Category Archives: History

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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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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