Chaplain Kits

Chaplain Kits

Chaplain Kits + Field Altars + Worship Kits

Each chaplain is issued a chaplain kit when they complete their initial military training. Over the years they have been called by various names to include chaplain kits, field kits, field altars, portable altars, etc., and have ranged from the very bulky and heavy to very portable. Perhaps the most well-known portrayal of a chaplain and his kit can be seen in the movie, “The Longest Day” when on D-day a chaplain is seen searching in the water for his heavy, non-floating, field kit. The chaplain portrayed in this scene, or from whose story it is inspired (Chaplain Sampson), went on to become the Army Chief of Chaplains. When he was the Deputy Chief of Chaplains he directed that a more lightweight and portable chaplain kit be developed.

In the June 1971 issue of Soldiers, the following article about the development of the new lightweight chaplain kit appeared:

… researchers at the Combat Development Command (CDC) Chaplain Agency at Fort Lee, VA., are developing equipment that will enable the chaplain to conduct services with all the essentials of a worshipful setting.

Chaplains in the 164 different type TOE Army field units are usually provided a jeep and trailer, tent, stove, field desk, typewriter, table and chair. They are also issued a chest for hymnbooks, a combat altar kit and a musical worship aid.

The chest has been used for many years for storage of hymnbooks and other ecclesiastical items needing protection from the elements.

Before the Korean War all necessary altar equipment was carried in a wooden case. This was later replaced by a metal case that is still being used by some chaplains.

Airborne and airmobile units, however, require a lightweight altar kit that can be strapped to the chaplain who jumps from aircraft. To meet this need a lightweight compact chaplain kit was developed. Made of weatherproof fabric and weighing only 6 pounds with all components, the kit meets minimum requirements for conducting worship services under all combat and field conditions. Both Protestant and Roman Catholic kits have the same carrying case.

The present combat altar kit, first made available in Vietnam in 1966, has been modified to reduce its cost without decreasing quality or seviceability. It features a shoulder strap, carrying handle and nylon mesh straps to secure it tightly and allow quick and easy access…

.To view different chaplain kits, move your mouse pointer over the “Chaplain Kits” tab to reveal a drop-down menu. You can view them either by Faith Group where the kits are displayed as near as chronologically within each faith group as can be determined. You can also choose to view them by war eras. (which will also include more information on the kits and their development.  Dating a kit precisely to a war isn’t always precise as many were developed between the wars, but this offers one of the best way to organize their display.

  1. Thomas Asher

    Nice start – keep building!


  2. I have been looking for a Viet Nam era pewter chalice.

    A retired Army Chaplain (Viet Nam), showed me his pewter chalice with teeth marks all around the rim of the cup. Thanks for keeping this vital part of ministry alive. God Bless, Jim Goodwin


    • Jim, thanks for stopping by The Chaplain Kit!

      The chalice with teeth marks sounds very interesting. That would be quite a piece of memorabilia! I’ve never seen a pewter chalice, either in a Vietnam, Korean or WW2 era kit. I wonder if the one you saw was commercially purchased.


  3. Doug Hedman

    Looking for a cross for Vietnam chaplain kit


    • Doug,

      Thanks for stopping by The Chaplain Kit!

      I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a cross from the Vietnam-era kit being sold separately, only with a kit (not that I see every sale). I may have an extra available or a collector friend may. I’ll check and let you know via personal e-mail.



  4. Fr. Robert Mercado

    I am interested in knowing how to get a Roman Catholic Chaplains Kit.

    In many of my PCS moves, mine disappeared. The model I had was measured at 15″L x 7″H x 7″D. Olive green field kit.
    How can I get one for my outside ministry?
    Fr. Robert Mercado


    • Fr. Mercado, They come up for sale surprisingly often on Ebay, though usually the Protestant ones. The RC kits usually sell for more, since they’re not as plentiful on the “market.” Unless you find one at an estate sale or antique/collectables store, the next best chance is finding a retired chaplain who still has his that would be willing to part with it…not an easy venture.


  5. I have a chaplains kit with only 2 sewn on labels on front. It also has a map from 1940’s of a British town. Could it be a British Chaplains kit?


  6. John Humphrey

    I am looking for a description of what a union civil war chaplain would wear for a uniform with the rank of a captain any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you


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