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Worship Services at Compiegne

Soldiers transitioning through the 16th Reinforcement Depot at Compiegne, France in 1944 and 1945 had many opportunities to worship while there, to include Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Latter Day Saints and Christian Science services and studies.

Ministering in the 16th were 2 Catholic chaplains: Chaplains Welsh and Duggan; 1 Jewish chaplain: Chaplain Decter; 4 Protestant chaplains: Chaplains Powers, Swartz, Jones and Grim; and 2 “lay readers”: Major Hotaling (Christian Science) and Sergeant Mitchell (Latter Day Saints).

Here’s the schedule:

WW2-Compiegne-Religious Services-30

Front cover and schedule of worship services at the 16th Reinforcement Depot at Compiegne, France, 1944-45 (author’s collection).



“Doubly So When Wars Increase”

Living, working and playing among the Service Members they minister to, chaplains usually have insight into the struggles and feelings of those Service Members. They help them try to navigate their troubles successfully through many means, based on their strengths and talents. Some use poetry, as did Chaplain Henry W. Habel, who by March 1945, had been an Army Chaplain for three years.

Chaplain Habel was from Buffalo, New York and graduated from Acadia University in Nova Scotia before pastoring churches in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada through the Baptist Church of the Northern Convention.

The following poem, written by Chaplain Habel, was found in a worship bulletin from 6 May 1945, from the 13th General Hospital Chapel in New Guinea where Chaplain (Major) D.O. Luginbill and Chaplain (Captain) L.V. Walters were the chaplains.


Our Worship

Oft men feel they’re “in a spot”,

Wondering how to bear their lot,

Grieving that there must be change;

“Why?” they ask. “Tis all so strange!”


Such the case in time of peace;

Doubly so when wars increase.

Yearning hearts cry every where,

Weighed with this most awful care.


Here’s a truth. Grasp it with me.

Change is a necessity!

Through it better days are born,

Life made wholesome while it’s torn.


Hardships build a stronger man,

Vision full, a will that can,

Satisfied with simple things,

Fighting all that evil brings.



Make 1944 a Record Year!

Chaplains have always found ways to remind their Soldiers, Sailors, Marines or Airmen about worship services. During WW2, one chaplain used these “Greeting” cards with a calendar to encourage attendance.

Likely distributed by the chaplain around Christmas 1943, this folded card includes a couple of verses and an invitation to attend Chapel Services. There is also an invitation to see the chaplain with any problems the Soldier may have. The inside includes a 1944 calendar to check off Sunday worship attendance as well as communion participation with the encouragement to “make 1944 a record year” and is pre-signed by the chaplain, Gilbert Johnstone (author’s collection).



You can see more items that chaplains gave to Service Members on this page.

When the Flag Must Yield

According to United States Code (U.S.C.) Title 4, §7, (c)  “No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America…” This law reserves the place of honor to the national flag while on U.S. soil, territories, military bases, ships, etc. (with exception granted to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York).

Most Americans know this law even if they don’t know where to find it. Its intent is to prescribe the prominence of the symbol of the United States over that of “States, cities, … localities, or … societies.” It is this law that defines the order of placement of flags when flown in front of buildings, on staffs inside churches and other buildings, even while carried in parades.

What most people don’t know however, is that there is a notable exception written into federal law. An exception that permits one thing -one pennant- to fly in the place of prominence above the flag of the United States. This law essentially permits the emblem of the United States of America to yield prominence to something else.

The flag of the United States yields only to church services aboard Navy vessels.

According to U.S.C. approved by Congress on 2 June 1942 the United States flag flies above any other flag or pennant “except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy.”

Early on, the flying of the “church pennant” above the national flag was simply Navy  tradition used “as a signal by ships at sea to denote to other ships that Divine Service is being held on board the vessel where the pennant flies.”1

This tradition wasn’t looked on with favor by everyone. In 1923 a group of patriotic organizations met at a conference in Washington, D.C. to formulate and recommend law for the proper presentation and treatment of the flag of the United States. The members of this conference “looked with disfavor upon the Navy custom of hoisting the church pennant over the national emblem as a signal the Divine Services were in progress.”2

Not only by this conference, but disapproval was also expressed by some Congressmen. In years following, the Secretary of the Navy was even called before Congress to answer whether any pennant flew above “the Stars and Stripes” on Naval vessels.3

Navy Church PennantAs the United States entered World War II however, with the extreme support given to the military services and their members during times of war, the practice was codified into U.S. law to permit this Navy tradition to continue, as it does to this day. According to Jonathon Maloney, a Navy Chaplain at sea as of the time this writing, the church pennant is flown above the national colors “every Sunday when I am holding services on Ship.”4

So by federal law, this one exception exists that places the identification of the presence of the chaplain and the performance of worship above the emblem of the United States of America.




1Clifford Merrell Drury, “The History of the Chaplain Corps, United States Navy, Vol. 2, 1939-1949.” NAVPERS 15808, pg. 123.

Clifford Murray Drury, “The History of the Chaplain Corps, United States Navy, Vol. 1, 1778-1931.” NAVPERS 15807, pg. 229.


Facebook Messaging conversation between author and Chaplain Jonathon Maloney, 30 September 2017.



Orthodox Chaplain Kit

The first Orthodox chaplain kit began being issued by the Army sometime after the mid-1970s. The only one I had seen was at the Chaplain Museum at Ft. Jackson…until this week when an Orthodox chaplain set his kit up for me to shoot! It’s a very beautiful set with a lot of symbolism.


See more pictures of it on our Orthodox Chaplain Kit page!




Religion Follows the Troops

Chaplain Robert P. Canis Describes How Religion Follows the Troops

Washington, D.C. [ca. 1945] – Chaplain Robert P. Canis now assigned to a general hospital in Europe has described to the General Commission on Army and Navy Chaplains, Washington, D.C. how he has conducted services in strange and inconvenient places. He pays high tribute to the response given to spiritual matters by American men in uniform. Chaplain Canis said:

“Three weeks after arriving in England, I was assigned to a general hospital. Our chapel was a Nissen hut completely furnished with every aid to worship. In May we took leave of it and ever since have worshiped in a chapel in the fields. In our England staging area that chapel was a long tent with mother earth for pews and a rough board covered with the chaplain’s blanket for an altar.

“On our last Sunday in England this chapel became the scene of a most unusual departure Communion Service. All else was already on its way across the channel. A few hymn books, and a field organ borrowed from a neighboring hospital chaplain constituted the equipment of our tent filled with officers, nurses and enlisted men seeking that extra bit of spiritual strength needed on the shores of Normandy. But in spite of the absence of every traditional touch of a normal chapel service, the atmosphere seemed more alive with honest faith than ever before. Members of all denominations came to the altar to receive the Communion. Some knelt, some stood, and some cupped their hands to receive the bread. Others received it directly in their mouths. While still others served themselves.

Continue reading this article, Religion Follows the Troops



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