Angel of the Trenches

Wednesday, September 26, AD 2012

Joao Baptista DeValles was born in 1879 in Saint Miquel in the Azores.  At the age of 2 his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts.  His first name anglicized to John, he quickly proved himself a brilliant student, eventually being fluent in six languages.  Ordained a priest in 1906 he served at Falls River at Espirito Santo Church, founding the first Portuguese language parochial school in the United States while he was there.  He later served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in New Bedford and was pastor at Saint John the Baptist Church, also in New Bedford.

After the entry of the US into World War I, he joined the Army as a chaplain, serving with the 104th regiment, a Massachusetts National Guard outfit, part of the Yankee (26th) Division, made up of National Guard units from New England.  The Yankee Division arrived in France in September 1917, the second American division to arrive “Over There”.

The 104th was a hard fighting outfit, serving in all of the major campaigns of the American Expeditionary Force.  For heroic fighting at Bois Brule in April, 1918 the French government awarded the regiment a collective Croix de Guerre, an unprecedented honor for an American military unit.  There were quite a few very brave men in the 104th, and among the bravest of the brave was Chaplain DeValles.  For his heroism in rescuing wounded, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Army.  Here is the text of the citation:

104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F. Date of Action: April 10 – 13, 1918 Citation: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John B. De Valles, Chaplain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Apremont, Toul sector, France, April 10 to 13, 1918. Chaplain De Valles repeatedly exposed himself to heavy artillery and machine-gun fire in order to assist in the removal of the wounded from exposed points in advance of the lines. He worked for long periods of time with stretcher bearers in carrying wounded men to safety. Chaplain De Valles previously rendered gallant service in the Chemin des Dames sector, March 11, 1918, by remaining with a group of wounded during a heavy enemy bombardment. General Orders No. No. 35, W.D., 1920

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5 Responses to Angel of the Trenches

  • Thank you for this, Donald. I probably would never had read about Chaplain De Valles otherwise.

  • He is unjustly obscure Spambot. A good recent look at him is in Joseph Persico’s 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour:

  • “John B. de Valles had been born in the Azores to Portuguese parents who had taken him to Massachusetts as a child. He had been ordained in 1906 and became a popular parish priest, first in Fall River and then in New Bedford. When America went to war, Father de Valles immediately joined the Chaplains’ Corps. His popularity transferred easily to the 104th. When a soldier found himself short before payday, the priest could be touched for a loan of a few francs—on one condition: he must promise not to use the money for what de Valles called “cohabitation.” His orderly kept a ledger in which the loans were recorded. But when payday came around, Father de Valles would tell him to tear out the page. The orderly was Connell Albertine, who looked upon the day the chaplain had chosen him as the luckiest of his young life.

    Albertine felt secure in the priest’s presence. The previous April, near Saint-Agnant, when Private Burns had been hung up on the wire in no-man’s-land, screaming in agony, Chaplain de Valles heaved himself out of the trench and began crawling toward the wounded man. The priest disentangled Burns from the wire, lifted him onto his back, and staggered to the trench as enemy machine-gun bullets tore into the ground around them.

    After bloody fighting at Commercy, de Valles had stood mutely watching a procession of carts haul the 104th’s dead from the field. Albertine heard Father de Valles curse through clenched teeth, “Kill them! Kill the bastards!” The priest later apologized to his orderly, but the words, he said, had tumbled out and felt right. The incident had bound Albertine more closely to the chaplain, making de Valles as humanly imperfect as his flock.

    Now, on this last day, the nightmare of raglike bodies, gas-seared lungs, and unholy shrieks from the wire, he believed, had to end.

    Colonel Cassius M. Dowell commanded another regiment of the 26th Division, the 103rd. That November 11, Dowell was in his dugout bent over a map, marking the point where his regiment could expect to end the war. At 9:45 a.m., his field phone rang. Colonel Duncan K. Major, the division’s chief of staff, was on the line informing him that the attack had been reinstated. Dowell was to send his men against German machine guns in a war that would end in a little over an hour. “Why?” Dowell asked. “The French compelled us to do it,” Major answered. The 26th was in fact under command of the French II Colonial Corps. Major had experienced his own disbelief when told that the canceled assault was now to go forward. He had checked with the operations chief of the French corps for confirmation. Major, his French imperfect, feared he had misunderstood. An American liaison officer serving with the French came on the line and informed Major that he had heard correctly. The assault was back on. This was the news that Major was now relaying to disbelieving regimental commanders of the 26th.

    Cassius Dowell, now in his sixteenth year in the army, was gruff, plainspoken, an officer who had risen from private to his present rank. He was not without compassion for his men, but was a soldier first. He too had learned unofficially from a friend on division staff that the armistice had been signed just after 5 a.m. He had not shared this information with his men “lest it might interfere with their advance during the attack that had been ordered for that day.” He had then received word that the assault, except for the artillery bombardment, had been called off. He could not, however, resist one last blow at the Hun. He warned that if any shells were left unfired at 11 a.m., he would court-martial the responsible battery commander.

    On learning that the attack had been fully reinstated, “I stood there a few seconds debating as to whether I should send my men forward, having told them that they would not have to go,” Dowell later recalled. “I expected my casualties to be very heavy.”

    Lieutenant Harry G. Rennagel, released from the hospital just the day before, rejoined his unit of the 26th Division to find his men laughing, joking, talking more loudly than they ever dared in the trenches. They were “waiting for the bell to ring,” they told him, signaling the end of the war. “When the orders came to go over the top,” he remembered, “we thought it was a joke.”

    Albertine watched Chaplain de Valles move through the trench, deathly pale, comforting the men. An Italian private from Boston’s North End asked the chaplain to bless him and kissed the cross hanging from t… ”

  • His bravery is exemplary! I can’t even imagine the fortitude it would take to continuously expose oneself to the horrors of battle on the behalf of others as he did. Thank you for sharing his story.

  • Thank you Bekah. I write about chaplains like Father DeValles so that we may never forget these Heroes of Christ.

Father John Ireland and the Fifth Minnesota

Thursday, August 23, AD 2012



One of the titans of the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century in the United States was Archbishop John Ireland, the first Archbishop of Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Future blog posts will cover his career as Archbishop.  This blog post is focused on his service during the Civil War.  Ordained a priest only a year, Father John Ireland at 24 in 1862 received permission of his bishop to join the Fifth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.  He joined the regiment immediately after the battle of Shiloh.

At the battle of Corinth on October 4, 1862 the Fifth Minnesota saved the day for the Union with a charge that stopped a Confederate breakthrough of the Union lines.  Running short on ammunition, the troops received additional cartridges from Chaplain Ireland who ran down the line dispensing ammunition.  When the fighting was over, the soldiers noted that their chaplain tirelessly tended the wounded and administered the Last Rites to soldiers whose wounds were beyond human aid.

The troops were very fond of their young priest and built him a portable altar from saplings.  His sermons were popular with the men, being direct, blunt and brief.  He was noted for his sunny disposition, quick wit  and his courage.  He was also an enthusiastic chess player, and would take on all comers in the evenings in camp.

Before battles he would hear the confessions of huge numbers of soldiers, with some Protestant soldiers often asking for admission to the Church.  He was always ready to pray with any soldiers no matter their religion, and give them what comfort he could in reminding them that God was ever at their side during their time of peril.  On one occasion he went to the side of an officer who had been shot and was bleeding to death and had asked for a chaplain.   the Archbishop recalled the scene decades after the War.   ‘Speak to me,’ he said, ‘of Jesus.’ He had been baptized — there was no time to talk of Church. I talked of the Savior, and of sorrow for sin. The memory of that scene has never been effaced from my mind. I have not doubted the salvation of that soul.”

Father Ireland was mustered out of service in March of 1863 due to ill-health, but he never forgot his time in the Union Army.  He was ever active in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization,   and would write about his experiences as a combat chaplain.  Unlike most Catholics of his day, he was a firm Republican, the friend of Republican presidents including McKinley and Roosevelt, and never forgot why the Civil War had to be fought, as this statement by him regarding the rights of blacks indicates:

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10 Responses to Father John Ireland and the Fifth Minnesota

  • Thanks for this post. Attended the same College where one of our professors upheld his memory for us. His last quote is as you said so relevant. It also echoes the views of the Founders, a civil-non-sectarian virtuous patriotism, with out being denominational. They of course would throw a fit if they were faced with today’s acceptance of abortion and same gender unions, including equating them to “marriage,” which are so accepted by today’s “Christian” leaders in State, Court and some Church bodies

  • It should be noted that this bishop’s name is still mentioned with some rancour in Greek Catholic circles. He being the cause for the largest mass conversion to Orthodoxy in hundreds of years (from Wikipedia):

    In 1891, Ireland refused to accept the credentials of Greek-Catholic priest Alexis Toth, citing the decree that married priests of the Eastern Catholic Churches were not permitted to function in the Catholic Church in the United States, despite Toth being a widower. Ireland then forbade Toth to minister to his own parishioners, despite the fact that Toth had jurisdiction from his own Bishop, and did not depend on Ireland. Ireland was also involved in efforts to expel all Eastern Catholic clergy from the United States of America. Forced into an impasse, Toth went on to lead thousands of Greek-Catholics to leave the Catholic Church to join the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of this, Archbishop Ireland is sometimes referred to, ironically, as “The Father of the Orthodox Church in America.” Marvin R. O’Connell, author of a biography on Ireland, summarizes the situation by stating that “if Ireland’s advocacy of the blacks displayed him at his best, his belligerence toward the Greek Catholics showed him at his bull-headed worst.”

  • Joseph: You’re correct about the Greek Catholic problem. And Archbishop flirted with Modernism. But this article is on the Fifth Minnesota. “This blog post is focused on his service during the Civil War.”

  • I believe that Archbishop Ireland’s treatment of Fr. Toth is fair game for discussion, his service in the Civil War notwithstanding.

    Pittsburgh, where I live, is the home of the Byzantine Ruthenain Archeparchy. The Rusyns have suffered through two schisms in the USA. First, there was the lousy treatment of Fr. Toth that led to the establishment of the Orthodox Church of America. Second, the Latin bishops of the USA petitioned the Holy See to ban married clergy in the Eastern Churches in the USA in the 1920s, which was approved. A second schism occurred, and the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese (based in Johnstown, PA was established.

    I was unaware of Archbishop Ireland’s service in the Civil War, and I found Mr. McClarey’s post to be informative. I was aware of Archbishop Ireland’s role in the construction of the magnificent cathedral in St. Paul. However, having worked for several years volunteering with the Sisters of St. Basil at Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, I learned firsthand that Archbishop Ireland’s words and deeds regarding the Byzantine Church caused a great deal of harm.

  • Why do you believe that your issue is important in response to a post about Father Ireland in the Civil War? What if I decided that you can’t post because the Greeks are virtually bankrupt today? That would be just as valid as your change of the subject, wouldn’t it?

