WW2 Era

World War Two Era

Jewish

The portable ark and altar below was used by Army Chaplain Martin Weitz during World War II. On display at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, DC (author’s photos).

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Catholic

“Portable altar with three panels that fold into a compact, fabric-lined carrying case with a leather strap handle. Used by Father George R. Metcalf of St. Paul, Minnesota. Metcalf served as chaplain for General George S. Patton during World War II. The style of the military uniforms depicted in the painting suggest that the altar was originally used during World War I” (In the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society). This portable altar is like one used by Chaplain McGavern in the Korean War, which you can see on the Korean War Kit page.

Metcalf Portable altar

(Photo credit:discussions.mnhs.org/ collections/2012/03/portable-altar/

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The following chaplain kit was originally produced for either Catholic or liturgical Protestant, having a “reversible” cross with the corpus on one side and “IHS” symbol on the other. However, the owner of this kit removed the “IHS” symbol and put it above the corpus. This kit also includes the chalice with intinction insert, a ciborium, a lavabo bowl, paten, two candlesticks, two bottles (for wine and water) and a small container with individual cups, with most of the metal items being marked with “US.” This particular kit is missing the decorative cover for the back of the case (author’s collection).

WW2 Chalice Chaplain Kit

Here is how the above kit looks, complete. This one has the cross facing the Protestant direction, with the “IHS” symbol centered (photo courtesy of Chaplain Bob Nay).

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The following kit was used by Chaplain Francis Vogt but is like the kit used by Chaplain Francis Sampson whose story of loosing his kit in a river after a combat jump into Normandy was portrayed in the movie “The Longest Day,” though in the movie, it was a British Chaplain. According to Chaplain Bob Nay, “In real life it was Chaplain Sampson with the 101st. He lost his kit again at Market Garden. He jumped in Korea with the 187th and lost his kit again. When he made General he wanted a jumper friendly kit” (photo courtesy of Chaplain Bob Nay):

WW2-Korea-kit-like-Sampsons-Nays

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The next kit (below) was a Navy issued kit. Theirs were nearly always with the blue covers instead of the maroon the Army used. The Navy kits are also a couple of inches larger than the Army kits. These were used in WW2 and into the Korean War (photo courtesy Chaplain Bob Nay):

WWII-Korea era Navy Chaplain Kit-Nays

Here is a similar kit packed away and the case, nearly all of the pieces and the case marked “USN” (photo origins unknown):

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Protestant

These kits were generally provided to the chaplains by their endorsing agencies. In this kit (below) you see a very plain Latin cross with a tray with small individual cups for communion. This kit also come with a ciborium, two candlesticks and two glass jars for wine and water. For worship, the chaplain likely wouldn’t set the items on the case, but rather on an improvised altar using a Jeep hood, ammo or ration boxes (author’s collection).

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Following is another kit like the one above, this one id’d to Chaplain Norman E. Edwards. Chaplain Edwards evidently received the kit when he was a Lieutenant Colonel then covered the “LTC” when he was promoted to Colonel. This particular kit is missing one of the jars, the cross stand and the individual cups but the items are in remarkably good condition considering the box suffered water damage as seen by the first picture of the case and the last picture of the inside (author’s collection).

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Here’s another example like the ones above, but with a lavabo bowl. Also notice the bottle opener for opening the wine(?) or grape juice. This particular kit was used by Chaplain Howard D. Small (photo courtesy of Chaplain Bob Nay):

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Below is a Protestant kit with a chalice (and no individual cups) for use by chaplains from more liturgical Protestant denominations. The long chrome tube held the hosts for communion. This particular kit is on display at the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum (photo by author).

Chaplain-Kit-Protestant-WW2-2

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Below is another kit like the one above, though missing the candlesticks. It belonged to Jesse Swinson who was a Navy Reserve chaplain who served on the U.S.S. Doyen in the Pacific during WW2 (which won 6 battle stars), then with the Marines in the Korean War (kit on loan to The Chaplain Kit from Chaplain Tiann Morgner):

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Some kits, like the one below, were even more specific to a particular denomination’s eucharistic theology. This one was used by Chaplain Eugene Murray who was a Church of Christ Chaplain (note the “CC” on the cover). It has both a chalice and an individual cup communion tray (photos courtesy of Chaplain Bob Nay):

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Sometimes chaplains procured smaller kits for hospital or prison visitation. The below kit was used by Chaplain Henry Gerecke as he ministered to the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials, including Hermann Goering. It is on display at the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum (author’s photo).

WW2-Gerecke

Below is another example of an individually-procured small kit, this one used by Chaplain George Wood (photo origin unknown):

Chaplain-Kit-Chaplain-George-Wood-WW2

The below kit used by Chaplain George King is another example of a type of smaller kit used by chaplains in WW2 (photos courtesy of Thomas Asher):

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Some chaplains were issued special “Troop Transport” kits, like the one below. They included individual cups and trays for use while being transported by sea from the United States to the theaters of war (and home). Here is an example of one of these kits which were authorized in maroon, violet or dark green (photos courtesy of Chaplain Bob Nay):

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photos coming soon…

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The Troop Transport Kits continued to be produced into the 1950’s and even saw use in chapels to provide for communion. Below is an example of one from the 1950’s, which can be dated by having a plastic bakelite handle instead of the leather-wrapped handles found on those used in WW2. While some of the items are likely not original to the kit they are representative (author’s collection):

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  1. These are so awesome, and this is great info! My husband is a chaplain candidate, and this is helping me in my search to find him a kit with history.

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  2. Bernard Ward Camden

    I have this organ in perfect condition….happy to learn something about it….

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  3. I’m curious about the Field Organ. We have one, a gift from an elderly family friend, it had been her husband’s. Do you know about any resources for restoration or collecting?

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    • Unfortunately I don’t. Restoration would be a small market since there were likely so few survived from WW2, Korea and the Vietnam War. You may check with WW2 reenactor groups. There may be a chaplain reenactor who has one and has restored it.

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  4. John Uhler

    What is the condition of the organ? I have made several repairs to them. If some of the keys do not work, it needs a cleaning. How are the bellows? what does it do and not do?

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    • Hi, John. My organ is completely functional. Following WW2 it continued to be used by a traveling preacher so didn’t seem to decay much. I haven’t looked too much on the inside, but have played it and all seems to be good. The only down side, that I have yet to correct, is that they put contact paper (or something similar) on the back side so instead of being OD green it has a floral print! not noticeable from the “playing” side, though.

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      • John Uhler

        A couple of thoughts. When you try to pull off the contact paper, the green cloth could be pulled of with it, so be careful. If you used a heat gun and worked the paper off slowly, holding down the OD cover as you went, that might work. It might also leave a residue. The other thought is to take it to Home Depot and have them match the OD and paint the contact paper. I do not know where to get the OD cloth.

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      • Thanks for your suggestions, I anticipated it not being an easy task! I was evaluating the contact paper to see if painting it a matching color would “do” especially since it’s on the side that will seldom be seen.

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  5. Terri Bashaw

    My husband recently found a Chaplain’s altar cross in an antique store in Morro Bay. It looks like one in your pictures from WWII – or maybe Korea. It is brass.

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