Thanksgiving at the Front

Few Thanksgiving Days have passed without there being Service Members from the United States stationed somewhere around the world, away from family and usually far from home. Missing holidays and special family occasions is a fact of military life. Here are a few pictures from our archives of some of those Thanksgivings from our history.

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Civil War soldiers enjoying a Thanksgiving meal.

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Chaplain Judah Nadich delivers a sermon to American servicemen at a Thanksgiving service in the rue de la Victoire synagogue in Paris, 23 November 1944.

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Men of the US Army Air Corps listen to a sermon on ‘The Source of our Strength’ during a Thanksgiving service at Cransley in Northamptonshire. The sermon is being given by Chaplain Ward J Fellows. Just visible to the left of the pulpit is Reverend Greville-Cooke, the vicar of Cransley, 23 November 1944.

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Chaplain F. McDonald 1944

Chaplain F. McDonald of the 12th Army Special Troops, leads a Thanksgiving prayer for the leaders of the 12th Army in 1944.

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Chaplain Gercke

“Chaplain (Capt.) Henry A. Gereke, U.S. Army, St. Louis, Mo., reads a short sermon to the audience celebrating Thanksgiving day in the court room of the Palace of Justice, Nuernberg, Germany. The audience consisted mostly of Allied representatives to the International military tribunal, which included Francis Biddle, Robert Jackson, and Justice Birkett, representing the U.S. during the trials. 11-22-45. Signal Corps Photo. Please credit. Released by authority of the Bureau of Public Relations or by Theatre Press Censor.”

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Chaplain Riddle Conducts Thanksgiving Day Services in Korea, 23 Nov 50.

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“The hood of a jeep serves as a makeshift altar for Cdr Martin J. Doermann, 12th Marines regimental chaplain, at Gio Linh, south of the Demilitarized Zone, on Thanksgiving Day 1968. Cdr Doermann was among 20 chaplains visiting forward units that holiday.” (DoD photo)

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Chaplain (CPT) Daryl Densford praying before the Thanksgiving meal at Basrah, Iraq, 27 November 2008.

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Chaplain (CPT) Daryl Densford leads a Thanksgiving worship service with American and British Service Members at Camp Basrah, Iraq, 27 November 2008.

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Chaplain Daryl Densford

Chaplain (CPT) Daryl Densford visiting Soldiers of 3-159 ARB at a FARP in eastern Iraq on Thanksgiving weekend in 28 November 2008.

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Lieutenant Commander Paul A. Anderson, a Navy Chaplain and pastor from Perham’s New Creation Lutheran Church, blesses Marines at an outpost in Iraq during a communion service over Thanksgiving weekend, 2008.

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Maj. Gen Vincent Brooks, 1st Infantry Division and United States Division-South Commanding General, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Douglas Carver, United States Army Chaplain, Lt. Col. Timothy Mallard, 1st Infantry Division and USD-S chaplain and Cpt. Johnvianney Ijeoma, 1st Inf. Div., Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion chaplain recites a hymn at the Post Chapel Thanksgiving worship service Nov. 25, 2010 in Basra, Iraq. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Chanelcherie DeMello, USD-S Public Affairs)

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Soldiers and civilians recite a scripture from the bible at the Post Chapel Thanksgiving worship service Nov. 25, 2010 in Basra, Iraq. The ceremony featured a sermon and testament from guest speaker Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Douglas Carver, United States Army chaplain, in honor of Thanksgiving. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Chanelcherie DeMello, USD-S Public Affairs)

 

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Wherever you are today, whether it’s with your family at home, or with your brothers and sisters in arms somewhere far from home, our prayer and hope for you is that you will have a Happy Thanksgiving with much to thank God for!

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The Church and the Chaplain (1952)

FM-21-13-50“The Army recognizes the importance of religion in the American way of life and in your training as a soldier. For that reason, a complete program of religious training is provided for soldiers of the three general faiths, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant. This program for the spiritual and moral welfare of the soldier is the responsibility of the commanding officer and is carried out through the chaplain assigned to the unit Chaplains advise commanders in religious matters and work directly with soldiers in helping them solve their problems. The chaplains have volunteered for this duty and it is their desire to be of the greatest possible service to soldiers and their dependents. Separate religious services usually are conducted for members of the three faiths, but it is sometimes impossible to conduct a separate service for each group. When this is the case, a general religious worship service is held. Attendance at these services is, of course, entirely a personal matter, but if you participate, you will find them a source of inner strength and your job as a soldier will be made easier.

“If your church requires that you attend services of your denomination, see your unit chaplain and he may be able to direct you to a chaplain of your faith in the area, or to a church of your faith in a nearby community.

“Available to you also are other religious activities such as Sunday school classes, Bible study classes, Holy Name Societies, and the Serviceman’s Christian League.

“Remember that the chaplain is always available to help you as a personal counselor. He will be happy to talk to you about any personal problem and will try to help you find a solution. Anything you tell him is confidential and privileged. This means tha the cannot be required to repeat anything you have told him. The chaplain will visit soldiers in the guardhouse or hospital, and you may call upon him to conduct religious services such as baptisms and weddings.

“It is customary to address these officers as ‘Chaplain,’ but Catholic chaplain may prefer to be called ‘Father’; Jewish chaplains may prefer to be called ‘Rabbi’; and Protestant chaplains sometimes prefer to be called ‘Reverend.”