  • I would ask that comments regarding Archbishop Ireland and the Uniates (Eastern Catholics) be left for future posts. I will have several more posts on this remarkable man in the months to come. I find him fascinating, and I will treat his career in full, including the controversies raised in this thread. For now please focus on his role as a chaplain in the Civil War and his thoughts regarding patriotism.

  • During my research for an upcoming book tentatively titled “Pro Deo Pro Patria::The Life and Death of a Catholic Military School,” I learned that one of the few remaining Catholic military schools St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota is an archdiocesan school founded by Bishop Ireland.

  • I deleted your comment Seraphim. The controveries you alluded to in your comment will be dealt with in a future post, but for now I must insist that my wishes be respected in this thread.

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A Priest Born on Flag Day

Monday, August 6, AD 2012

One of the most highly decorated chaplains of World War II, Father Elmer W. Heindl used to joke that his decorations were simply due to him being in the wrong place at the right time.  Born on June 14, 1910 in Rochester, New York, the oldest of six children, Heindl decided at an early age that he was meant to be a priest and was ordained on June 6, 1936.  He said that being born on Flag Day indicated to him that during his life he would do something to honor the Stars and Stripes.

In March of 1942 he joined the Army as a chaplain.  Assigned to the 2nd Battalion of th 148th infantry attached to the 37th Division, he served on Guadalcanal, New Georgia and in the Philippines.  He quickly gained a reputation for utter fearlessness under fire, giving the last Rites, tending the wounded and rescuing wounded under fire.    In regard to the Last Rites, Father Heindl noted that he did not have time to check dog tags to see if a dying soldier was a Catholic.  “Every situation was an instant decision.  You didn’t have time to check his dog tag to see whether he was Catholic or not. I’d say, in Latin, ‘If you’re able and willing to receive this sacrament, I give it to you.’ And then leave it up to the Lord.”

He earned a Bronze Star on New Georgia when on July  19 and July 23 he conducted burial services, although in constant danger from Japanese sniper fire.  The citation noted that his cheerful demeanor and courage inspired the troops who encountered him.

During the liberation of the Philippines, Captain Heindl participated in the bitter fighting in Manila.  He earned a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award in the United States Army for valor, during the fighting at Bilibid prison to liberate American and Filipino POWs who had been through horrors at the hands of their Japanese captors that I truly hope the readers of this post would find literally unimaginable.  Here is the Distinguished Service Cross citation:

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8 Responses to A Priest Born on Flag Day

  • “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Captain (Chaplain) Elmer W. Heindl, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Chaplain with Company E, 2d Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 6, 8 and 11 February 1945, in the Philippine Islands.”

    “Miraculously, Father Heindl came out of the War without a scratch. In honor of this miracle, he received an honorary Purple Heart.”

    Chaplain Elmer W. Heindl would not be allowed to minister in the new atheism. The new atheism has rescinded the Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 and the Order of the Purple Heart for Catholic Chaplains. The new atheism has rescinded the FREEDOM OF RELIGION for Catholics, as though becoming a Catholic Priest and Chaplain removed their citizenship.
    I am heartened by Chaplain Elmer W. Heindl’s selfless courage. I woud only hope under similar circumstances I could do the same. I would also hope that under similar circumstances, America would continue to acknowledge valor and genius to every person so entitled.

  • I must say I was quite moved by the beauty of the actions described in the DSC citation. To give of one’s self so fully for their neighbor is something truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.

  • It reminds me AS of a commercial I saw in the sixties with a young nun tending a leper. The voice over says, “Sister, I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” The nun looks up, smiles, and says, “Neither would I!”.

  • If I correctly understand this administration’s new directives for military chaplains,
    the likes of the good Fr. Heindl wouldn’t be welcome unless he was willing to toe
    the line concerning blessing same-sex weddings and endorsing homosexuals in
    the military. I believe our government views men like Fr. Heindl as “haters”.

    Today, he wouldn’t be decorated, he’d probably be asked to resign.

  • Too true Clinton. One of many reasons to make certain that Obama is looking for new employment come next January.

  • Alphatron Shinyskullus says:
    “I must say I was quite moved by the beauty of the actions described in the DSC citation. To give of one’s self so fully for their neighbor is something truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.”

    The true beauty of Father Elmer Heindl’s face is captivating.

  • Beautifully done. Thank you. It reminds me of what I was taught in a Catholic military school, now closed, “Pro Deo, Pro Patria”, though I doubt that I would have the courage and equanimity he demonstrated.
    By the way, what do you think about President Obama being invited by Cardinal Dolan to keynote the Al Smith Dinner in October along with Mitt Romney? Will this give him cover with Catholics who traditionallay vote Democratic and help re-elect him?

  • It is an old tradition to invite the President and his Challenger in a Presidential election year. Let us see what Cardinal Dolan says at the dinner. This might be one for the record books!

Father Galveston

Tuesday, July 17, AD 2012

It is ironic that a priest who became so associated with Galveston and Texas was a Yankee!  James Martin Kirwin was born in Circleville, Ohio on July 1, 1872.  Kirwin was ordained to the priesthood on June 19, 1895.   Incardinated in the Diocese of Galveston, Texas, while in the seminary he attended, Father Kirwin was sent to the University of America in Washington, DC by the Bishop of Galveston, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in theology.  His ability being recognized early, Father Irwin was made rector of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston in 1896.

Throughout his priesthood Father Kirwin was always a whirlwind of activity, and he quickly became noticed for the heroism with which he attended the sick during the yellow fever epidemic of 1897.  During the Spanish-American War he helped raise the First United States Volunteer Infantry and served as its chaplain with the rank of captain.  Although the regiment never served over seas, the fate of most of the American units raised for the Spanish-American War, Father Kirwin’s service began a life long association for him with the Texas National Guard and the United States Army.

Father Kirwin rose to national prominence after the Galveston hurricane of 1900, the worst national disaster in US history which killed approximately 8,000 people.   He helped found a committee of public safety which restored law and order to the city, he drafted the martial law plan, helped with the burial of the dead, and organized and served on the central relief committee which aided victims of the hurricane.  Together with his good friend Rabbi Henry Cohen, he spearheaded the efforts over the next few years to rebuild Galveston, including the building of a seawall for the city, the cornerstone of which he blessed in 1902 and saw through to completion in 1905.

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8 Responses to Father Galveston

  • Thanks for sharing, Donald. I didn’t know about Monsignor Kirwin. My ancestors were part of the Jewish community in Galveston. My great x3 grandfather was the local kosher butcher, a position of some religious importance. After the Hurricane my family moved to the swampy backwater town of Houston, and the rest is history. Galveston never fully recovered from the 1900 hurricane and regained its prominence economically. That may be for the best since it is a very vulnerable barrier island. Currently the island survives because of the University of Texas Medical School and seasonal tourism. The old Cathedral in Galveston is very beautiful, but I think the seat of the diocese has moved to a new Cathedral in Houston. I haven’t seen it since hurricane Ike so I don’t know if it has sustained much damage.

  • I LOVE this! My family visits Galveston a few times a year and I did not know this part of Galveston’s history. . I just purchased a used book about the history of the Ursuline convent there and find it hard reading knowing I’ll eventually have to read about the hurricane. . I’ll have to look up where this marker for Father Kirwin is located so I can make sure we visit it next time we go. .

  • Melinda what strikes me most about Father Irwin’s life is how eager he was to take on challenges that many of us, I know I would, would find overwhelming. We need a lot more of his spirit in this country today.

  • Msgr. Kirwin sounds like a priest after my own heart.

    Reading the article, I couldn’t help but think that so much of the activity that endeared
    him to the city– helping resolve disputes at the docks, his founding of the Home
    Protection League, his work to improve the fire department and the water system,
    building the seawall and blessing its cornerstone– wouldn’t those good things be
    grounds for complaints today?

    Imagine such a priest in 2012– he’d be told to respect the ‘wall of separation between
    church and state’, go back to his rectory and enjoy his ‘freedom of worship’. As for
    his work against the KKK, which was basically an arm of the Democrat party, well,
    today he’d be vilified for interfering in politics!

  • I was not aware of Father Kirwin. He led a very impressive life, in service to his fellow man and his community.

    God bless Texas!

  • I suspect that, in a world where any decent citizen would be “public-minded” and do lots of civic stuff, there’d be less worry about any particular person doing stuff. But of course, a lot of civic activities used to be more bipartisan, and by design. Nowadays, there’s very little agreement about what is normal and agreed by everybody, and it’s common for radical folks to try to “capture” organizations or leadership.

    So there’s not much room for bipartisan or apolitical civic groups. Radicals hate ’em and sue ’em.

  • The Right Reverend Monsignor James Martin Kerwin would be anathema to the one who says ‘no one actually achieves anything on their own’, who may have been speaking for himself, because the hand of God, cooperation of the inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the friend Rabbi Henry Cohen achieved so much through the work of human perseverence. He didn’t operate as a business, probably had no gov. salary or exemptions, and I imagine, in humility, Fr. Kerwin would take no credit for his accomplishments while in Galveston from 1896 to 1926. Love and service for God and neighbor.

Franciscan Love

Monday, June 18, AD 2012

 For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi


Born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1913, Herman G. Felhoelter was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1939.  He served as an Army chaplain during War II and was awarded a Bronze Star.

Reenlisting in the Army after the war, on July 16th 1950 he was a Captain serving as a chaplain with the 19th Infantry in Korea.  The 19th was in a tough spot that day.  The North Koreans had established a road block in the rear of the regiment near the village of Tunam, South Korea.  The regiment was in retreat, moving through mountains, trying to get around the roadblock, and slowed by the numerous wounded being carried due to the heavy fighting with the North Koreans during the battle for Taegu.  It was obvious by 9:00 PM on the evening of July 16th that 30 of the most seriously wounded could go no farther due to their stretcher bearers being exhausted.  Father Felhoelter and the chief medical officer Captain Linton J. Buttrey volunteered to stay with the wounded while the rest of the men escaped.  Father  Felhoelter was under no illusions of what would happen to the wounded and to him after the advancing North Koreans captured them, and swiftly gave them the Last Rites while he tended to them.

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15 Responses to Franciscan Love

  • Franciscan love . . . zeal for the salvation of souls . . . moral courage.

    How blessed am I that I have Father Felhoelter’s brother priests of St. Francis of Assisi on 32nd Street 24/7 loving me!

    Father Mychal Judge (RIP. 11 September 2001) ministered there as well.

  • I have to wonder about one thing: would a lesbian Episcopalian priestest give her life for the wounded?

    Or homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson?

  • Paul,
    One can acknowledge that homosexual conduct is sinful and object to its advocacy without entering into such unfair speculation.

  • This post was not written to have aspersions cast on the courage of others, but rather to marvel at the courage and love shown by Father Felhoelter. Let us thank God that God gave us such a man who so perfectly emulated the love shown by Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

  • My apologies, Mike P. and Donald M. I get angry that liberals say authentic Christians are unloving while the apostates are the only ones who aren’t apostate and who show true love. So I wondered aloud how many of them would sacrifice their own lives. This wasn’t the right post in which to make that comment. -10 points for me.

