”

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The article from the 26 April 1944 edition of The Stars and Stripes (TCK Archives).

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1 From “The Stars and Stripes,” European edition, Vol. 4, No. 149, 26 April 1944 (TCK Archives).

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Religion Helps You Face Hard Duty*

“Every camp in the country and every organization in action overseas has facilities for divine worship. The chaplains who serve in the camps and with the fighting men extend their efforts and compassion into every element of their men’s lives.

“The chaplains are available for advice or consultation on any religious or moral problems, and they are also considerately helpful in any other personal matters brought to them. You can see your chaplain without asking the permission of any superior. You can attend the church service of your choice each week, unless you have specific duties with which such attendance would interfere. Most chapels also conduct programs during midweek.

“Religion is always most strengthening and helpful to people whose lives are troubled, and whose realization is greatest that forces beyond their own control may alter their lives. As a soldier in a savage and brutalizing war, you can find peace and comfort in religion. With a foundation of religious understanding, you can build a broader character out of the experiences which await you.

“At the very beginning of your military service, establish the habit of attending chapel; get to know your chaplain. Preparing your mind for the shocks of combat is an opportunity which will always be yours in the Army, but it is not the kind of thing you can accomplish frantically at the last moment  when you may need it most.”

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* From Army Life, War Department Pamphlet 21-13, 10 August 1944 (TCK Archives).

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A Magnificent Fool

Willy’s Chaplain PSA

During World War 2, many advertisers paid for ad space which not only promoted their product but showed the public what was happening in the war zones. Here’s an example of a Willys-Overland Motors ad which promoted the ministry of the chaplains.

“A Magnificent Fool”

“A sincere tribute to those Men of God, the ministers, priests and rabbis who walk and work in Faith, in the midst of war … whose only weapons are love, prayer, and cool courage … the Chaplains of America’s fighting forces who become deathless heroes … without manning guns.

“We were resting at our base in Tunisia-a General and I.

“It was just a few days after a heavy engagement with the Nazis, and we had been commenting upon the fine courage and fighting spirit of our American troops.

“Abruptly, the General turned to me and said, ‘Say-do you know Chaplain C—-?’ And I answered, ‘Yes, I know him!’

“‘Then,’ said he, ‘you know a man who has been called a fool and also, one of the bravest men of this war. Just listen to this and see what you think.’ And this is what he told me …

“‘We were fully exposed, the morning the Germans began their counterattack at G—-. They got our range with their artillery and we had to get into the trenches and fox holes in a hurry when their dive bombers came at us in swarms.

“‘Just when I thought I had everything under control, I looked down the road and saw some man crawling towards us through the dim light in a Jeep. It seemed as if this fellow were coming right out of the German lines.

“‘ When I got a better look, I recognized him, It was Chaplain C—. His Jeep was literally shot to pieces, and two of the tires were flat.

“‘Shells were dropping all around him, but he didn’t seem to see them. If he did he didn’t care, because he just kept coming. He wasn’t making more than six or eight miles an hour through the sand-but the Jeep kept coming.

“‘When he came nearly opposite us I shouted at him:-‘=”Get out of that think and take cover!” But he paid no attention to me. So I stood up in my trench and yelled-“Did you hear me? Get out of that thing, and take cover.”

“‘He didn’t even stop. He just turned his head and shouted:-“Listen, you! It took me eight months to get this Jeep and I’m not giving it up for anyone!” Just like that.

“‘I was so mad I couldn’t talk, much less shout back at him. But just then a couple of star shells lighted things up as bright as day and I got a good look in the rear of the Chaplain’s Jeep.

“There were two wounded American boys in there.

“‘Then I understood. Chaplain C— was being a foo. But what a magnificent fool.’

“‘As I stood and watched him in his flat-tired Jeep slowly inching his way back to our dressing station, I forgot that shells were bursting around me, too. I felt like kneeling right there in the trench.

“‘Yes, Chaplain C— made a ‘fool’ of himself that day, as he had many times before, and will many times more, I am sure-in selfless, fearless devotion to ‘the boys’ he loves.

“‘Is it any wonder they decorated him right there on the field of battle? Is it any wonder they promoted this brave Man of God who seeks no honor but only to serve? And is it any wonder the men who know him say they will follow him anywhere-and they mean anywhere?’

“That was the end of the General’s story. What a magnificent fool.”

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“Look, Fellows, Here Comes the Chaplain!”

Another Hammond Organ Chaplain PSA

As noted in the previous post, “No Chaplain– can’t let them get you too!” during World War 2, many advertisers paid for ad space which not only promoted their product but showed the public what was happening in the war zones. Here’s another example of a Hammond Organ ad which promoted the ministry of chaplains.