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Taken from FM 21-13, “The Soldier’s Guide,” Department of the Army, June 1952 (author’s collection).

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Dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 11 November 1921

As Veteran’s Day 2017 comes to a close, here’s a brief look back 96 years to Armistice Day, 11 November 1921, when Chaplain John T. Axton (then the Army Chief Chaplain) committed the body of an unknown WW1 Soldier, dedicating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Commitment of body of unknown soldier

Chaplain (COL) John T. Axton commitments the body of an unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, 21 November 1921 (author’s collection).

Three years after the end of World War 1, an unidentified Soldier who had been killed in fighting in France during the war was brought to Washington D.C. and lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda until 11 November 1921. On this Armistice day, the body of the unknown Soldier was committed and interred outside the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, along with the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Read the rest of this story (along with more pictures) here.

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“Doubly So When Wars Increase”

Living, working and playing among the Service Members they minister to, chaplains usually have insight into the struggles and feelings of those Service Members. They help them try to navigate their troubles successfully through many means, based on their strengths and talents. Some use poetry, as did Chaplain Henry W. Habel, who by March 1945, had been an Army Chaplain for three years.

Chaplain Habel was from Buffalo, New York and graduated from Acadia University in Nova Scotia before pastoring churches in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada through the Baptist Church of the Northern Convention.

The following poem, written by Chaplain Habel, was found in a worship bulletin from 6 May 1945, from the 13th General Hospital Chapel in New Guinea where Chaplain (Major) D.O. Luginbill and Chaplain (Captain) L.V. Walters were the chaplains.

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Our Worship

Oft men feel they’re “in a spot”,

Wondering how to bear their lot,

Grieving that there must be change;

“Why?” they ask. “Tis all so strange!”

 

Such the case in time of peace;

Doubly so when wars increase.

Yearning hearts cry every where,

Weighed with this most awful care.

 

Here’s a truth. Grasp it with me.

Change is a necessity!

Through it better days are born,

Life made wholesome while it’s torn.

 

Hardships build a stronger man,

Vision full, a will that can,

Satisfied with simple things,

Fighting all that evil brings.

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“Ills, Ails and Wails…”

There are several variations of the “TS” card seen around from years past. I’ve seen these spelled out as “Tuff Stuff” or “Tuff S**t” but both were a humorous way to discourage whining. Likely begun as a joke to give to Service Members who seemed to complain all the time, similar to the phrase, “tell it to the chaplain” instead of listening to the gripe. Most have a number of boxes that can be checked off or hole-punched, to indicate the number of visits to the chaplain (I’m not sure if the chaplain would no longer see that Service Member whose card got full!).

It seems that some chaplains picked up on these and used similar cards, perhaps the ones with “Tuff Stuff” instead of the alternative, then later “Theological Solutions,” to encourage Service Members to come and see them and also to advertise worship services. Below is a card used by chaplains at Spokane Army Air Field (sometime between the end of WW2 and 1950) which has similar encouragement to visit the chaplain on one side (with places for hole-punches) and worship service times on the other side for Catholics, Protestants and Jewish Service Members (author’s collection):

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Make 1944 a Record Year!

Chaplains have always found ways to remind their Soldiers, Sailors, Marines or Airmen about worship services. During WW2, one chaplain used these “Greeting” cards with a calendar to encourage attendance.

Likely distributed by the chaplain around Christmas 1943, this folded card includes a couple of verses and an invitation to attend Chapel Services. There is also an invitation to see the chaplain with any problems the Soldier may have. The inside includes a 1944 calendar to check off Sunday worship attendance as well as communion participation with the encouragement to “make 1944 a record year” and is pre-signed by the chaplain, Gilbert Johnstone (author’s collection).

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You can see more items that chaplains gave to Service Members on this page.

Consider the Call…

In 2007, the Army Chaplain Corps ran a series of ads that appeared at least in Army Times, in an effort to encourage people “already ordained or still in seminary” to “consider the call of a truly unique ministry.” I’ve recently come across two of these ads from September and October 2007 issues of Army Times. Have you considered the call?

Consider the Call

Army Chaplain recruiting ad from Army Times, 10 September 2007 (author’s collection).

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Consider the Call

Army Chaplain recruiting ad from Army Times, 29 October 2007 (author’s collection).

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“Four Chaplains” Ballad Sung by Fred Neil

I recently came across a radio single of “Four Chaplains,” a song that is not very familiar to many. The words and music are by R. Alfred and W. Gold. It was performed by Fred Neil and released as a single in 1960. It also appears on the album, Trav’lin Man: The Early Singles (2008). This is a ballad about the four World War Two chaplains who gave up their lives as they gave away their life jackets to other Soldiers after the USS Dorchester, which they were being transported on, was attacked by a German submarine (digitalized from a “Radio Station Copy,” author’s collection).

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FourChaplains-Radio Single

Radio Station Copy of “Four Chaplains” performed by Fred Neil (author’s collection).

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You can read more about the Four Chaplains on this site at History > Chaplain Stories > The Four Chaplains.

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Chaplain Corps Beginnings


Army Navy Air Force Chaplain Corps History

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Chaplains Go

Just in case you didn’t see it on the Facebook page, here’s The Chaplain Kit’s latest video:

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