  • Last night on CNN Don Lemon talked with Stephen Hawking and gushed about him being the smartest man ever. Lemon talked up Hawking’s idea that God does not exist, that nobody made the universe, and nobody care about our life or death.

    Father Felhoelter – his belief in God was so strong that he went where he wasn’t comfortable, to do something so hard that it seems iin-credible to all of us narcissists who might try to “practice” our faith, who verbally acknowledge God– but, who look at Father Felhoelter- and realize he GAVE HIS LIFE for something unseen, unknown.
    Stephen Hawkings said theists only believe that to comfort themselves. Some comfort huh Father?

  • “The North Koreans killed him by shooting him in the head and the back and then proceeded to murder the helpless wounded.”

    Filthy, dirty, Godless commies.

    Steven Hawking will never experience the love that Father Felhoelter had.

  • We will meet Fr. Felhoelter in heaven

  • Stephen Hawking relies on the charity of others to stay alive, and all true charity comes from God. How ironic.

    “…ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” 2nd Timothy 3:7.

    Stephen Hawking will at least one day see if not experience the love that Fr. Felhoelter had. For some that sadly will be as described in Revelation 20:11-15 when it is too late. Pray that that is NOT the case for Dr. Hawking. Fr. Felhoelter would not want him to so perish, nor would he have wanted those commies who murdered him to likewise perish, regardless that they were as filthy and dirty and godless as those Roman soldiers at the foot of the Cross. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

    OK, this rare moment of lucidity has passed. I will now return to being the malcontent that I normally am. 😉

  • God bless S. Hawking and us all. Hawking’s lack of belief, and Don Lemon’s endorsement of it promotes atheism to an ever wider group.
    The faith of Father Felhoelter is such a contrast!

  • Wow now he is one of many Men of God.

  • Jaspar I think that the reason communist countries fail is because they are godless and so are weak and based on the hatred of Good, and so despite the vast and amazing zeal among communists communist nations always fail because of how corrupt they are. So the communist ideology is just another annoying evil that gets in the way.

  • I believe Fr Felhoelter grew up in my parish, as there’s a historical marker erected outside the parish for him.

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  • Stephen Hawking is in the bizarre situation of depending on millions of dollars of state of the art equipment and personal assistants to function and to pay for these, he must publish popular books that make lots of money. Scholarly books will not bring in the millions he makes ‘selling atheism’ and he basically writes the same book over and over. It is macabre.

Father Ranger

Wednesday, June 6, AD 2012

Monsignor Joseph R. Lacy

The men of the 5th Ranger Battalion could barely keep from laughing when they first saw their chaplain, Lieutenant Joe Lacy, a week before D-Day.  These were young men, in peak physical condition.  Father Joe Lacy was old by Ranger standards, knocking on 40, overweight by at least 30 pounds, wearing thick glasses and short, 5 foot, six inches.  He was described by one Ranger as “a small, fat old Irishman.”  No way would he be able to keep up when they  invaded France.

On the trip across the Channel to France,  Chaplain Lacy told the men:  “When you land on the beach and you get in there, I don’t want to see anybody kneeling down and praying. If I do I’m gonna come up and boot you in the tail. You leave the praying to me and you do the fighting.”  A few of the men began to think that maybe this priest was tougher than he looked.

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3 Responses to Father Ranger

This is Still America, Isn’t It?

Friday, February 3, AD 2012


In my mispent youth I wore Army green for a few years.  My main contribution to the nation’s defense was when I was discharged, but I have always retained a fondness for the Army.  Therefore I have very strong feelings about the attempt by the Obama administration to censor Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the Catholic Archbishop for the military services in the US.


On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.

The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit.  The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.

Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.

Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.
The AMS did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio’s statement from the other branches of service.

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28 Responses to This is Still America, Isn’t It?

  • It will be again in January 2013, the end of an error.

  • This man is a tyrant. He must be resisted.

  • For once, I agree 100 per cent with Mark Shea.

  • Totally the wrong call. Small sliver of consolation in that the Secretary of the Army realized later that it was indeed the wrong call.

  • “This man is a tyrant. He must be resisted.”

    Indeed Mark. If he is acting this way in an election year, one can imagine what his administration would be capable of if he gets a second term and no longer has to face the voters again.

  • The man to which you refer is pharaoh.

    Pharaoh is most powerful. About 52% of voters said so (some felt so strongly they voted four or five times plus the dead ones). He doesn’t need to consult no Constitution. “We can’t wait!”

    Pharaoh has decided (he don’t need no Congress or Supreme Court) your opinions are “ancient religious hatred.”

    Pharaoh and his minions have ruled you will be proscribed.

    So it was said, so shall it be . . .

  • Misconstrued as a call to civil disobedience? It is, in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau! The mistake was the President’s to not fulfill his oath “…to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” His administration’s directive, then is an unlawful order to the soldiers. Each and every member of the Armed Forces has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Civil disobedience is not only warranted, but required by our citizenship.

  • “This man is a tyrant. He must be resisted.” Indeed Mark.

    The incident does say something about the institutional culture of the Democratic Party, the Administration, and the man’s camp followers, but it would be rash to assume the President had anything to do with the decision itself.

    Some years ago, Terry Eastland, who had been press secretary to the Attorney-General for a time during the Reagan Administration, told a story meant to illustrate something about which decisions get made at which layers. Shortly after his hire, the Department of Justice had invoked an obscure part of the U.S. Code on the books for some 30-odd years. The National Film Board of Canada had produced a couple of ‘documentaries’ narrated by Helen Caldicott, the Australian hysteric who then presided over ‘Physicians for Social Responsibility’. In accordance with the law, they were required to carry a trailer which informed viewers they had been classified as ‘foreign propaganda’. IIRC, there was an additional provision that a register of varies parties (including viewers of the film) be compiled by officials. Eastland said he found the whole business quite shocking. He was later disabused of the notion that the Attorney-General had had any involvement in this: “it was some GS-12 doing his job…..”

  • Sorry ART DECO, If Obama let this get by him, he is no leader. Obama is responsible for every jot and titel under his ADMINISTRATION. This is what being the EXECUTIVE IN CHIEF is all about. To say other wise, is to blame the executioner for
    St. John the Baptist, or St. Thomas More’s beheading. Agreed, they are all of the same mind, but they are all in the employ of Obama in establishing the religion of Satan. Let Obama tell the truth about our founding principles.

  • Donald R. McClarey: Obama will relieve citizens of the obligation to vote. Having appointed himself to the office of president in perpetuity, Obama’s second term will become the longest term in the history of the United States. Our founding father, George Washington declined the crown of king. David ought to have. Obama will crown himself.

  • Sorry ART DECO, If Obama let this get by him, he is no leader. Obama is responsible for every jot and titel under his ADMINISTRATION.

    You cannot be serious. The federal executive has 14 cabinet departments, about 100 free-standing agencies, and 3.4 million employees.

  • AD: The Secy of the Army is the Secy of the Army b/c Obama wants him to be Secy of the Army.

    Obama is the most intelligentest, bestestest educated, most effectivest person ever to be President.

    Nothing gets past Obamagenius.

    Or, are you saying Obama handlers appointed the ideologue? If so, O can fire the loose canon. Oh, Yeah! Right!!

    “I’m insulted.” Bart Simpson

  • He had 14 ministry heads, 200 agencies, and about 6,000,000 employees all over Europe and North Africa. Hitler could not be held responsible for killing American POW’s at Malmedy.

  • Obama would also like to remove religion from our military as well as health care. The secularist/statist agenda can not tolerate an authority higher than itself.

  • Bill,

    100%! The Church is one of the strongest opponents of the hedonistic, statist, soul destroying agenda.

    The regime is in league with evil spirits that prowl the planet seeking the ruin of souls. In 2008, the libertine tyrants were aided and abetted by much of the Church which allowed itself to be gulled by cynical prattling over peace and justice.

    It’s not only about the damnation of souls. It’s also about control. Again, the Church teaches conscience and Truth are superior to the state. Therefore, the Church must be destroyed.

  • “For once, I agree 100 per cent with Mark Shea.”


    Mr Shea will continue to attack and slander pro-life repubican candidates.

    You can count on it.

  • Yes, Jasper, I realize that. But in this one limited and isolated instance he is correct. Miracles do happen.

  • OT, but not really: over the past few years, I find I have become much more intensely interested in sports than I was as a young woman. I was depressed for days after my beloved Pack was crushed by the Giants. Ditto for when the Brew Crew was taken to the cleaners by the Cards during the playoffs. I actually have to remind myself that these are GAMES and quite trivial in the larger scheme of things. I knew that when I was younger.

    It’s occurred to me that the reason I am becoming such a sports maven is because politics deeply depress me these days. I can barely stand to watch the news. The Obama administration, with its’ open hatred of and contempt for my church, frightens me deeply. Hollywood is rotten to the core and so the only popular culture escape I have is sports. (And yes, I also aware of the corruption in professional sports and the fact that most athletes are very far from being Boy Scouts.) Contemplating the pros and cons of Manning vs. Brady, and hoping that Mr. Happy Pants (aka Ryan Braun) is spared by a merciful MLB is easier on the brain and nerves than watching totalitarianism on the march.

  • I had zilch interest in sports as a young man Donna, and now as a not so young man I still have zip interest in it. I believe my interest in politics, at least the horserace and technical aspects of it, is akin to the interest others find in sports. The only bowl game on tormorrow in my house will be the puppybowl!

  • Don’t get too depressed with the political scene. I believe we stand a very good chance of giving Obama and his party a memorable beating in November.

  • Donald: Ha! I take back all the kudos I have lavished on Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers over the past few years. Clearly, the stalwart pups Toby and Tigger are superior athletes!!

  • Donald wrote:
    “I believe we stand a very good chance of giving Obama and his party a memorable beating in November.”

    As our Jewish brethen say, from your lips to God’s ears, Donald! I pray you are right!

  • Oh, and it’s interesting to me that a relevant comparison was made by an atheist on the WSJ site. This atheist said that although he himself has no religious belief, what Obama was doing reminded him of the Chinese and their sanctioning of compliant clergy and persecution of priests who adhere to Vatican teaching. The atheist said he was sickened by the Obama administration’s violation of religious freedom.

    Interesting times, indeed, when an atheist has a clearer idea of what is at stake here than many liberal “Catholics.”

  • Yeah, Jasper not only will Mark Shea continue to engage in calumnious attacks against those who express legitimate Catholic viewpoints, the “orthodox” Catholic apologist and writers establishment will continue to look the other way at it.

  • OK, that is enough about Shea. He is not the subject of this post.

