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You have probably heard of Chaplain Taggart’s book, “My Fighting Congregation” but do you know his story?
On This Day in Chaplain Corps History, 27 February 1942, Chaplain William C. Taggart performed his duties -and more- so gallantly during fighting on the island of Java, that later that year he was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on this day in 1942.
Just released on Veteran’s Day 2021! “In Beyond Belief-True Stories of Military Chaplains that Defy Comprehension … you will find stories of heroism by U.S. Military Chaplains from the American Revolution through the more recent wars against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Some of these chaplains were heroic Prisoners of War, some were ordinary men of God who went above and beyond to encourage and comfort the fearful and the wounded, and to pray with and stay with the dying on the battlefield. Their stories not only inspire, but teach important lessons in brotherhood. Despite their differences in faith and denomination, each served and ministered inclusively, focusing not on their differences, but on what they all had in common: service to the same Heavenly Father, dedication to others, and uncommon courage in trying times” (From the back cover).
277 pages, 27 chapters including an appendix of highly decorated chaplains.
On this day in 1945 (18 Oct 45) the Nuremberg Trials began. Five years after he was a chaplain there, Henry Gerecke told his story to the readers of the Saturday Evening Post. It was a story of hope, redemption and evil.
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.
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.
In the next episode of Chaplains in Chapels Drinking Coffee, we’ll hear from Chaplain (Major General) Thomas Solhjem, the Army’s Chief of Chaplains. While we were not able to sit down with him for coffee while he was at Fort Rucker recently, he spoke in several venues which provided many topics, including how UMTs have responded to COVID, his priorities for the Chaplain Corps, the Lines of Effort for Transformational Change, and some thoughts on prayer from his message at Fort Rucker’s National Prayer Breakfast.
The first episode (following the pilot) of Chaplains in Chapels Drinking Coffee has been released. In this first official episode, we visit a World War 2-era chapel that has a high altar beautifully crafted by POWs housed at Fort Rucker, Alabama during the war, and we talk to Chaplain Thomas Dyer who began his chaplain career as the first Buddhist chaplain in the Army, taking an interesting spiritual journey back to his Christian roots.
You can watch the full episode here, on our YouTube channel.
On 19 March 1945 Japanese bombers attacked the U.S.S. Franklin off the coast of Japan. Chaplain Joseph Timothy O’Callahan’s actions on that day earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. This video uses narrative from the program “Profiles in Patriotism” from a vinyl record produced by the U.S. Navy Recruiting Service about 1968.
16 July 1950, not long after the beginning of the conflict in Korea, elements of the 19th Infantry Regiment were forced to retreat after the Battle of Taejon near the Kum River. After urging the medical officer to continue the retreat with those Soldiers who could walk, Chaplain Felhoelter stayed with the wounded, all of which -including Chaplain Felhoelter- were killed by the advancing North Koreans. This video tells a little of his story and what we can learn from his sacrifice.
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.
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.
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)
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