The Chaplains Corps (for the Marines)

This an interesting article from a 1952 Leatherneck magazine which reflects on the history and passion of Navy chaplains serving with the Marines:

“Faith is a mighty important word to a Marine faced with the reality of combat. Military training and confidence in his weapon and in his fellow Marines help on the physical side. But a fourth aid is just as important to many–the presence of an old friend and confidant, the Navy chaplain.

“Romp and stomp for the padres by a Marine drill instructor”

“Chaplains have been providing front line spiritual guidance and solace ever since there has been a Navy–ever since Edward Brooks received his commission as a chaplain in 1777. Since the Marine Corps has no chaplain corps of its own, its personnel have always been included within the Navy chaplains’ ministry.

“The earliest discovered reference to any extensive work by Navy chaplains directly for Marines appeared in a letter of December 4, 1862, in which Chaplain C. S. Stewart wrote to a friend describing his activities with the Marines at the New York Navy Yard Hospital.

Click here to continue reading this article (about 1300 more words)…

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2018: The Chaplain Kit in Review

2018-Website-Page-View-Map2018 has been an amazing year for The Chaplain Kit. The website had nearly 80,000 page views compared to about 43,000 in 2017. Of those 80,000 views, over 56,000 came from the U.S. while nearly 3,000 came from the UK, over 1,300 from Canada, over 1,000 from France, nearly 1,000 from Germany with several hundred each (in order of views) from Australia, Philipines, South Korea, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Poland, Romania, Ireland, Indonesia, Russian, Brazil, Ukraine, Kuwait and the European Union. Fewer than one hundred each came from 130 other countries.

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Of the pages viewers went to, Prayers had the most views with nearly 10,000 followed by Chaplain Kits (1,474), Chaplain Corps Prints (1,111) and Chaplain Uniforms (1,016). Stories that were viewed were led by “Chaplain” John McCain (1,168), Truce in the Forest: The Story of a World War II Christmas Eve Truce Between German & American Soldiers During the Battle of the Bulge (1,602), One Chaplain’s Near-Encounter with General (Ret.) James Mattis (669) and I Walked to the Gallows with the Nazi Chiefs (648).

Referers to The Chaplain Kit website were topped by Facebook, primarily through The Chaplain Kit’s Facebook page (which is about to reach 700 page likes) followed by the WordPress Android app, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, WordPress Viewer, Operation Where We Are, Linkedin, Chaplains International, Norwich University and a number of search engines.

In the past five years, The Chaplain Kit has come to include a greater variety of chaplain history and ministry resources, growing from 2014 when The Chaplain Kit had only 2,234 views with most of those being of simple pages showing chaplain kits.

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One Chaplain’s Near-Encounter with General (Ret.) James Mattis

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General (Ret.) James Mattis, 2010, while commander of CENTCOM (DoD photo)

With the recent retirement of Secretary Mattis (General, “Mad Dog,” retired) everyone seems to be posting their stories about him so I thought I would add mine to the mix, from a chaplain’s perspective.

I was the Battalion Chaplain for the 25th Signal Battalion from July 2006 to July 2007. The 25th’s headquarters was in Qatar and they had companies in Bagram, Kandahar and two locations in Kabul, Afghanistan, so I did a lot of traveling to visit my troops (over 50,000 miles in the year I was there).

Since I traveled so much, I learned the ins and outs of getting good transportation from Qatar to Afghanistan and back. Sometimes I would fly a contracted flight with Blackwater or other contractors. My favorite was hitching a ride on the Marine’s Learjet that had daily flights to Afghanistan and back to be ready for VIPs. Usually, though, I got a ride on one of the Air Force’s C-17s which was much faster and more comfortable than their C-130s which I tried to avoid at all costs. The C-130 was notoriously hot and uncomfortable and was slower (being a prop plane) than the C-17 (being a jet). The difference between the C-17 and C-130 was 2.5 to 3 hours in additional flight time from Qatar to Afghanistan.

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Troops from my battalion traveling from Kuwait to Iraq on a C-130 during a later deployment in 2008 (author’s photo).

The back of the C-130 had seats along the sides of the fuselage facing inward with a row down the middle with back-to-back seats facing out. I and a few other soldiers (read: Army) were on one side and there were a few Marines on the other. We all knew we were in for a long, uncomfortable flight because we had the unfortunate lot of having to fly on a C-130.