  • Donna, you bet Donald is right!!!! Satan is recognized by his pride… Obama is just that….looks like his game plan is to cause a split in the Catholic Church, believing that the fallen Catholics in his Administration, and the statistics the polls give out that over 85% Catholics use contraceptives, is a sure bet that he will be voted back…and I have a feeling is is DEAD WRONG on this one… I stated elsewhere, Jesus is telling him : “You are persecuting Me”… in his pride, he has arrogantly pushed the Button just after the Holy Father spoke to the U.S. Bishops. So, we are counting on you, Faithful American Catholics and people of goodwill to rid your beloved country and the world of this evil character who is the High Priest of Lucifer

  • BTW, Donald, you might be as weary of politics as I am if you lived in the giant insane ayslum north of the Ilinois border, where the election cycles never end. The latest twist in the Wisconsin Soap Opera: since we have open primaries here, some conservative has come up with a brilliant idea. He suggested that Republicans vote in the Democratic primary – by writing Scott Walker’s name in. I laughed myself silly at the thought of a ballot listing Scott Walker (R) vs. Scott Walker (D). Since we Cheeseheads descended into the Theater of the Absurd long ago, why not really go for the gusto?

Sunday in Paradise

Wednesday, December 7, AD 2011




Lieutenant j.g. Aloysius Schmitt had just finished morning mass aboard the USS Oklahoma.  Acting chaplain of the Okie, a Sunday meant a busy day for him, a relaxed day for almost everyone else on board the ship.  Since they were in port and the country was at peace a Sunday was a day of rest.  Besides,  the port was a tropical paradise.  Life was good for the crew of the Okie.

Father Schmitt, born on December 4, 1909, was an Iowan, about as far from the sea as it is possible to be in the US.  Studying in Rome for the priesthood, he was ordained on December 8, 1935.  After serving at parishes in Dubuque Iowa and Cheyenne, Wyoming, Father Schmitt received permission to join the Navy and was commissioned a Lieutenant j.g. on June 28, 1939.

On December 7, 1941 at 8:00 AM the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor began.  The Oklahoma and the other battleships on battleship row were the primary targets.  Alarms began to sound on the Oklahoma, and the ship was hit almost immediately by nine torpedoes from Japanese torpedo bombers.  The ship began to list badly and every sailor knew that it was probably just a few minutes before the Okie would capsize.

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2 Responses to Sunday in Paradise

  • “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”

    I believe that Father Schmitt was in The True Paradise that Sunday and is so today.

    Envy is a sin. But, sometimes maybe not. I envy Father Schmitt’s Faith, Hope, Charity, and his Moral Courage.

  • “I believe that Father Schmitt was in The True Paradise that Sunday and is so today. ”

    Hence the title of the post T.Shaw. I too envy Father Schmitt for his selfless love.

He Outranked Stonewall

Monday, November 28, AD 2011



James B. Sheeran knew many roles in his life:  husband, father, Catholic priest and soldier, and whatever his role he gave everything he had.  Born in Temple Mehill, County Longford, Ireland, in either 1814 or 1818, he emigrated to Canada at the age of 12.  Eventually he settled in Monroe, Michigan and taught at a school run by the Redemptorist Fathers.  He married and he and his wife had a son and daughter.

Tragedy stalked the family.  Sheeran’s wife died in 1849 and his son also died of illness.  His daughter became a nun, but also died young of an illness.  Rather than retreat into bitterness, always a temptation for a man afflicted with so much sorrow, Sheeran decided that God was calling him to a new path and joined the Redemptorists, being ordained a priest in 1858.  He was sent to a parish in New Orleans.  In the Crescent City he found that he liked the people and became an ardent Southerner.  When Louisiana seceded, he became a chaplain in the 14th Louisiana, which served in the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.

Father Sheeran was a priest who believed in speaking his mind.  An example of this was caused by his habit of helping enemy wounded after he had helped the wounded Confederates.  His unit had captured a Union field hospital and Father Sheeran went over to it and was appalled to see that the wounded were not being cared for.  He kept a diary throughout the War and he recorded the following:

The union soldiers “told me that they had no bandages to dress the wounds, no instruments to operate with, and that they were fatigued from the labors of the night.”

“I remarked it would be some consolation to their wounded if they would but visit them and wash the wound of those who were bathed in their own blood. I next went to their men paroled to attend to the wounded, asked why they did not wait on their companions, many of whom were suffering for a drink of water. They told me that they had no one to direct them, that their surgeons seemed to take no interest in the men.”

“I became somewhat indignant to hear the excuses of these worthless nurses, and putting on an air of authority ordered them to go to the rifle pits filled with the dead bodies of their companions and they would find hundreds of knapsacks filled with shirts, handkerchiefs and other articles that would make excellent bandages.”

“They obeyed my orders with the utmost alacrity and soon returned with their arms full of excellent bandage material, and bringing them to me asked: ‘Now sir, what shall we do with them?’” Sheeran was fully prepared to give the required final direction. “Go and tell your surgeons that you have bandages enough now.”

“Off they went to the surgeons….”. “In about two hours I returned and was pleased to find the surgeons and nurses all at work attending to their wounded.”

Father Sheeran did not restrict his outspokenness only to Union soldiers.  His friend Father James Flynn in 1892 wrote about one memorable run in Father Sheeran had with the legendary Stonewall Jackson:

“Going to his [Father Sheeran’s] tent one day, General Jackson sternly rebuked the priest for disobeying his orders, and reproached him for doing what he would not tolerate in any officer in his command. [The exact offense is unknown.] ‘Father Sheeran,’ said the general, ‘you ask more favors and take more privileges than any officer in the army.’ [Sheeran apparently replied] ‘General Jackson, I want you to understand that as a priest of God I outrank every officer in your command. I even outrank you, and when it is a question of duty I shall go wherever called.’ The General looked with undistinguished astonishment on the bold priest and without reply left his tent.”

This incident obviously left an impression on General Jackson.  Just before the battle of Chancellorsville he had ordered that all baggage be sent to the rear which included tents.  Chaplain Sheeran immediately sent in his resignation, claiming that his tent was necessary for him to perform his duties as a priest.  Dr. Hunter McGuire, chief surgeon of the Second Corps, reported on what happened next:

“I said to General Jackson, that I was very sorry to give up [the] Father–; that he was one of the most useful chaplains in the service. He replied: ‘If that is the case he shall have a tent.’ And so far as I know this Roman Catholic priest was the only man in the corps who had one.”

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2 Responses to He Outranked Stonewall

  • “[Sheeran apparently replied] ‘General Jackson, I want you to understand that as a priest of God I outrank every officer in your command. I even outrank you, and when it is a question of duty I shall go wherever called.’”

    That is NOT the attitude (though it should be) of facing down Obama and his Culture of Death Democrats, particularly pseudo-Catholic politicians such as Pelosi, Biden, Kerry, Kucinich, Cuomo, etc.

  • Father Sheeran’s book, full of virile Catholicism, is indeed a joy to read as was this synopsis of his life. I wonder if anyone out there knows what his middle name was as I am hoping to name my soon to be born son after him. Any help would be appreciated.

Father Francis P. Duffy: War and Humor

Wednesday, October 19, AD 2011

“If you want an example of how you ought to worship God, go over to the 69th.  You’ll see hundreds of sturdy men kneeling on the ground hearing mass.”

Father Francis P. Duffy in a letter to Cardinal Farley

A recent National Guard video on Father Francis P. Duffy.  I have written about Father Duffy here.  His courage as a chaplain with the Fighting 69th made him a legend in his own time.  However, courage was only one of his virtues.  Just as appreciated by the young soldiers he helped shepherd through the hell of trench warfare in World War I France was his sense of humor.  Here are a few samples:

Amongst the sturdiest and brightest of our recruits were two young men who had recently been Jesuit Novices. I amused one Jesuit friend and, I am afraid, shocked another by saying that they were exercising a traditional religious privilege of seeking a higher state of perfection by quitting the Jesuits and joining the 69th.

The newcomers are not yet accustomed to the special church regulations relieving soldiers of the obligation of Friday abstinence. Last Friday the men came back from a hard morning’s drill to find on the table a generous meal of ham and cabbage. The old-timers from the Border pitched into this, to the scandal of many of the newer men who refused to eat it, thus leaving all the more for the graceless veterans. After dinner a number of them came to me to ask if it were true that it was all right. I said it was, because there was a dispensation for soldiers. “Dispensation,” said a Jewish boy, “what good is a dispensation for Friday to me. I can’t eat ham any day of the week. Say, Father, that waiter guy, with one turn of his wrist, bust two religions.”

I asked one of the men how he liked the idea of going to confession to a priest who cannot speak English. “Fine, Father,” he said with a grin,  “All he could do was give me a penance, but you’d have given me hell.”

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6 Responses to Father Francis P. Duffy: War and Humor

Give Us This Day

Monday, August 8, AD 2011

William Thomas Cummings, pictured viewer’s left in the above photograph, is known for the phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  This is the story of the priest behind the phrase.

Born in 1903 he studied at Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California and was ordained a priest in 1928.  Wanting to be a missionary priest he joined the Maryknoll Order.  In December 1941 he was serving as a missionary priest in the Philippines.  On December 7, 1941 he showed up at the American Army headquarters in Manila in white vestments and offered his services as a chaplain.  The commandant of the Manila garrison attempted to talk him out of it.  He was 38, old for a combat chaplain, and he was nursing a back injury.  He was also near-sighted and lean as a rake.  Father Cummings vehemently replied that he was determined to be an Army chaplain.    Commissioned as a first lieutenant, he joined the Army in its epic retreat to the Bataan peninsula, where American and Filipino troops, on starvation rations and wracked with malaria, would make a heroic stand for months against the Japanese Imperial Army.

Believing themselves deserted by the US, the troops sang this bit of bitter doggerel:

We’re the battling bastards of Bataan,

No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam.

No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,

No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces.

And nobody gives a damn.

General Douglas MacArthur, in command of all American and Filipino troops in the Philippines, continually pleaded with Washington for a relief force to Bataan.  Shamefully, some of the messages from Washington indicated that a relief force was being put together.   These were lies.   After Pearl Harbor the US simply lacked the naval assets to successfully reinforce Bataan.  Any attempt to do so would almost certainly have led to a military disaster for America.  MacArthur refused an order that he leave Bataan, and stated that he would resign his commission and fight as a volunteer.  He finally left after a direct order from President Roosevelt, but refused to be smuggled out in a submarine, instead going by PT boat to demonstrate that the Japanese blockade of the Philippines could be penetrated.  After he arrived in Australia he was shocked to learn that there were no plans for the relief of the Philippines.  His main goal throughout the war thereafter was the liberation of the Philippines and the rescue of the American and Filipino POWs.

On Bataan Chaplain Cummings quickly became an Army legend.   On Good Friday 1942 at a Bataan field hospital undergoing bombardment Nurse Hattie Bradley witnessed Father Cummings in action:  More piercing screams. Scores must be dead or dying, she was convinced. She dashed into the orthopedic ward for help. There, panic was on the verge of erupting. Then she saw the chaplain…standing on a desk. Above the roar of the airplanes, the explosions and the shrieks of the wounded, his voice could be heard: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Calmed by his prayers, the patients quieted.”  Father Cummings did this in spite of one of his arms being broken by shrapnel from a bomb. 

On Bataan he was always with the troops near or on the front line.  He said innumerable Masses, administered the Last Rites to the dying and helped with the wounded.  His field sermons were memorable.  In one of them he made the famous observation that “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  The quotation was passed on in the book “I Saw the Fall of the Philippines” by General Carlos P. Romulo, one of the Filipino troops evacuated from Bataan, which was published in 1942.

