Vietnam Era

Vietnam War Era

Going into the Vietnam era, Veteran chaplains would have used the kits they had from WW2 and/or the Korean War. You can see more about them on their respective pages.

Chaplain McMinn

“This field altar was used by Chaplain (Col.) Thomas L. McMinn Jr. during the Vietnam War is on display in the lobby of the Berman Museum of World History [Anniston, Alabama]. McMinn’s fingerprints can still be seen on the cross.” (from The Daily Home website).

While Jewish chaplains, by necessity, continued to use the larger, bulkier kits, this next kit was developed and began being issued to Protestant and Catholic chaplains in Vietnam in 1966 as the “Type 1,” then was slightly modified to reduce costs without reducing serviceability in 1971 known as the “Type 2.” It is designed as a weather-proof, light-weight kit that has everything needed to perform a worship service with the celebration of communion, including having candles! I’ve been told that it also floats, to avoid loosing it in situations where you may find yourself in water, like what Chaplain Francis Sampson experienced in WW2 and the Korean War.

As much as this kit is smaller and lighter than the previous kits which were metal and even more transportable than the WW2 kits, it still wasn’t perfect. During the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the chaplains were not permitted to jump with these chaplain kits because of their size.

Further, they could not be added to the airdrops since ammunition was deemed as more important to the mission(!). “Space and weight limitations were very critical to the Ranger Battalion. Ranger chaplains therefore had to take as little equipment as possible. Chaplain Mack modified his chaplain’s kit to a small demolition bag carrying a communion cup and a host container plus some New Testaments, a Jewish Prayer Book, and rosary beads. Sacramental wine was carried in an extra canteen.”1 Not long after this operation, the new, even smaller, chaplain kit was developed which could be either worn on the pistol belt or attached to a rucksack enabling chaplains to carry them along during parachute jumps.


Protestant & Catholic

First is the “Type 1” chaplain kit. It has the same pieces and parts the “Type 2” does with only minor differences. The most noticeable differences is the bag, which is a thinner, more shiny material than the Type 2 and doesn’t have a securing strap along the length of it (only two short ones over the top). The carry strap is also thinner than the Type 2, with an added shoulder cushion piece on it. There’s also a slight difference in the finish of the chrome pieces and the plastic bottles for the wine/juice and/or water are different. Finally, the plastic container inside the ciborium is larger in the Type 1 kit. The foam insert in the Type 1 kit was such that it deteriorated very badly over time. I don’t think I’ve seen the foam from a Type 1 that has survived. The foam in the Type 2 is tougher and more durable. Here’s an example of a Type 1 kit, though the vestments that came with them are missing (author’s collection):


Below is an example of a Type 2 Protestant kit. Not much difference from the Type 1 (above) except as noted (author’s collection):


Following is a Type 2 Catholic kit. The main differences from the Protestant kits are the corpus on the cross, the bell and the type of vestments (author’s collection):


Sewn inside the bags on these kits are the checklist of included items (with care instructions, washing instructions for the fabric material, and regulations pertaining to the kit and its transport. The Type 1 kits do not have the fabric care instructions (center document (author’s collection):

Vietnam era (Type 2) Chaplain Kit


Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Type 1 and Type 2 bags (Type 1 is on the left). The texture of the material is very noticeable. Also, notice the difference in the shoulder straps (photo courtesy Chaplain Bob Nay):

Nays (2)


Below is Chaplain Charles J. Watters Catholic chaplain kit from Vietnam on display at the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum. Chaplain Watters was killed in action and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor (photo by author):




In the late 1950’s a new design of Jewish Chaplain kit was being developed. The one pictured below has a manufacturer’s plate dated “1959, Lot 1.” Being in the first lot would indicate the beginning of production for this manufacturer of this style. The components of this kit are brass, like some of the older kits coming out of WW2 and the Korean War, but are of the style of the later kits (farther below) which continued to be issued until the “Combat Assault” kits came out in the 1990’s. This particular kit belonged to Chaplain Harold Kushner who was an Army Chaplain 1960-1962 before becoming a famous rabbi and author of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” among many other books. It contains two candlesticks, a kiddish cup and a yad. It is missing the Torah scrolls, wine bottle, prayer shawl and Jewish Prayer Books (author’s collection):

Emerging from the Vietnam War, the Jewish kits contained similar components to the 1959 kit (above) but were chrome. Here is one from this period, missing the Torah and yad (author’s collection):


Below is another Jewish Chaplain Kit from the era, showing the yad, on display at the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum (photo by author):

Jewish chaplain kit


Following is another example of a Jewish Kit produced following Vietnam. This one includes the Torah scrolls though they may be a later addition.