When we arrived in Bagram, Afghanistan, we grabbed our “carry-on” ruck, tossed it over our shoulder and headed out of the back of the plane to the terminal to get our “checked” duffle bags. On my way out of the plane, I saw one of the Marines talking to another on the flight line and noticed stars on his collar so I circled around to see the name and noticed it was General Mattis who, at the time, was the commander of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force.

What struck me most on this, my one encounter with General Mattis, was that instead of flying on the Marine’s Learjet or waiting for a C-17 for a more comfortable flight, or even requesting the jumpseat up on the flight deck of the C-130, which is a little more comfortable than the other seats (which I often tried to get), he rode in the back of the C-130 with the other Marines travelling with him. He endured the hot, uncomfortable flight, not using his rank or position to be more comfortable. That spoke volumes to me about leadership and as I have learned more about him over the last couple of years while he has been Secretary of Defense, it fits right into the kind of man he is.

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Three Generations of Chaplains

In honor of the 243rd birthday of the Navy Chaplain Corps, here is the story of three generations of Navy chaplains in one family, who served with the British, the Revolution-engulfed American colonists and the new United States.

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William Balch. Artwork by Clayton Braun, circa 1940s

The Balch family chaplain-legacy begins in 1744 when Thomas Balch (1711-1774) was selected by the British government to accompany British troops, as their chaplain, on their deployment to fight the French in what is now Canada. “In 1744, when the War of Austrian Succession broke out in Europe, the Committee of War chose Thomas to be a Chaplain to the forces that led an assault at the Siege of Louisbourg. This siege was carried out, by the British, against French forces in modern Canada.

Read more about the Balch chaplains in America here (537 more words)…

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I Walked to the Gallows With the Nazi Chiefs

Five years after he was a chaplain at the Nuremberg Trials, Henry Gerecke told his story to the readers of the Saturday Evening Post. It was a story of hope, redemption and evil.

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I Walked to the Gallows With the Nazi Chiefs

By Chaplain Henry F. Gerecke

As told to Merle Sinclair
[as it appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, September 1, 1951]

It was the duty of the Chaplain of Nuremberg Prison to offer Christian comfort to Hitler’s gang. Now, after five years under a bond of silence, he tells how they repented before the hangman’s trap fell.

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“Chaplain Gerecke. The Nazi prisoners wrote to his wife, asking her to urge him to stay in Nuremberg” (photo by Ralph Boyle).

It is five years since I served my stretch in Nuremberg prison–as chief chaplain during the trials of the Nazi leaders by the International Military Tribunal and spiritual adviser to the fifteen Protestant defendants. My assistant, Catholic Chaplain Sixtus O’Conner, and I spent eleven months with the perpetrators of World War II. We were the last to counsel with these men, and made ten trips to the execution chamber. The world has never heard our story.

When, some years ago, I asked the United States Army for the necessary permission to share this experience with my fellow Americans, I was asked to wait. I believe the public’s reaction to the trials was responsible. Consequently, my reminiscences have been confined to two reports, both written previously and read only by fellow chaplains and certain young fold of my Lutheran faith.

However, I believe that the story, told now, will help to stress the lessons we should have learned from the careers and downfall of Hitler’s elect, at a time when we need such lessons worse than ever.

Continue reading this article here (5568 more words)…

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Chaplain Ministry at Sea

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Travelling from the United States to their duty in the Philippines onboard a transport ship, Soldiers relied on the chaplains onboard to provide for their religious and spiritual needs. In October 1945, just weeks after the Japanese surrender ending WW2 in the Pacific, a contingent of 252 officers and 1055 enlisted men travelled onboard the Kota Baroe en route to Leyte in the Philipines which was anticipated to take about 20 days.

Pacific-Voyager-Oct-1945-2The ship’s daily newspaper, the Pacific Voyager, regularly included “The Chaplain’s Corner” by Chaplain (Capt.) Charles H. Toogood. The first issue helped to prepare the passengers for what religious services would be provided on their journey, including available resources:

Religious news and announcements from the ship’s chaplain, Capt H. Toogood, will be printed daily in this section of “The Voyager.”