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39 Responses to Give Us This Day

  • Don, thanks for posting this. ‘Give Us This Day’ was the title of a book written by Sidney Stewart, a survivor of the Bataan march and three years of captivity in Jap prison camps. In his memoir, Stewart discusses at length the reliance he and fellow GIs had on Father Cummings during those dark times. The book was written in 1956. Here is a link for more info:,Sydney.html
    Along with Escape from Davao, Give Us This Day should be recommended reading for every American.

  • Thank you Joe. I am aware of the memoir, from which I have taken the title of the post, although I have not yet read it. I hope to remedy that before the end of the year.

  • Thank You.

  • Thanks for this. I’m reading “Grunt Padre,” the story of Fr. Capodanno. Fr. Mode recites vignettes about the Maryknollers of that era, including Fr. Cummings and later, Bishop Ford in China. What an astonishing group of men.

  • It brought tears to my eyes to think of our true heros and the horror they have gone through. Thank you for this post – it is inspirational to know men like him existed and exist today.

  • Thank you gentlemen. Recalling the lives of heroic priests such as Father Cummings gives me hope for humanity.

  • Thanks for this Don. A very touching and inspiring story. I recall seeing the movie “Bataan” back around 1957 when I was at Sacred Heart College. Quite a chilling movie, parts of which I can still recall.
    At this time of year – August 6th Hiroshima day, and August 15th.- Assumption, and the end of hostilities in the Pacific, I am reminded of my youth when, as a late teenager/early 20’s, many of my dad’s friends (dad fought in North Africa and Italy) had fought in the Pacific – mainly the air force. I have always been interested in aircraft, and I would listen with rapt attention to these men as they recounted their exploits. They were then in their late 30’s/early 40’s,- this being the early/mid 60’s – so their memories were vivid, as then it was still quite recent history.
    Your story also reminds me of our Fr. Francis Douglas, killed by the Japanese in the Phillipines in 1943 at age 33years.
    Thanks again.

  • When I read stories like this, I can’t understand why some Catholic commentators get so mad about us a-bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It reminds me of the way hippy-dippy types used to bawl how we were “mistreating ” the VC during the Nam conflict. The Cong and the Japanese both had a policy of treating their captives in an inhumane fashion. Both of them should consider themselves lucky that we did not return the favor in kind. As far as I’m concerned, the Japanese should be thankful that we only a-bombed two cities, instead of invading the mainland and killing far more troops and others than those a-bombs ever could!

  • Interestingly, the number of American POWs who survived German prison camps was, percentage-wise, 10 times higher than those in Jap camps where roughly only 3 percent survived, according to my recollections. Near the end of the war, “kill orders” went out all over the Pacific, leaving relatively few POWs left.

    Further, our treatment of German and Japanese POWs was by contrast humane to the point that they were fed basically the same food our troops got and otherwise were treated as fellow human beings. By contrast, the Japs were the ultimate racists, viewing all Americans as “sub-human.” Also, the Jap culture for centuries taught that to surrender as a prisoner rather than to die was cowardly; hence, their disdain for Westerners. And, lastly, their guards were the dregs of the Imperial Army, misfits and goons for the most part.

  • The Japanese gave good treatment to Russian prisoners taken in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. By World War II a spurious code of Bushido had the Japanese military in its grip and the Japanese treated prisoners with little mercy. Western prisoners had a death rate of 27.1%, seven times the rate of Western prisoners held by the Nazis. Most of the men released by the Japanese were mere skeletons and had survived through incredible tenacity and luck. In regard to China, Japan after the war released 56 Chinese prisoners. The Japanese routinely immediately murdered any Asians who fought against them and were luckless enough to fall into their hands. Millions of Chinese were slaughtered in ways that horrified Nazi observers. The Japanese high command had issued an order that all Western prisoners of war were to be executed immediately if the Japanese Home Islands were invaded.

  • Don, the aforementioned Sidney Stewart was 65 pounds when he was rescued. He was 6-foot-1.

  • BTW, I just started The Rape of Nanking, a pre-WWII horror story of epic proportions. No wonder the Chicoms hate the Japanese so much.

  • “I recall seeing the movie “Bataan” back around 1957 when I was at Sacred Heart College. Quite a chilling movie, parts of which I can still recall.”

    One part of the film that I can recall Don is a meeting between Allied officers and Filipino guerrillas where the officers are warning them where MacArthur’s initial landings are going to occur so that the Filipino civilians can be evacuated. The Filipino guerrilla leader notes that such an evacuation would warn the Japanese that an invasion was coming and that therefore there would be no evacuation.
    Here is a link to a clip from the film. The scene I mentioned begins at 6:56.

    Filipino and American guerrillas fought on throughout the War. By the time MacArthur returned the Japanese had tenuous control of only twelve of forty-eight provinces. The Japanese killed some one million Filipinos during the War but they never conquered them.

  • I couldn’t get through the Rape of Nanking Joe, I was too appalled. I have read a great deal about Man’s inhumanity to Man, but the Japanese Imperial Army in that particular slaughter set a new record in my estimation for putting massive amounts of people to death in ways of unimaginable cruelty. In 2007 100 Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers in Japan denounced the Rape of Nanking as a Chinese fabrication. If that were only the case.

  • The Chinese lost some 10 to 20 million people at the hands of the Japanese, all but some three million civilian deaths. This is a part of the War in the Pacific that has been largely forgotten outside of China, but it should not be.

  • Don, the author, Iris Chang, took so much heat in the book’s aftermath for alleged sloppy research that she fell into depression and finally killed herself. Most scholars and historians appear to find her account credible, but there was a concerted effort — by the Japanese in particular — to find fault with her work. I’m just on the first chapter and so far, yes, it is appalling. As much as I want to avert my eyes from such horrors, I feel I cannot. Evil should be looked square in the eye and, when possible, be fought at every turn.

  • Her suicide was appallingly sad Joe. The historical record is crystal clear in regard to the Rape of Nanking. There were plenty of Westerners in Nanking at the time who recorded precisely what was happening. One of the heroes who saved 200,000-250,000 Chinese was John Rabe, a Nazi businessman. Here is one of many notes that he made at the time:

    “Two Japanese soldiers have climbed over the garden wall and are about to break into our house. When I appear they give the excuse that they saw two Chinese soldiers climb over the wall. When I show them my party badge, they return the same way. In one of the houses in the narrow street behind my garden wall, a woman was raped, and then wounded in the neck with a bayonet. I managed to get an ambulance so we can take her to Kulou Hospital…. Last night up to 1,000 women and girls are said to have been raped, about 100 girls at Ginling Girls’ College alone. You hear nothing but rape. If husbands or brothers intervene, they’re shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiers.”

    Rabe was a man of rare courage. He later renounced his membership in the Nazi party. After the War he and his family were living in dire poverty. Though China was wracked by Civil War, the citizens of Nanking hearing about his troubles sent him 2000 dollars and until the Communist takeover sent him and his family a large package of food every month for which Rabe and his family were very grateful. He died of a stroke in 1950, and he is one former Nazi I hope some day to encounter in Heaven.

  • On the tenuous connection of books nearly too depressing to read — have you read Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands yet, Don?

    I started on it last night, and within a few pages was thinking maybe I should go back to the Great War (Storm of Steel is next on my list there) in order to avoid the depression. However, a friend of mine who teaches Polish history tells me that I absolutely must read it, so I guess I shall have to.

    It takes a great deal to make trench warfare look cheerful, but living between Russia and Germany during the 30s and 40s pretty much fits the bill.

  • Darwin, that reminds me of Jerzy Kosinki’s The Painted Bird, a fictional account of Poland during WWII, which reads all too real.

    Don, there was a biopic made about Rabe but don’t know if was released in the U.S. Here’s a link:

  • “On the tenuous connection of books nearly too depressing to read — have you read Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands yet, Don?”

    No Darwin, although it is on my list. Eastern European history always reminds me of Hamlet: it goes on at great length, all the participants seemed to be touched in the head to a certain extent, and everybody ends up murdered!

    Norman Davies, although he is a good bit of a snot like most Brit historians, is my favorite when it comes to Polish history.

    Storm of Steel is a true classic! Ernst Junger who saw some of the most horrifying combat imaginable actually enjoyed the War! An ultra German nationalist he was also an anti-Nazi and was peripherally involved in the the Von Stauffenberg assassination attempt. His eldest son, a naval cadet, was sentenced to a penal battalion for subversion and died in Italy in 1944.

    A writer of true genius, Junger was also a druggie who experimented with drugs most of his life. A year before his death at 102 in 1998 he converted to Catholicism and faithfully received communion regularly thereafter. Junger is one of the more fascinating literary figures of the 20th Century in my opinion.

  • Thanks for the tip Joe. I’ll try to get my hands on it.

  • Don, found it at my local library and have ordered. 74% ‘fresh’ on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • Hey, Don…look what I found:

  • That last one was in German…Here’s the official trailer:

  • Bravo Joe! That trailer has sold me on the film!

  • Re Storm of Steel, which I have yet to read. Check out this review:

    (A brilliant book, a great book. Horrifying in its realistic greatness. Power, nationalistic passion, verve—the German book on the [First World] War. A member of his generation rises to speak about the deeply emotional event of war and performs miracles in presenting his innermost feelings.)

    — Joseph Goebbels, 20 January 1926

  • Yeah, the Nazis assumed since Junger was an uber Nationalist he was one of them. After they took over they learned better when he declined a seat in the Reichstag and declined to head the German Academy of Literature. By 1938 he was under investigation by the Gestapo and banned from writing. He spent World War II as an Army Captain. I have little doubt that he would have been executed by the Nazis, but for the immense prestige that he enjoyed in Germany, and the fact that he kept a low profile.

  • Don, apparently Storm of Steel went through several revisions and translations to “tone it down,” as it were, due to its graphic nature.

    I plan to get to Bloodlands, too. So many books; so little time. BTW The Catholic Thing has an essay today on reading, which TAC followers may find of interest.

  • apparently Storm of Steel went through several revisions and translations to “tone it down,” as it were, due to its graphic nature.

    With the knowledge of a man who just read the introduction to the new Penguine translation last night…

    The first edition was in 1920, and was basically a straight transcription of Junger’s diaries. There was another edition in 1924 which turned it into a polished “literary” version, but still distinctly dark and bloody. Junger revised it again in 1934 and in the process cut out many of the most nationalistic and political passages — this was as it was becoming an international best seller (Junger was already becoming very popular in France) — somewhat to the annoyance of the Nazi’s.

    Junger continued to revise the work up through 1961.

    Actually, the same friend recommended Junger, Bloodlands, and 14-18 (which I just finished), all of which look to be very good (though not exactly cheery) reads.

  • The Japanese, as a whole, have not owned up to their atrocities in the same way the Germans have. With certain noble exceptions–one of which was atom bomb survivor and Catholic scientist Takashi Nagai, who permitted his hauntingly brilliant “Bells of Nagasaki” to be printed with an appendix detailing Japanese atrocities in the Philippines. The Occupation government required this in order for “Bells” to be printed.

