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22 July 1864: Chaplain Haney takes up arms and earns the MoH

“Chaplain Milton L. Haney was awarded the Medal of Honor on November 3, 1896. It was awarded for his actions during the Battle of Atlanta at Peachtree Creek on July 22, 1864. Four men earned the medal of Honor that day, and among those four was Milton Haney, sometimes called “The Fighting Chaplain” by the men of the 55th Illinois Infantry.”1

“When the tide of the battle was critical on July 22, Chaplain Haney voluntarily took up a musket and joined the ranks of his regiment, fighting with his men in retaking the Union works that had previously fallen to enemy forces.”“Milton Haney was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in a federal counterattack during fierce fighting outside Atlanta.”3

Haney “was born at Savannah, OH on January 23, 1825, and he died at Altadena, CA on January 20, 1922 at the age of 96. He is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery.”4

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Chaplain Regimental Museum Association’s Facebook page.

Ibid.

Herman A. Norton, “Struggling for Recognition: The United States Army Chaplaincy, 1791-1865.”  Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Chaplains, Department of the Army, 1977.

Chaplain Regimental Museum Association’s Facebook page.

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Chaplain Vincent Capodanno, KIM (Killed in Ministry)

On this day in 1967, Navy Chaplain Vincent Capodanno was on patrol with the Marines he was serving with in Vietnam when they were ambushed by enemy forces. Chaplain Capodanno continued to minister to the Marines under fire, until he was finally cut down by enemy fire. Here is his story:

Early Ministry

“The American involvement in World War II impacted Vincent personally with three of his brothers serving in the military and fostered in him a profound patriotism and overt faith. Often before classes at Curtis High School, Vincent attended daily Mass at his home parish, a practice he continued after graduation and during his undergraduate years at Fordham University. While on a spiritual retreat in 1949 he confided to a close friend and fellow student his vocational desire.

“Like many young adults of that era, Vincent was familiar with the missionary work of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society, the Maryknolls, through their magazine, The Field Afar. In following his call to share his faith by responding to peoples’ needs in Foreign Service, he applied to Maryknoll and received acceptance in 1949.

Capodanno-early“After nine years of intensive preparation in theology, academics, and basic survival tactics to fulfill the order’s mission to ‘Go and Teach All Nations,’ Vincent completed his seminary training and was ordained in 1958 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York. Accompanied by the tolling of the seminary’s bell, an annual tradition of the departure service, Father Capodanno learned his destination: Taiwan. He arrived on the island in 1959, and immediately began studying the difficult language and acclimating to the culture of his future parishioners, the Hakka-Chinese. While serving that community, Father Capodanno administered the sacraments, taught native catechists, and distributed food and medicine. Although he struggled while trying to fully understand their language, he developed a subsequent ability to attentively listen in responding to his parishioners.

“In the fall of 1960, he became the director of a youth hostel for young Chinese men preparing for the national college entrance exam. Besides overseeing their scholastic training, Father Capodanno was responsible for their spiritual and emotional needs, a significant challenge as the intense competition for college acceptance promoted depression and temptation of suicide. Several other short assignments occurred within six years followed by a six-month furlough and home visit. After returning to Taiwan, his superiors transferred Father Capodanno to Hong Kong, a decision he did not expect nor desire but which elicited a new response to God’s call of service.” (1)

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In Vietnam

capodanno-bust“By acknowledging a totally different vocational ministry, he sought permission to join the Navy Chaplain Corps intending to serve the increasing number of Marine troops in Vietnam. Eventually Maryknoll granted this request, and after finishing Officer Candidate School, during Holy Week of 1966, Father Capodanno reported to the 7th Marines in Vietnam. As the chaplain for the battalion, his immediate focus was the young enlisted troops or “Grunts.” Later transferred to a medical unit, Father Capodanno was more than a priest ministering within the horrific arena of war.

Continue reading at Chaplain Vincent Capodanno, MoH Winner

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Chaplain Hill Captures Three Enemy Pickets

On this day (16 May) in 1863, Chaplain James Hill engaged the enemy and without injury or death captured three enemy pickets, which eventually earned him the Medal of Honor. Here’s the story:

1LT James Hill (21st Iowa Infantry) for capturing enemy pickets at the Battle of Champion Hill in May 1863 (at the time, he was serving as an infantry lieutenant – later he would become his regiment’s chaplain).

“In the waning hours of the battle, Lt. Hill was returning from a foraging mission through dense woods. He came upon three armed Confederate pickets. In his words:

“I realized at once that I had gotten myself into a nasty position. I instantly . . .ordered the Johnnies to ‘ground arms!’ They obeyed. Then slightly turning my head, I addressed an imaginary guard in the brush with a hasty order to ‘halt… and then gave the order to my prisoners: ‘Single file, march’ and to my imaginary guard: ‘Forward March.’ I hurried toward the command at good speed.”