Thursday Capt Toogood stated that:

A good supply of Testaments, Prayer Books, Rosaries, Mezuzahs and Devotional literature is available to men of all faiths if they will ask at the Library or see the Transport Chaplain.

He also announced that men of the Jewish faith interested in a Friday night service should see the Transport Chaplain.

Religious services will be conducted this Sunday, October 7, on hatch No 3. At 0900 a Rosary service for men of the Catholic faith. At 1000 a General Worship service for men of the Protestant faith.

A Bible Study and Discussion class will be held each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon between the hours of 1400 and 1500. Men interested in the formation of such a class are invited to attend a meeting next Tuesday afternoon at 1400 in the Army and Naval Permanent Personnel Mess hall. This room is situated in C deck Port side aft of the ships housing.

Of course, the events onboard ship sometimes interfere with religious services, like what happened about midway through the Kota Baroe’s journey to the Philipines, but other opportunities were made available:

The Bible study and discussion class scheduled for Tuesday has been cancelled, Chaplain H. Toogood announced.

The meeting was called off to avoid interfering with the boxing tournament. The next meeting of the group will be Thursday afternoon.

Chaplain Toogood also stated that a hymn sing similar to the one last Sunday, will be held on hatch no. 3 on Thursday afternoon at 1500 hours.

In the last issue of the Pacific Voyager, Chaplain Toogood expressed his appreciation for those who participated in the religious services and helped to prepare them for what they would find when they arrived in Manila:

With the final edition of the “Voyager” we take this opportunity to express our thanks to all who have contributed to the enjoyment of this voyage.

The city of Manila where you will land was once a large and flourishing metropolis. It enjoyed all the modern conveniences found in any great city but Manila came in the path of war and so today the city lies in ruins. Its parks and buildings show the destructive power of modern warfare. Its people have also suffered. This you should try to remember as you live and work among them. They have a high regard for Americans and you can, by your conduct, help to maintain that standard of respect. We wish for each of you a pleasant tour of duty, good health and a safe and speedy return to your homes and loved ones.

-Charles H. Toogood.

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Quoted articles from Pacific Voyager, No’s. 1, 11 & 18, October 1945 (author’s collection).

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Army Chaplain

Life-1942-Army-Chaplain-009-50 (2)“The chaplains who went to war with U.S. soldiers in 1917 were often called ‘Holy Joe.’ The chaplains who are going to war in 1942 are more apt to be called ‘Chappie,’ a nickname indicative of an enlarged relationship. Army chaplains today have assumed a multitude of functions that make them resemble unofficial morale officers Apart from his purely religious duties, the average chaplain acts as adviser to the lovelorn, consoler of the sick, jailed and troubled, athletic director, organizer of recreation, banker, postmaster, lending librarian. He is, says grateful rookies, ‘the lonely soldier’s best friend.

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Read the rest of the article (161 words) and see the accompanying 11 pictures here…

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Chaplain, we are glad you are here

“With the Red army broken, there was another trick left in MacArthur’s game–use of airborne troops. When they dropped Oct. 20 [1950], LIFE photographer Sochurek jumped with them.” One of the men he jumped with was Chaplain James A. Skelton who had quite a story to tell.

“…The jump was a day late for one of its important objectives–to rescue American prisoners. I met Chaplain James A. Skelton of Hannibal, Mo. after he had returned from burying 75 American prisoners. He told me how, on the night of Oct. 20, only hours after the airborne troops had jumped, the prisoners had been herded from their prison train in groups of 15, then under the pretext of being fed were led to separate areas, blindfolded and shot.

“Of the 75 the chaplain was able to identify only 29, and even that was difficult, for the clothing of many of the boys contained as many as three dog tags on a single person. He told of the 20 men who had escaped this murder train, how they were hardly able to stand, of a small, rock-hard cracker that had been their only ration for weeks, of their bushmanlike appearance. One of the men who survived, upon seeing Chaplain Skelton, said,

Chaplain, we are glad you are here. Let’s have a prayer.

“With the chaplain were two men. They carried the paper-wrapped personal effects of the 75 murdered Americans, which neatly filled two GI helmets.”

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Quoted text and photo from “Camera Records A Combat Jump,” by Howard Sochurek. LIFE, 6 November 1950, 36-38 (author’s collection).