    Speaking of which, Bells is must reading, as is Ignatius’ biography of Nagai, “A Song for Nagasaki.”

  • Is his cause up for canonization?

    There are memorials to Fr. Capodanno and Fr. Kapaun at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin. This Shrine commemorates the first approved Marian apparition in the U.S.. Approval was very recent.

  • I have seen no evidence of any attempt to have Father Cummings canonized. Maryknoll recognizes him as one of the nine Maryknoll martyrs:

  • Don.
    The movie I was referring to was the previous movie “Bataan” made in 1943 according to the youtube item – not “Return to Bataan” – but seeing The Duke in action was worth the watch.

    Interesting that the comments morphed into WW2 in Germany WRT actions and POW’s – my uncle Joe Murphy – obviously of Irish stock – flew navigator in Lancasters and was shot down 4 times, but escaped only 3 times – (the luck of the Irish?) and was a POW for the last 18 months of the war.
    But my comment is really about a German gentleman I got to meet, and I served (Acolyte) at his Requiem Mass a couple of months ago. I had met Rudi in a retirment home a year before where I take Holy Communion to each week to several residents.
    Rudi Baumgart was born in 1925 in Romania of German parents – his father working in mining there. When He was an infant his family moved to Latvia to a farm his father inherited from his great grandfather. In 1939 when Germany invaded Latvia, Rudi was conscripted into the Wermacht as an engineer on his own insistence. When the Red army invaded Poland, where Rudi was stationed, he returned to Latvia. But Russia also invaded Latvia, and he was conscripted into the Russian army. When war ended, he did not believe a promise made to many German soldiers by the Russians, and he and several other germans escaped back to West Germany. He would never speak of the things he did while escaping to survive – it must have been very traumatic for him.
    He married and eventually made his way to Australia, then to NZ. His marriage broke up in Oz where he left a son and a daughter and worked in NZ where he made many friends and met another woman who he never married, but loved her dearly till she died in 2005. He returned to his Catholic faith through the efforts of a lovely local Catholic woman. On some occasions when I took him Communion, he would clasp the crucifix in his hands, and with tears say that he might not be forgiven for the terrible things he had done in his earlier life. He had been to Confession regularly before I met him, and had been annointed a few times due to his infirmities, and I assured him that Jesus had forgiven him his sins.
    He had a vibrant sense of humour – would often speak to me in German with a grin on his face – did he really translate what he said correctly ? :-). I took him Communion two weeks before he died – the next couple of weeks he would be asleep; he died four days after my last call.
    May God rest your soul. Reqiescat in Pace, Rudi Baumgart

  • A beautiful story indeed Don! I was unaware of the film Bataan until internet research led me to believe that it was probably the film you were referring to. It was notable for two things: giving, for the time, a realistic view of combat, and for a young Desi Arnaz, years before he married Lucille Ball.

    Here is a link to a clip from the film:

  • “Junger was also a druggie who experimented with drugs most of his life. A year before his death at 102 in 1998 he converted to Catholicism and faithfully received communion regularly thereafter.”

    An ex-Nazi and drug dabbler converting to the Faith at the age of 101? I guess there really is hope for us all….

  • “a young Desi Arnaz, years before he married Lucille Ball.”

    Lucy and Desi were married in 1940.

  • You are correct Elaine. Interestingly enough, they divorced in 1944 and subsequently reconciled. It is incredible to me that the marriage survived for two decades.

Matthew Brady, Father Thomas H. Mooney, Dagger John and the Fighting 69th

Tuesday, July 19, AD 2011

The above photo is one of the archetypal Matthew Brady photographs of the Civil War.  Whenever religion in the Civil War is mentioned in a history, odds are you will see this picture.  It was taken on June 1, 1861 in the camp of the 69th New York, later to be christened The Fighting 69th  by no less an authority on fighting  than Robert E. Lee, and it depicts Mass being said by Father Thomas H. Mooney, the first chaplain of The Fighting 69th.

Born in Manchester, England, and ordained in 1853 in New York City, Father Mooney had been pastor of Saint Brigid’s in New york City, as well as being the chaplain of the 69th New York.  Archbishop Hughes of New York City, known universally by friend and foe as “Dagger John”, warned Father Mooney about the large number of Fenians, a precursor of the Irish Republican Army, who had enlisted in the regiment:

“They are incompetent to be admitted to the Sacraments of the Church during life and of Christian burial after death, unless they shall in the meantime renounce such obligations as have been just referred to. In regard to the whole subject, you will please to exercise all the discretion and all the charity that religion affords: but speak to the men and tell each one (not all at one time) that he is jeopardizing his soul if he perseveres in this uncatholic species of combination.”

The Church in Ireland and America had a mostly negative view of the Fenians due to an overall opposition to revolutionary movements in Europe by Pope Pius IX and because the Fenians called for a separation of Church and State In Ireland.

The 69th was one of the first Union regiments to go to Washington in 1861 in response to Lincoln’s call for volunteers.  Father Mooney went with it, and quickly proved extremely popular with the men and officers of the regiment.  He founded a temperance society in the regiment,  held daily Masses and confessions, and was tireless in reminding wayward soldiers in the regiment that this was a great opportunity for them to return to the Faith.  A correspondent for the New York Times reported on the high esteem in which Father Mooney was held:

As for the Sixty-ninth, they turned out more than twelve hundred muskets, leaving yet another hundred — the newly-arrived Zouaves — in their late headquarters at the College. This Regiment has grown into great fever in Washington — not a single one of its members ever having become amenable to the police authorities in any way; and its discipline and efficiency having frequently been made the subject of complimentary notice by Gens SCOTT and MANSFIELD. For very much of the good order and moral restraint existing in the ranks, it is doubtless indebted to the ceaseless and zealous exertions of Father THOMAS MOONEY, an admirable specimen-priest of the true high type, who, if he were not chaplain, would certainly be a candidate for Colonel — fate and a sanguine temper giving him equal adaptation to the sword of the spirit and the “regulation sword” — a veritable son of the church-militant. But this again is a degression.

Father Mooney’s career as a chaplain was cut short by “Dagger John”.   On June 13, 1861 the 69th was helping to emplace a rifled cannon in Fort Corcoran, named after Colonel Corcoran the commander of the 69th, near Washington.  Everyone was in high spirits.  Father Mooney was called upon to bless the cannon.  Instead, he decided to baptize the cannon.

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One Response to Matthew Brady, Father Thomas H. Mooney, Dagger John and the Fighting 69th

The Fighting 69th

Saturday, March 12, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  The Fighting 69th sung by the WolfTones.

Formed in 1851, the regiment served during the Civil War as part of the Irish Brigade.  The 69th earned its “fighting” sobriquet, according to legend, when General Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg, told that the 69th had made a gallant assault against the Confederate lines, and recalling the regiment from the Seven Days battles, stated “Ah yes.  That fighting 69th.”  Made up mostly of Irishmen during the Civil War,  the regimental battle cry was Faugh an Beallach,  Clear the Way.    The regimental motto was the traditional, and accurate, observation about the Irish:  “Gentle when stroked;  fierce when provoked”.

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17 Responses to The Fighting 69th

  • Since a child, I have owned a book about Father Duffy, by Jim Bishop.

    It’s now (since WWI) the 165th NY/NG part of the 42nd (Rainbow) Div.

    In WWI, they covered themselves again with glory, were commanded by “Wild Bill” Donovan, and General Douglas MacArthur was the 42nd Div. (Rainbow) commanding general.

    They’ve been deployed to Iraq several times and saw action with (sadly) quite a number of KIA’s. There are NY/NG troops patrolling Penn Sta., etc. even today, in body armor and armed, while the rest of us (sheep) toddle through on our way to make a living. Not enough Americans have an appreciation of the costs of this war.

    Point of information: The 69th NYS Militia existed in NYC long before the CW. In fact, they once “came out” to protect St. Patrick’s Cathedral from No-Nothing arsonists.

    My ancestor, from Ireland after the Famine, was KIA with the 69th at First Bull Run. The Irish Brigade was formed shortly after that.

    Glory O, Glory O to the Brave Fenian Men!

    See the clip of the song in Rio Grande. John Ford slipped that one into a cavalry movie . . .

    I will be on the wrong coast the Patty’s Day [sigh]. Good for my liver. Still, me and Jameson will have an abbreviated, bitter/sweet “talk.”

  • This is the Irish Guards on St. Patrick’s Day.

    I stopped hating Brits on September 12, 2001.

  • The 69th Infantry Regiment was first organized in 1849 from new and existing units, some of which go back to the Revolution.

    In 1963 the 165th Infantry was redesignated the 69th Infantry in the Army numbering system. One of the very few National Guard units that have kept their state number in the Army’s sequence.

  • Thank you Hank. I have amended my post to reflect 1851 as the date of the formation of the regiment when it entered service in the New York State Militia as the 69th regiment.

  • The clip ends with FTPSNI.
    I can only think that this refers to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. If it does, you should reconsider using the clip.

  • I didn’t know the Irish brigade was apart of the Rainbow Division in the Great War. My great-grandfather was in the Rainbow Division during the war; don’t know what specific regiment, though. He was from Ireland and then lived in the Bronx when he got to the states, so perhaps he was in the Irish Brigade.

  • The 69th was part of the Rainbow Division Francis in World War I, but not the Irish Brigade. The Irish Brigade was a Civil War formation that the 69th was part of during the Civil War only.

  • Ah, got it. Thanks for clearing that up. Perhaps he was in the 69th is what I meant, then.

  • Rather than me continuing to complain about the sentiment “F*** The Police Service of Northern Ireland”, may I commend this item which shows the Irish Guards leaving for Iraq?

    The earlier clip was from the Queen’s birthday parade, rather than the St Patricks parade, by the way.

    Oh….and more amusingly, in the British Army the old 69th Regiment was called The Ups and Downers

  • For some reason Jim the abbreviation is missing from the video when I run it. Alas, quite a bit of Irish related videos on youtube make reference in some manner to “The Troubles” whether the video has anything to do with that conflict or not.

    Your clip is a fine one. You might find this story amusing. After the Boer War Winston Churchill went on a speaking tour of the US. He was giving a speech and was being vociferously heckled by a group of Irish-Americans. Their boos changed to cheers when he related how the day was saved at an engagement he participated in by a furious charge of the Dublin Irish Fusiliers!

  • Yes. HRHQEII’s birthday. The tune is “The St. Patrick’s Day March.”

    The regiment parades on St. Patrick’s Day. And, a member of the royal family (presumably one that isn’t falling down drunk or too rank of a moron) presents the regiment with a basket of shamrocks.

    And, if it weren’t for those Irishmen, and millions (my father and uncles at the latter one) Yanks in 1918 and 1942, the queen would be speaking German.

  • LOL. The first tune In the saxon clip is “Whiskey in the Jar.” Great armada: the band, two companies and no weapons.

    I’m working on locating a liquor store near the hotel. Hotel Bar prices will bankrupt a man with a thirst.