“In the “Jewish Chaplain Kit,” the case acts as the Ark, with two covers and a detachable bottom; a Torah with cover; two prayer shawls, Yarmulkes; a Yad; a Bimah (velvet cover); several sets of candles with holders and stands; and a Kiddush cup with cap” (photo from the Hampton Roads Naval Museum).



This is a diagram of how the contents of the Jewish Chaplain Kit are stowed for storage and travel inside the case and how it should be set up for use:


Jewish Chaplain Kit



Sometime after the mid-1970’s an Orthodox Chaplain Kit began being available to Orthodox chaplains. These kits can be found being used well into the 21st century, particularly in garrison settings. This is a kit on display at the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum, labeled as the “first authorized Orthodox kit” (author’s photo):

Orthodox kit-75


I came across one of these Orthodox Kits recently and the owner graciously set it up for me at South Iowa Chapel on Fort Leonard Wood so that I could take pictures of it for The Chaplain Kit. It has been owned and used by Army Orthodox chaplains since it’s original issue. Many years ago, a retiring Orthodox chaplain “handed it down” to Isaiah Gillette, at the time a new Orthodox chaplain. Upon Chaplain Gillette’s recent retirement, he passed it on to Chaplain Georgel Oanca, a new arrival at Fort Leonard Wood.

It’s a beautiful set, though surprisingly more “lightweight” than I would have expected. The quality is good, however, but likely made lighter since it is a portable kit. Here are some pictures of it set up on the altar (kit courtesy Chaplain Oanca; photos by author):


Gillette-Orthodox-Kit- (2)

The Orthodox Kit from above set up for use on the tailgate of a HMMWV during field exercises at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, ca. 1995 (photo courtesy Chaplain Isaiah Gillette).



  1. dan hatfield

    I have this same kit with a name in the top in black marker its J. C. SCRUGGS. I would like to find him or sell it but I would like to find the owner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, I’ll see what I can find out about Chaplain Scruggs when I get into the office. Does the kit you have have the strap running lengthwise along the the top, crossing the other two shorter straps (like the one picture above)?



  2. dan hatfield

    Yes it does.


  3. How would you know whether one of these nylon cased kits is Vietnam era? They do not seem to be dated. Just curious.


    • Hi, Scott!

      There are 3 distinct indicators of a Type I (Vietnam-era) kit: 1) The material seems to be shinier. It seems to me to be a “cheaper” material but I’m not sure that’s true. 2) There is NO strap that runs lengthwise perpendicular to the other two shorter straps. And, 3) the shoulder strap is thinner but has a pad that slides on to the strap. I also understand that the pieces inside have a little different appearance, but you nearly have to compare them side-by-side to tell. The picture above is a “Type II” (post-Vietnam kit) that was issued into the late ’80s or early ’90s. I’ll post a picture of the bag of a Type I as soon as I can.



  4. Dan Hatfield

    I have more military items if U would like to see them.


  5. Is it possible to find one of these? Where would one look? My father has one from the late 70s and 80s when he was in the service, I’d love to have one for use on bicycle tours.
    Really enjoy the great information!


    • UmCircuitrider, Thanks for stopping by!

      Wouldn’t the smaller current kit (found on this page: ) be better on bicycle tours? At any rate, the ones on this page can sometimes be found on Ebay or other auction sites. They will usually go for at least $500. The current issue kits can sometimes be had for about $300 (less than that new if you can get them from the DoD supply system.)


      • Thanks, at first I thought the new kit was just the bag and two plastic bottles. I’ll keep my eyes open for either set. I do like the whole, church in a bag aspect. Keep up the good blogging!


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