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Current Army Chaplain Provides Vietnam Field Service

The 3/4 scale replica of the Wall in D.C. is 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet high at its tallest point.(photo courtesy of Chaplain Daryl Densford)

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, founders of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. also sponsors a mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall that is 3/4 the size of the original and travels around the country to give veterans, their families, and citizens an opportunity to visit The Wall That Heals even if they can’t travel to our nation’s capital.

The mobile wall just had one stop in Missouri this year, in the small town of Ava, near Fort Leonard Wood. When requested by the Douglas County Veterans Memorial Association, Fort Leonard Wood Chaplain Resource Manager, Chaplain (MAJ) Daryl Densford, willingly volunteered to go to Ava to give visitors a feel for what Vietnam Soldiers may have experienced when they worshiped in the field, as chaplains traveled around Vietnam to provide religious support to those fighting there.

(Photo courtesy of Chaplain Daryl Densford)

Chaplain Densford, dressed in a Vietnam War-style uniform, used one of his Vietnam-era chaplain kits to provide a worship service with Communion for about 60 participants who were visiting the mobile wall on 22 September 2018. According to Densford, while he took time to describe chaplain ministry during the Vietnam War and how it compares to today, “it wasn’t just an exhibition but a worship service for many Vietnam veterans, their family members and other visitors to the Wall.”

Following the “Field Service” there was an Honors Ceremony to remember the Soldiers whose names are on the Wall. Chaplain Densford provided a prayer at this ceremony which also included addresses by Missouri Governor Mike Parsons, Missouri State Representative Lynn Morris, Ava Mayor David Norman and President of the College of the Ozarks, Jerry Davis. One of the features of this ceremony was the sharing of memories by family members of six residents from Ava who died in Vietnam.

(Photo courtesy of Dr. Tommy Goode)

Whether caring for Soldiers and Family members serving today, or for Veterans, their families and families of the fallen from other wars, chaplains are willing to serve. “It was a great honor to represent the Chaplain Corps and Fort Leonard Wood at this event, and to honor those who died during the Vietnam War,” said Densford, “It’s what we do as chaplains on a regular basis as we ‘nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen’.”

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Here are some more pictures from the day:

(Photo courtesy of Dr. Tommy Goode)

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(Photo courtesy of Dr. Tommy Goode)

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(Photo courtesy of Dr. Tommy Goode)

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“Altar” set-up using two 5 gallon cans and two ammo boxes with the Vietnam-era chaplain kit (photo courtesy Chaplain Daryl Densford)

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This gentleman with Chaplain Densford was a machine gunner in the Navy but was a lay-volunteer for his chaplain when out to sea. He currently is a civilian minister and assisted Chaplain Densford with the worship service (photo courtesy Chaplain Daryl Densford)

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Chaplain Densford with Missouri governor Mike Parsons (photo courtesy of Chaplain Daryl Densford)

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Chaplain Densford with Missouri Representative Lynn Morris (photo courtesy of Chaplain Daryl Densford).

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Chaplain Densford with Dr. Jerry Davis, President of the College of the Ozarks (photo courtesy of Chaplain Daryl Densford).

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The Chaplain is the Friend of Every Soldier

In 1941, as the United States was gearing up for its inevitable entry into World War 2, the Army published a booklet to prepare men (at that time) to enter the military service, titled “The Army and You.” It included topics like military courtesy, health, equipment, chow (“Good Food–and Plenty of it”!), promotions and pay; as well as what to expect at the Induction Station, Reception Center and Replacement Training Center.

Of course, one of the benefits of military service this 14-page booklet discusses is the chaplain, as did many promotional pieces of the day. Here’s the paragraph dedicated to soldiers’ religious life and the chaplain who is there for them:

The Chaplain is the Friend of Every Soldier

There are opportunities for religious worship at all posts, camps, and stations. Although attendance is not compulsory, every inducement is offered the soldier to attend church services, either at the post chapel or at the church of his faith in the nearby towns. Become acquainted with the chaplain. Part of his duty is to serve as your friend, counsellor, and guide, no matter whether you belong to his church, another church, or to no church.

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The cover invites the potential soldier into the camaraderie found, among other places, a formation of men marching with weapons. “The Army and You,” U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941 (author’s collection).

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