    Not looking forward to flying all day to get at a drink.

  • TS
    Every man in the Irish Regiments of the British Army receive a shamrock on St Patrick’s day. Did you know that the first celebration parades in America were organised by the British Army?

    Nowadays there are only two Irish Regiments, the Irish Guards and the RIR

    You may remember their colonel in Iraq….

    We go to liberate, not to conquer.
    We will not fly our flags in their country
    We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
    Show respect for them.

    There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
    Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
    As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
    Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
    But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

    Iraq is steeped in history.
    It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.
    Tread lightly there.

    You will see things that no man could pay to see
    — and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
    You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.
    Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
    Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
    If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.
    Allow them dignity in death.
    Bury them properly and mark their graves.

    It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
    But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
    We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
    There will be no time for sorrow.
    The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.
    There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.
    He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.
    As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.
    It is a big step to take another human life.
    It is not to be done lightly.
    I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
    I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

    If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
    The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
    If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
    You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest — for your deeds will follow you down through history.

    We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
    It is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.
    We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself.
    If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.

    As for ourselves, let’s bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.

    Our business now is north.

  • TS
    I think you’ll find that WWI started in 1914 and WWII in 1939, rather than 1918 and 1942. And that Irishmen were fighting from the start of both wars, rather than arriving later with your relatives.

    As for “the band, two companies and no weapons”. You may note four infantry companies in the batallion. And by convention in Britain, our soldiers do not carry weapons when marching through towns lest they begin a military coup.
    We have certain occasions when a regiment may march with weapons, as in here

    The A&SH has the freedom of the city so may march with bayonets fixed. Officers and NCOs march without weapons.
    The bagpipes count as weapons of war, following an odd ancient law. The Pipes and Drums are viewed as infantry and form the Heavy Weapons Company in these units, unlike bandsmen.

    Do American musicians fight as infanteers?
    Or is it all shiny shoes and turning up a few years late……

  • I don’t need to be schooled by a saxon.

  • T.Shaw and Jim, I do not think this combox is going to be able to resolve the English-Irish conflict that goes back to Strongbow. This post was meant to celebrate the Fighting 69th and we are going far afield here. Let’s stay on topic.

  • The 1940 movie is “Catholic.” We see Pvt. Plunkett eventually, through (Father Duffy’s) prayer and grace, attain redemption through contrition, repentence of his “weakness”, penance, amendment of life, and good works.

    I have a book, A Doughboy in the Fighting 69th (sic). The author an Irishman named Eichinger (mother’s Irish) tells the story of the (he called him “eight-ball”) Cagney character. The man, an Irishman transferred from a MA NG unit, was on guard duty outside a French Church. It being winter, the French priest gave him a sip of “whatever juice.” The man had a terrible thirst and forced more, and got drunk. When the priest tried to stop him the soldier fired at him. Luckily, he missed (even more luck: the man didn’t hit him. He was a Boston club fighter). A court-matrial sentenced him to death for drunk on guard and firing his weapon at a civilian. Father Duffy and the French priest begged mercy and the sentence was commuted to constant duty in the lines. The man and his partner were wounded on the first day of the big 1918 offensive and both refused evacuation for two or three days into the attack. Both died of gangrene.

    A man like Plunkett would have been off the line way before the movie depiction. Probably shot (then not now), either by firing squad or by an officer or NCO for refusing orders in combat. Only Hollywood would come up with . . .

    lol. TCM is airing Joan of Arc, 1948, Ingrid Bergman. The English are about to have her burned at the stake.

Father John B. Bannon: Confederate Chaplain and Diplomat

Sunday, January 16, AD 2011


There were a great many brave men during the Civil War, but I think it is a safe wager that none were braver than Father John B. Bannon.  Born on January 29, 1829 in Dublin, Ireland, after he was ordained a priest he was sent in 1853 to Missouri to minister to the large Irish population in Saint Louis.  In 1858 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s parish on the west side of the city.  Always energetic and determined, he was instrumental in the construction Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist church.  Out of his hectic schedule he somehow found time to become a chaplain in the Missouri Volunteer Militia and became friends with many soldiers who, unbeknownst to them all, would soon be called on for something other than peaceful militia drills.  In November 1860 he marched with the Washington Blues under the command of Captain Joseph Kelly to defend the state from Jayhawkers from “Bleeding Kansas”.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, most of the Saint Louis Irish were strongly Confederate in their sympathies and Father Bannon was of their number.  The Irish viewed the conflict in light of their experiences in Ireland with the English invaders, with the Southerners in the role of the Irish and the Northerners as the English.   Confederate militia gathered at Camp Jackson after the firing on Fort Sumter, and Father Bannon went there as chaplain of the Washington Blues.  Camp Jackson eventually surrendered to Union forces, and Father Bannon was held in Union custody until May 11, 1861.  He resumed his parish duties, although he made no secret from the pulpit where his personal sympathies lay.  Targeted for arrest by the Union military in Saint Louis, on December 15, 1861, he slipped out of the back door of his rectory, in disguise and wearing a fake beard,  as Union troops entered the front door. 

He made his way to Springfield, Missouri where Confederate forces were gathering, and enlisted in the Patriot Army of Missouri under the colorful General Sterling Price, who would say after the War that Father Bannon was the greatest soldier he ever met.

He became a chaplain in the First Missouri Confederate Brigade, and would serve in that capacity until the unit surrendered at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.  He quickly became a legend not only in his brigade, but in the entire army to which it was attached and an inspiration to the soldiers, Catholic and Protestant alike.  At the three day battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 6-8, 1862, he disobeyed orders for chaplains to remain in the rear and joined the soldiers on the firing line, giving human assistance to the wounded, and divine assistance for those beyond human aid.  For Catholic soldiers he would give them the Last Rites, and Protestant soldiers, if they wished, he would baptize.

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3 Responses to Father John B. Bannon: Confederate Chaplain and Diplomat

Chesty Puller and Catholic Chaplains

Sunday, January 2, AD 2011


Some men become legends after their deaths and others become legends while they are alive.  Lewis Burwell Puller, forever known as “Chesty”, was in the latter category.  Enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1918 he would serve until 1955, rising in rank from private to lieutenant general.  Throughout his career he led from the front, never asking his men to go where he would not go.  For his courage he was five times awarded the Navy Cross,  a Silver Star,  a Distinguished Service Cross, and a Bronze Star with a v for valor, along with numerous other decorations.  In World War II and Korea he became a symbol of the courage that Marines amply displayed in  both conflicts.

His fourth Navy Cross citation details why the Marines under his command would have followed him in an attack on Hades if he had decided to lead them there:

“For extraordinary heroism as Executive Officer of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, serving with the Sixth United States Army, in combat against enemy Japanese forces at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, from 26 December 1943 to 19 January 1944. Assigned temporary command of the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, from 4 to 9 January, Lieutenant Colonel Puller quickly reorganized and advanced his unit, effecting the seizure of the objective without delay. Assuming additional duty in command of the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, from 7 to 8 January, after the commanding officer and executive officer had been wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Puller unhesitatingly exposed himself to rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire from strongly entrenched Japanese positions to move from company to company in his front lines, reorganizing and maintaining a critical position along a fire-swept ridge. His forceful leadership and gallant fighting spirit under the most hazardous conditions were contributing factors in the defeat of the enemy during this campaign and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Stories began to cluster about him.  When he was first shown a flame thrower he supposedly asked, “Where do you mount the bayonet?”    Advised that his unit was surrounded he replied:  “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”  On an inspection tour of a Marine unit he became exasperated at the lack of spirit he saw and finally said,”Take me to the Brig. I want to see the real Marines!”  During the Chosin campaign in Korea when the Marines were fighting their way to the coast through several Communist Chinese corps he captured the tactical situation succinctly:  “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”  Little surprise that Marine Drill Instructors at Parris Island still have their boots sing good night to Chesty Puller some four decades after his death.

Puller was an Episcopalian.  However he made no secret that he greatly admired Navy Catholic chaplains who served with the Marines, and had little use, with certain honorable exceptions, for the Navy Protestant chaplains sent to the Corps.  His reasons were simple.  The Catholic chaplains were without fear, always wanted to be with the troops in combat, and the men idolized them for their courage and their willingness, even eagerness, to stand with them during their hour of trial.

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35 Responses to Chesty Puller and Catholic Chaplains

  • “On New Guinea one Protestant chaplain complained to Puller that the Catholic chaplains were making converts among the Protestants. Puller told the chaplain that he should work harder and not come whining to him.”

    Unfortunately, the situation seems to be reversed in civilian life today — Protestants (specifically, evangelicals) seem to be making numerous converts among Catholics while Catholics sit back and wring their hands about why so many are leaving the Church.

    However, based on what Puller says here, the solution does NOT lie in better marketing techniques or in “feel good” approaches to the faith… rather it lies in having clergy (and lay people) whom others can look up to, and who aren’t afraid to go “where the bullets are flying”

  • James Shannon, while a parish priest, recounts having been called to the scene of a midnight fire at a warehouse. There was a threat of a floor collapsing. The fire chief ordered his men out. He then turned to Father Sheehan: “You’re wanted inside”. And inside he went.

  • There are in fact many men who are leaders that point to Christ from the Catholic parish and parishes across the street. And, there are those who stand out, like “Chesty” who are Catholic witnesses of uncompromising conviction. It is important to know our brothers (and sisters) who are leaders, saints and servants, and to teach about them to our children, and more importantly to reflect them in our respective lives to make them real.

  • MEMO FROM: God Almighty
    TO: Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines
    RE: Which Service is Best

    I’ve been watching and here’s what I think. All branches of the United States Armed Forces are truly honorable, courageous, well-trained and capable.

    Therefore, there is no superior service.

    God Almighty, USMC (Ret.)

    Best PR dept. in the world . . . the Church ought to hire them.

  • T. Shaw, I’m sending you the bill if I have to buy a new keyboard. I was drinking coke when I read “God Almighty, USMC (Ret.)”. 🙂

  • Sorry, Mac! I read that in a Christmas gift book. It hit me that way, too.

    Catholic Chaplains go at “it” with zeal for the salvation of souls. Not sure what motivates protestant padres.

    PS: I’m boycotting Pepsi products, too. That’d be about $1.50 less in annual sales.

    PPS: I bet dollars to donuts Michelle didn’t give Barrack “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Salutes the Armed Forces” as a kwanzaa gift. He might learn something.

  • I have always adored Puller. He reminds me of myself, only 1,000 times better. . .

  • Harper, how many Marines have thought that! 🙂

  • I am a Navy reservist and you see it all the time, the Catholic Chaplains are the chaplains that the other chaplains look up to.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Chesty Puller and Catholic Chaplains | The American Catholic --
  • This is still true today. When I was in Afghanistan, my battalion was blessed to have a Catholic chaplain who had himself been a Marine infantryman before joining the priesthood. He went everywhere with us, including fire fights, and everyone loved him.

  • God love him Michel! Such priests are a true sign of Christ’s love in the most dangerous of circumstances.

