Category Archives: History
“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.”
* From Army Life, War Department Pamphlet 21-13, 10 August 1944 (TCK Archives).
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.”
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.”
Text and photos from a 1944 magazine advertisement by Hammond Organ (TCK Archives)
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!”
“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.”
Text and photos from a 1944 magazine advertisement by Hammond Organ (TCK Archives).
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…
“The night before he was shot and left for dead, Father Meany blessed the flag of the 1st Battalion of the Old 69th Regiment. For aboard the blacked-out transport ‘New York’s Own’ were moving in for the Battle of Makin Atoll–to add the 60th ring to their battle standard…”
So begins the “comic book” story of Chaplain Stephen Meany and his ministry to the famous 69th Infantry Regiment. Published in 1944, the July-September issue included Chaplain Meany’s story during the Battle of Makin Atoll. Here is that story:
In 1945 Chaplain Corpening encouraged his readers to not allow their initial good intentions for personal improvement to fall by the wayside during war, but rather that they should begin the “real victory march” and be the men that will make their friends and family proud. It is a message that our men and women in uniform today still need to hear. Chaplain Corpening was the chaplain at the Army Air Force Engineer Command in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in 1945. The organization published a weekly newsletter called Engineerful which included a “Chaplain’s Chat” section where Chaplain Corpening’s plea appeared in the 19 August 1945 issue.
Have We Won?
by Chaplain Corpeneing
“For a number of years before our present emergency, I was Chaplain in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Among the camps that I had were five World War 1 veteran companies. While many of these men had been temporarily caught in a bad depression, a rather high per cent were men who could not hold a job in private industry because they were periodic or habitual drinkers. If a man helps to win the war and then loses his own life of usefulness to his family and community by his lack of self control, has he won?
“Many a man came overseas with a resolution in his heart to break certain harmful habits or to begin a new kind of life entirely based on the life and example of Jesus, but for some reason he has done neither. Has he won?
“Many a man now says to himself, ‘When I get back, I intend to begin all over again.’ Will he? Maybe so. He will be sure to have the nerve to do it–if he begins now.
“The war that we have been fighting was for the purpose of guaranteeing certain freedom and opportunities to our loved ones as well as to the nations of the world. Have we won if we permit our own weaknesses to deprive them of opportunities or to make them ashamed of our language or conduct instead of being able to hold their heads high and point with pride toward us as their sons, husbands, or dads?
“Let’s begin a real victory march now, not one that will make our friends and loved ones ashamed, and that will fill our own souls with disgust.
“When he changes his black cloth for khaki, the parson goes for a fortnight’s course to prepare himself spiritually for his mission, learn the customs of the army and the elements of drill” begins an interesting article about a British minister’s transformation for civilian clergy to military chaplain in 1942.
Letters from Chaplain Malcom Slicer Taylor
by Chaplain (Major) Daryl Densford
Love, dolls, ministry, eggs and mother. Just a few of the topics Chaplain Taylor discussed with his wife in letters from France just days after the end of World War One.
Chaplain Malcom S. Taylor was a First Lieutenant, serving at the II Corps Headquarters (along with three other chaplains) in France. I do not know much about Chaplain Taylor except from a few documents and the few postal covers and letters to his wife that I have found. From those letters I discovered that he was from Berryville, Virginia (or at least his wife was there during his deployment) and was in France when the war ended, departing Hoboken, NJ for France on the Agamemnon on 16 October 1918, returning on the La Touraine from Le Havre, departing on 9 February 1919 and arriving just 10 days later in New York, NY. However, when he wrote these letters, he wasn’t expecting to be home until May 15, though “without anything at all definite to go on”. While he doesn’t use his wife’s name in his letters, the ship manifest from his voyage to France gives here name as Agnes.
In his letters I see a man who loved his wife and children very much, talking about day-to-day family business (including a pay raise he was expecting) as well as gifts for the children and his love for all of them. His letters also reveal a chaplain who was concerned with effectively ministering to his Soldiers as well as being a blessing to the innocent victims of war.
Below are transcriptions of Chaplain Taylor’s letters to his wife in November and December 1918, followed by pictures of some of the postal covers that he also mailed letters to her in from France. Notice that the first letter was written just 13 days after the war ended, on November 24, 1918!
As troops sailed home from the fighting of WW2, transport ships published “newspapers” to pass on information and help pass the time of the travelers. The S.S. Marine Cardinal published White Caps for those she was taking home. Here’s the “Chaplain’s Corner” from the 2 January 1946 issue, urging the war-weary troops to make the world a better place as they return home.
“After a great convention had left a certain city, a man passing by the convention hall, saw a delegate’s badge in the gutter. ‘The show was over’; this was the aftermath. And now that the war has ended, what will be its aftermath——a badge in the gutter or war’s destructive energies turned to constructive use:
“The answer lies with the millions who like yourselves are returning home. You can make the world just about what you want it to be if you do not toss aside the idealism, cooperation, and comrades which led our forces onto victory.”
Author unknown, White Caps, 2 January 1946 (author’s collection).