Korean War Era

Korean War Era

Korean War Chaplain Kit

Chaplain kit set up on hood of Jeep for worship service for CO M, 19th Regt, 24th Div, U.S. Army in Chunchon, Korea in September 1951 with Joseph S. Barto (a Soldier in CO M) from Lorain, OH (author’s collection).

Entering the Korean War just a few years after the end of World War Two, chaplains continued to carry and use the WW2-era chaplain kits.  As the Korean War continued, new more durable kits were produced and issued supplied in a hard metal case with fold out “wings” and a cover to be made into its own “altar.” As with other wars, these new kits included variations for Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chaplains. These kits were used into the Vietnam War when a more lightweight kit began to be issued.

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Chaplain-McGavern

This photo, which includes Chaplain McGavern, is from the 18 June 1944 issue of “The Living Church.”

Chaplain (CPT) Charles McGavern was an Episcopal chaplain who served both in WW2 and Korea. He carried with him a portable altar not typical of most chaplains serving at the time. His was made of wood and when open had a backing similar to a tryptic. The base of the altar opened which had felt-lined compartments to store the altar ware. It all folded up into a configuration like a small suitcase. This kit is like the one used by Chaplain Metcalf during WW2 which has religious pictures on the the tri-folding back. It’s pictured on the WW2 Kit page (the following pictures of Chaplain McGavern’s kit are courtesy Thomas Lee).

Chaplain McGavern portable altar

Chaplain McGavern’s portable altar opened (photo courtesy Thomas Lee).

Chaplain McGavern portable altar

The cross and candle sticks are all that remain of Chaplain McGavern’s altarware (photos courtesy Thomas Lee).

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Protestant Chaplain Kit 1962

This Protestant Chaplain Kit is dated 1962 and is similar to those being produced in the 1950s (author’s collection).

Korean War Chaplain Kit

Nearly complete chaplain kit from 50s era in blue. The blue cover was usually used by the Air Force and Navy, though some could be found being used by Army chaplains. (This particular kit is for sale, by the way. Contact me if interested and I’ll connect you with the seller).

Catholic Chaplain Kit-post Korean War

A Catholic/Protestant kit from the same era (author’s collection).

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Korean War Chaplain Kit

Korean War-era Protestant chaplain kit on display at the U.S. Army Chaplain Museum, Fort Jackson, SC (photo: Daryl Densford)

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  1. Hello. I found your site while researching a portable altar at our Episcopal parish. It is almost the spitting image of Chaplain McGavern’s, right down to the wooden cross and candles. Aside from a couple of very faint ghost marks (two ‘C’s) on it (and an interior of royal blue plush), though, it has no identifying markings and we don’t know how it came to the church.

    Can you tell me anything else about Chaplain McGavern’s box or its possible origins? I would much appreciate it. I’m pretty sure his and ours came from the same era/source.

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    • Hello Paula, Thanks for stopping by!

      It’s very interesting that your parish would have one of these kits. I would imagine it was either left by a priest who was once a military chaplain and used it during deployment or perhaps was a kit ready to be given to a priest entering military service as a chaplain.

      It is an unusual kit and not all that common, like the kits issued by the military or given to chaplains by their endorsing denominations. As you may have noticed on this website, similar kits were used in both WW2 and the Korean War and may have been a “private purchase” being a more desirable altar set-up than the issued kits. I have not come across any period photographs of similar kits being used in the field, however.

      Because of their rarity, I really don’t have much information, other than speculation, on their origins or use. I’m sorry I couldn’t offer you more. If you come across more information in your research, I would love to learn from you!

      Daryl

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