His quick thinking and ingenuity provided a peaceful solution to a deadly encounter.”

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Source: http://www.iowahistory.org/shsi/museum/exhibits/medal-of-honor/hill_james_cw/index.htm (cited on the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Facebook page).

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Chaplain Charles Watters, MOH Winner

On 19 November 1967 Chaplain Charles Watters was killed in action, selflessly serving Soldiers in Vietnam. He later posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Chaplain Charles Watters-Worship

Chaplain (MAJ) Charles Watters conducting worship in Vietnam. Waters later died in the battle for Hill 875 at Dak To on November 19, 1967 (photo from U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Facebook page)

Chaplain Charles Watters

Chaplain Watters name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall (photo by author)

“Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on 17 January 1927, Watters was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1953 and served in parishes in Jersey City, Rutherford, Cranford, and Paramus. In 1962, he became a chaplain in the New Jersey Air National Guard. In 1964, Watters entered the Army as a chaplain at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

“In July 1966, Chaplain Watters was assigned to the Republic of Vietnam and served with Company A, 173d Support Battalion, 173d Airborne Brigade. Although he was officially assigned to the 173d Support Battalion, Watters often accompanied the brigade’s line units into the field. In July 1967, after completing his twelve-month tour, he voluntarily extended his tour by another six months.

Chaplain-Watters-Kit-2

Chaplain Watters chaplain kit, destroyed during an attack in Vietnam. It is now on display at the U.S. Army Chaplain Museum (photo by author)

“In November 1967, Chaplain Watters was with 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry, as the battalion took part in the bloody fighting for Hill 875 around Dak To. For Watters, the culmination of the battle came on 19 November. During that day, an intense fire fight broke out with the enemy forces. Without thinking of his own safety, Watters began to rush out on the battle field to help collect the dying and wounded and bring them to safety. Completely exposed, Chaplain Watters administered the Sacrament of Last Rites to his dying men. Every time his unit began to charge the front line, Watters was ahead picking up the wounded and administering the sacraments to those who had fallen. He also helped carry others to safety, including a paratrooper who was in shock and unable to move from his exposed position.

Chaplain Charles Watters Arlington

Chaplain Watters grave in Arlington National Cemetery (photo by author)

“After hours of intense fighting and with the perimeter of the battlefield in a state of constant confusion, Chaplain Watters continued to maintain his composure in a time of severe crisis. For hours after the initial fighting, he kept venturing out between friendly and enemy lines picking up the wounded, providing the exhausted soldiers with food and water, administering the sacraments, and helping the medics give aid to the wounded. There were even efforts to try to restrain Chaplain Watters from his heroic and courageous deeds because of his vulnerability to enemy and friendly fire. Sadly, Watters himself became a victim of the battle raging on Hill 875 and did not survive the day.”1

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Here is the citation from his Medal of Honor award:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Chaplain Watters distinguished himself during an assault in the vicinity of Dak To. Chaplain Watters was moving with one of the companies when it engaged a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged and the casualties mounted, Chaplain Watters, with complete disregard for his safety, rushed forward to the line of contact. Unarmed and completely exposed, he moved among, as well as in front of the advancing troops, giving aid to the wounded, assisting in their evacuation, giving words of encouragement, and administering the last rites to the dying. When a wounded paratrooper was standing in shock in front of the assaulting forces, Chaplain Watters ran forward, picked the man up on his shoulders and carried him to safety. As the troopers battled to the first enemy entrenchment, Chaplain Watters ran through the intense enemy fire to the front of the entrenchment to aid a fallen comrade. A short time later, the paratroopers pulled back in preparation for a second assault. Chaplain Watters exposed himself to both friendly and enemy fire between the 2 forces in order to recover 2 wounded soldiers. Later, when the battalion was forced to pull back into a perimeter, Chaplain Watters noticed that several wounded soldiers were lying outside the newly formed perimeter. Without hesitation and ignoring attempts to restrain him, Chaplain Watters left the perimeter three times in the face of small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire to carry and to assist the injured troopers to safety. Satisfied that all of the wounded were inside the perimeter, he began aiding the medics–applying field bandages to open wounds, obtaining and serving food and water, giving spiritual and mental strength and comfort. During his ministering, he moved out to the perimeter from position to position redistributing food and water, and tending to the needs of his men. Chaplain Watters was giving aid to the wounded when he himself was mortally wounded. Chaplain Watters’ unyielding perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades was in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.2

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National Museum of the United States Army website.

Home of Heroes website.

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