Chaplain Julian S. Ellenberg
I first encountered Chaplain Julian Ellenberg in the pages of a 1944 Stars and Stripes I bought. It had a short story buried inside its pages about a unit whose members received several Silver Stars for their part in the Normandy landing on D-Day. Looking a little deeper into his military service as a chaplain, I discovered a man committed to ministry in uniform as he sought to serve those under his care.
Before becoming a chaplain, Ellenberg graduated from Furman University and the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary.1 He became the rector of St. Mark’s Church in Chester, South Carolina then St. Peter’s in Great Falls, South Carolina. Upon entering the Army to be a chaplain, Ellenberg attended the Army Chaplain School at Harvard University in Cambridge Massashusetts2 and was promoted from 1LT to Captain sometime before February 1944.3
On 6 June 1944, Chaplain “Julian S. Ellenberg … went ashore on D-Day only 30 minutes after the initial assault troops. Besides administering spiritual aid to the wounded and dying, Chaplain Ellenberg assisted in establishing and maintaining a first-aid station on the beaches under intense enemy fire, and despite slight wounds from shell fragments remained at the station until it was demolished” for which he was awarded the Silver Star.4
Not long after, in the After Action Report of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, for the period of 1-30 November 1944, dated 14 Dec 44, Chaplain Ellenberg is listed as the Regimental Chaplain.5
From duty in the European Theater of War, Chaplain Ellenberg was assigned to Fort Jay on Governor’s Island. During his two and a half years there, Chaplain Ellenberg “devised the Ft. Jay Circus as a means for raising money for the youth activities on the Post-the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Cubs and Brownies.”6
While at Ft. Jay, Chaplain Ellenberg also “created a ‘Teen-Agers Club, changing the musty basement of historic Saint Cornelius Chapel into a series of gaily-decorated rooms, termed the Yacht Club, where ‘teen-agers of all faiths on the Post may enjoy ping-pong games, shuffle-board, dancing and a coffee bar. He organized the first Cub Scout Pack at Ft. Jay, became an active member of the Boy Scout Council, and a charter member of ‘The Island Players,’ the Ft. Jay Dramatic Club.”7
Evidently, while at Fort Jay Chaplain Ellenberg donated his Chaplain Flag to the Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion (a parish of Trinity Church, New York City). The description with the flag shows how Chaplain Ellenberg was at the tip of the spear of American forces rolling through Nazi Europe:
This flag was issued to Chaplain Julian S. Ellenberg upon his reporting for duty with the Eighth Infantry Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, on May 8, 1943, and used throughout the European conflict. It was displayed in the Chaplain’s office in recreation room of Warner’s Camp, Seaton, Devon, England; carried in on Utah Beach, Normandy; one of the first Chaplain’s flags to be displayed in Cherbourg; one of the first to be carried through the Normandy spearhead breakthrough; displayed on Chaplain’s jeep at liberation of Paris, August 25, 1944; one of the first to fly over German soil, having been
carried across the Rhine at Lauingen at 2:30 A.M. on Good Friday, 1945; was within the city of Augsburg, Germany, on May 7, 1945, when rumors of the end of the war were circulated.8
Following his time at Ft. Jay, Chaplain Ellenberg was assigned to the Army-run hospital in Tokyo, Japan. In a two-page photostory in Stars and Stripes titled, ” Ministry at the Crossroads,” the work of chaplains, specifically Chaplain Ellenberg, was highlighted:
The patients at the hospital, most of them wounded in Korea, are facing the long grueling hours that come before recovery. They are of all faiths.
Chaplain Ellenberg, who is a Churchman, ministers to all of them. Sometimes that means being called to administer last rites in the middle of the night. Sometimes it means bringing ice cream to a group of paraplegics, because that is what they want more than anything else. Every day it means trying to visit every patient in the 2000-bed main hospital and annex, and usually succeeding.
The chaplain and his patients understand each other even though they cannot always speak the same language. Chaplain Ellenberg went ashore at Normandy on D-Day with the first wave of the 4th infantry division. He wears the Silver Star.
Tokyo Army Hospital is part of St. Luke’s International Medical Center, called by many the crossroads of the war. It was taken over from the Church by the U.S. Army during World War II.
There are two associate chaplains working with Chaplain Ellenberg at the hospital. One is a Roman Catholic, the other a Lutheran. And although Chaplain Ellenberg administers bedside communion, and holds services for patients, the Rev. Peter S. Takeda, who has been chaplain of the Japanese St. Luke’s for more than 20 years, continues to celebrate the Holy Communion daily. Assisting Chaplain Ellenberg, in filling patients’ requests and in carrying out other duties, are a young corporal from Brooklyn and a Japanese woman who is his interpreter and secretary and has been with the Medical Center since 1934.9
While serving in Japan, Chaplain Ellenberg “… was on cordial terms with General and Mrs. Douglas MacArthur. Before the MacArthur’s returned to the United States, Chaplain Ellenberg prepared their son, Arthur, for confirmation.”10 He would later say that Douglas MacArthur was a “God-fearing man [and that] MacArthur once told him he tried to translate the Sermon on the Mount in US actions in Japan.”11
Early in 1952, Chaplain Ellenberg, by then a Lieutenant Colonel, became the Executive Officer at the Army Chaplain School at Fort Slocum, New York.12 As he returned to the United States from Japan, Chaplain Ellenberg spoke to a group at the Post 20 American Legion in Greenwood, South Carolina and praised them for what they do “in the fight against Communism,” which was a focal point in that period of our history.13
Following Chaplain Ellenberg’s tenure at the Fort Slocum Army Chaplain School, he became the Post Chaplain at Fort McPherson, Georgia, then he was “named deputy chief of chaplains to assist Chaplain (Lt Col) Hugh Kennedy, WACom chief of chaplains.”14
Later, while part of 1st Infantry Division, the division “…[had] begun a program to boost morale of parents in the United States. Under the direction of Chaplain (Lt Col) Julian S. Ellenberg, the program informs parents of their sons’ new stations, duties, quarters, attitude and aims of their superiors, missions of their units, and recreational and educational facilities open to them in Germany. This information is sent to parents in personal letters from the COs of the soldiers’ units.”15
After his retirement, Chaplain Ellenberg continued to honor the “memory of the men who gave their lives in the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944” by “celebrating private communion every year on 6 June.”16
1 Stars and Stripes, 31 May 1954, p. 9
2 The Living Church, Vol. 106, 18 April 1943,
3 The Living Church, 13 February 1944,
4 Stars and Stripes, 6 July 1944,
5 http://home.scarlet.be/~sh446368/aar-8th-inf-1.html, accessed 15 September 2017.
6 Stars and Stripes, date unk, pg 5
8 250th Anniversary of the Parish of Trinity Church in the City of New York. CATALOGUE OF THE COMMEMORATIVE EXHIBITION AT THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAY 6 -JULY 13, 1947. page 47
9 Stars and Stripes, date unk. but on the 176th anniversary of the Chaplain Corps,
10 The Living Church, Vol 123, 16 Sep 51,
11 Danville Bee, 6 April 1964, page 28
12 The Living Church, No. 124, 10 Feb 1952,
13 The Greenwood, SC Index-Journal, 12 December 1951, page 16
14 Stars and Stripes, 19 March 1954, p. 9.
15 Stars and Stripes, 24 March 1955.
16 Greenwood, SC Index-Journal,6 June 1969, page 9.
Photos from Stars and Stripes.