Christmas at War

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.

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A 75 Year Old Christmas Story

Father Timothy Doody, taken in 1966. Courtesy Paul Williams.

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.

Continue reading this story (about 430 more words)…

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WW1 Christmas Truce

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?

Continue reading (921 words)…

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Happy 110th Anniversary to the Army Religious Affairs Specialists!

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.

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Army Chaplains During the Attack on Pearl Harbor

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.

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Combat Comes To The Chaplains

Wreckage at Wheeler Field

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.

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Read the rest of this article here…

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Navy Chaplains at Pearl Harbor

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.

 

Continue reading this article at The Chaplain Kit…

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The Aleutian Islands in WW2

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.

See the rest of the pictures of this Arctic outpost here…

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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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