Look, Fellows, Here Comes the Chaplain!

“‘We didn’t really expect him. By that time our position was the hottest in the sector–under continuous enemy fire. But there he came–working his way out as far as he could in a jeep, then walking and crawling the rest of the way. He never missed at least a weekly visit to our group the whole time we were at the front.’

“Men at the front can’t always go to divine services, so the services go to them. Isolated groups … holding vital positions in Italy manning distant outposts in the Aleutians, buried in South Sea jungles … all know how much the Chaplain’s regular visit means. By jeep, dog sled, boat and plane, the Chaplain’s make their rounds of pastoral calls as faithfully as they did in their parishes back home.

“Chaplains go where their men need them … to the front lines to hold services, beyond the front lines to help a wounded or dying man. They don’t carry weapons, but they have won many decorations for valor.

“Their job is to bring our fighting sons the ministry of religion. And wherever they are, from camp to battlefront, their commanding officers rate them tops for building men’s morale … for giving a man a real friend to turn to when the going is tough.”

 

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Text and photos from a 1944 magazine advertisement by Hammond Organ (TCK Archives)

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“No Chaplain– can’t let them get you too!”

Hammond Organ PSA

During World War 2, many advertisers paid for ad space which not only promoted their product but showed the public what was happening in the war zones. Here’s an example of a Hammond Organ ad which promoted the ministry of the chaplains.

“No Chaplain– can’t let them get you too!”

WW2 Hammond Organ PSA“Our own chaplain lay wounded beyond our lines. It was going to be a tough job getting him back through the hail of lead the enemy was pouring over. Some of us were talking the situation over with the chaplain from a nearby outfit. Suddenly the chaplain said, ‘I’ll get him,’ and started for the front line. Our commanding officer grabbed him just in time. ‘Sorry, Chaplain,’ we heard him say, ‘Can’t let them get you, too!'” 

“This true story, based on an official communique, typifies the chaplain in action. Though he performs many such deeds, he is never expected to assume risks beyond the line of duty. His work is clearly defined; his sole duty is to minister to spiritual needs of our fighting forces.

“Of course, to be in constant attendance on his men, he must often serve under fire. When this is necessary, his cool devotion to duty is an inspiration to all. However, service with distinction is not confined to those who serve in action. Chaplains assigned to camps and bases at home show the same qualities that characterize their colleagues overseas.

“Yes, the individual deeds of the chaplain reflect the spirit of the entire Chaplain Service. Wherever the chaplain serves, he is making a priceless contribution to fighting morale-building finer citizens for the world of tomorrow.”

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Text and photos from a 1944 magazine advertisement by Hammond Organ (TCK Archives).

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A Day in the Life of a Confederate Chaplain

In 2017, historian M. Todd Cathey wrote an engaging book about the life and Civil War experiences of James H. McNeilly who served as a chaplain in the Tennessee Infantry Volunteers for a substantial part of the Civil War. However, nearly a century earlier, Chaplain McNeilly personally shared some of his experiences as a Confederate chaplain for the readers of a turn-of-the-century publication, Confederate Chaplain. In it’s November 1918 edition, McNeilly wrote about his ministry in the life-and-death drama of the war between the States.

A Day in the Life of a Confederate Chaplain

by James H. McNeilly, Chaplain, 49th Tennessee Infantry Volunteers

“It was my custom during the siege of Atlanta to take a couple of hours about midday, when there was a lull in the firing, to go back to the field infirmary, where our wounded were cared for and sent to the hospitals in the country south of us. I looked after our wounded, took note of their condition and of the hospital to which they were sent, wrote letters for them, and provided such little conveniences as they might need. We had at the infirmary a little Irishman named Billy, who was about five feet tall, with shoulders three feet across and arms and legs like solid posts of oak. He was the best and kindest nurse I ever saw, and there is no telling how many lives he saved. Billy always saved dinner for the parson and went with me on my rounds. He had one weakness. He wouldn’t take a drop from the medical supplies, but sometimes he would get a brand of stuff we called pinetop whisky and would become not drunk, but very talkative and effusive in his kindness.

“One day we had a little ‘scrimmage,’ as Billy called it, in which half a dozen or more were wounded. We captured some prisoners, among them a boy eighteen years old, a handsome youth, whose leg was shattered. He was the son of a widow from Oswego, N. Y. As he lay along with our wounded men, awaiting his turn on the operating table. I gave him some morphine to relieve his pain and asked him if I could do anything for him. He said he wished above all things that his mother might know of his condition…

Continue reading “A Day in the life of a Confederate Chaplain” here…

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