  • Donald McClarey,

    We would like to republish, to the Catholic Education Resource Center web site, the article “Chesty Puller and Catholic Chaplains”.

    Kindly allow me to explain who we are and how this article would be used by us.

    The Catholic Education Resource Center provides an Internet library of journal articles, essays, book excerpts, and other texts. These have been chosen for their objective, concise, and clear presentation of Catholic teachings, culture, and history, particularly in those areas in which the Church’s role is unknown or misunderstood. Materials have been selected which are scholarly yet accessible and have all been copyright cleared for classroom, parish, or individual use.

    Approximately 160,000 unique visitors drop by our web site every month. Over 220,000 articles a month are accessed on our site.

    We are a non-profit educational organization providing perspective for students, teachers, clergy, ordinary Catholics and enquiring non-Catholics on a broad range of educational and other matters.

    In addition to our web site library, we provide a free email newsletter, the CERC Weekly Update, which lists new articles posted to the site along with abstracts and hot links, as well as links to editorials of interest on matters bearing on Catholic faith and culture from around the world.

    See our most recent online version:

    If permission is granted we will provide a full reference and link to the American Catholic website as well as a short bio on you and links to your books.

    For example, see the article below.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    J. Fraser Field

    J. Fraser Field
    Managing Editor
    Catholic Education Resource Center
    3284 Hernando Avenue
    Powell River, B.C.
    V8A 1B8

    phone: (604) 485-0561

    veritatem quaerendo


  • Be my guest J. Fraser Field. You have my permission.

  • “Sorry, Mac! I read that in a Christmas gift book. It hit me that way, too.”

    Your comment has been noted with approval at First Things.

  • Thanks for this wonderful post. I first heard about Chesty Puller from the HBO series “The Pacific”, and am now reading the companion book to that series. So many valiant men served in WWII — never get tired of reading their stories. Also, loved the comment about “God Almighty (USMC, Ret’d.)” God bless the Marines!

  • Thank you Pat. Robert Leckie, who was one of the Marines featured in The Pacific, became a military historian. I have read almost all of his books. His Strong Men Armed is still I think the best one volume history of the Marines in the Pacific during World War II:

  • How interesting! I had always heard that the presence of Catholic chaplains on the front line also led to the conversion of numerous British nobles during World War I. In fact, it was thought that the discipline of celibacy enabled the Church to send her priests into the worst of it, precisely because they would not be encumbered by families.

  • That is true. Robert Graves, in his memoir, Goodbye to All That, of his service in the Royal Army in World War I, although he was an agnostic, attested to the fact that the bravest men he ever encountered in combat on the Western Front were the Catholic chaplains of the British Army. This is striking since in his memoir he also made it clear that he had absolutely no use for organized religion.

  • Donald,

    Great article. A few niggles though from a retired Marine. First, Puller’s decorations need to be capitalized: Navy Cross, Silver Star, etc. The Navy Cross is our nation’s second highest award for gallantry and the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Service Cross is the same award (which Chesty also won).

    Secondly the quote ” “Retreat! Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction” does not belong to Puller but to his Commanding General at the time, Major General Oliver P. Smith. During the Chosin Reservoir campaign, O.P. Smith led the 1st Marine Division, supported by the 1st Marine Air Wing, from Chosin to Hungnam destroying 12 Chinese divisions in the process.

    Semper Fidelis,


  • Thank you for the corrections Frank. In regard to the Retreat, Hell comment I have seen it attributed to both men. The relatively, for a Marine, soft-spoken Smith, a truly great commander, was nick-named “the Professor”, and normally did not use profanity. During the Chosin campaign he responded to a question from a reporter asking whether this was the first time that Marines had ever retreated by noting that the Chinese were behind the Marines and that the Marines were attacking them. I assume it is possible that the more bluntly spoken Puller shortened the statement and added the Hell reference. Puller did say the following to a reporter: “Remember when you write, this was no retreat. All that happened was we found more Chinese behind us than in front of us. So we about-faced and attacked.”

    Before his men reached the aptly named “Hellfire Valley” during the Chosin campaign, Puller, the original unPc character, stood on a ration box and told his men: “I don’t give a good goddamn how many Chinese laundrymen there are between us and Hungnam. There aren’t enough in the world to stop a Marine regiment going where it wants to go! Christ in His mercy will see us through.”

  • Donald, you’re welcome. As the article is being seen by a wide audience, I think it’s important that General O.P. Smith’s quote be attributed correctly. The Wikipedia citation saying this quote belongs to Puller is simply wrong. A simple Google search of “Retreat Hell. We’re just attacking in a different direction.” will verify with ample evidence the true origin of these words.

    Marines are sticklers for their history, and rightly so. That’s why Leatherneck Magazine, published by the Marine Corps Association in Quantico VA, and the official magazine of the Marine Corps, gets the quote attributed correctly.

    “Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They’re aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They’ve got really short hair and they
    always…Go for the throat.”
    -RAdm. Stark, US Navy; 10 November 1995

    Semper Fidelis,

  • Thanks for the follow-up Frank. From the article you link to:

    “The hero’s hero of the campaign has to be Major General Oliver P. Smith, commander of the First Division. He advanced cautiously, probing the strength of the new enemy, establishing rearguard strongholds of supply and defense, all despite the Army command’s exhortations to race blindly into the unknown. And, of course, he led us out under the banner of his immortal battle cry, “Retreat, Hell! We’re just attacking in a different direction!” Eyewitnesses confirm he said exactly that, but some Stateside skeptics, never close to the battleground, let alone the general, claim he would never utter such language.”

  • Donald, absolutely his reply was subjected to a reporters spin. This is how Eric Hammel describes the circumstances in his book Chosin:Heroic Ordeal of the Korean War,

    Later in the day, while explaining the breakout plan to several news reporters, Smith agreed to field some questions.

    “General,” one of the newsmen soon ventured, “all this adds up to a retreat.”

    O.P. gave that a moment’s thought, for it was a fair surmise. The general, a man entirely bereft of any sense of personal aggrandizement, was about to utter what would become a legendary response, but he had no sense of that either. Ever the patient teacher, Smith said gently to the reporter,

    “No, not a retreat. It will be an attack in another direction.”

    Within twenty-four hours, newspapers throughout the United States were emblazoned with this headline: “Retreat Hell! We’re attacking in another direction.”

    And now you know the rest of the story, and a little more about one of my favorite Marines. Smith, a product of U.C. Berkeley and the first Marine officer to also graduate from the French Ecole Supérieure de Guerre.

    Thanks again,


  • Fantastic and inspiring tribute to a great man. May we also have permission to post this on our website, crediting you with link, at I really enjoy your articles, especially those about heroic chaplains.

  • Thank you Frank. Learning more about history is one of the enjoyable aspects of blogging for me.

  • Although not a Chaplin but a Navy Medic, my son-in-law served with “his” Marines in Afghanistan. Time and again they have told us how brave and selfless his actions were…along with the fact that he carried the same equipment they did as well as all his medical supplies. Can you tell we are proud of his “leadership”? “Doc” went with them into each patrol and firefight, and earned the respect of his entire group.

    My family learned of Chesty Puller several years ago and have read all we can about this amazing fighting man. He deserves a “Good Night” if anyone does!

  • “Fantastic and inspiring tribute to a great man. May we also have permission to post this on our website, crediting you with link, at I really enjoy your articles, especially those about heroic chaplains.”

    Be my guest Brian.

  • “Although not a Chaplin but a Navy Medic, my son-in-law served with “his” Marines in Afghanistan. Time and again they have told us how brave and selfless his actions were…along with the fact that he carried the same equipment they did as well as all his medical supplies. Can you tell we are proud of his “leadership”? “Doc” went with them into each patrol and firefight, and earned the respect of his entire group.”

    I salute “Doc”. Two of my close friends were Navy Medics who served with the Marines: one in World War II on Guadalcanal and Okinawa, and the other in I Corp in Vietnam.

  • I once worked for a retired Marine officer, Mike, who had landed at Inchon in Chesty’s landing boat. I asked him whether the stories about Chesty were true. He said that the most amazing stories haven’t been told because no one would possibly believe them. He said that at Inchon, the Marines were all taking shelter from enemy fire behind the high seawall, the top of which was being continually swept with enemy rifle and machine-gun fire and mortar rounds. No one was exactly jumping to climb up the ladders to get to the top! Mike said they looked up and there was Chesty, atop the wall, strolling “like it was a June day along the Boardwalk.” Enemy fire was striking all around him, but all Chesty did was direct the troops how to get up top and move forward.

  • As a Marine veteran of Vietnam, the only real regret I have about that time in Vietnam is that I wasn’t a Catholic then. I became one about twenty years later and one of the things that moved me was, you guessed it, the character that the Catholic chaplains showed us Marines in Vietnam. I didn’t see it covered in any post above, but one of the three Catholic chaplains who won the Medal of Honor, Fr. Robert Capadanno, a Navy chaplain, was killed giving Last Rites and aid and comfort to wounded Marines and their Navy Corpsmen while under fire, has, I understand, had his cause for Sainthood opened by the Vatican. He is now referred to as Servant of God. When I see the fawning nonsense lavished on the “catholic” John Kerry for his “service” in Vietnam by “Kennedy catholics,” I remember Fr. Capadanno, and thank him yet again for showing us real service, real heroism and real Faith. I try to make his Priestly example known to every Catholic I know, especially my sons, but Protestants as well. I am sure that 50 years from now, John Kerry will be a obscure, pathetic footnote in history, but everyone will know of St. Robert Vincent Capadanno. And, oh yeah, good night, Chesty Puller, wherever you are.

  • Thank you for your service to our country Denton. My personal mission is to blog about as many Catholic Chaplains as I can. Servant of God Capadanno, the Grunt Padre, will be one of them, when I think I am ready to do justice to his inspiring life.

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The Priest and the Marine

Sunday, November 28, AD 2010

Born on January 3, 1936, one of five kids, Robert R. Brett knew from an early age what the wanted to be.    As his sister Rosemary Rouse noted, “He always wanted to be a priest. He was always there for everyone.”

He attended Saint Edmond’s and Saint Gabriel’s grade schools and then attended a preparatory seminary for high school.  Brett entered the Marist novitiate at Our Lady of the Elms on Staten Island and made his profession of vows on September 8, 1956.  Studying at Catholic University, he received a BA in philosophy in 1958 and a Master’s Degree in Latin in 1963.  He was ordained a priest of the Society of Mary in 1962 by Bishop Thomas Wade at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

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6 Responses to The Priest and the Marine

  • Thank God for such men as Father Brett who hear His call and heroically carry out their vocations – zeal for the salvation of souls.

    I believe Father Brett and Cpl Chin are in the company of the saints praising God for eternity.

    But, we need men like him down here.

  • The fact that he wanted to go into harms way to administer to men that were serving their country, and dying for their country, says everything about this Priest. What a hero. What a man. If only our culture could celebrate heroes like him instead of the founder of facebook, or the next american idol, then I could have some hope for our republic.

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  • Another fine Catholic Chaplain from the U.S. Navy along with Fr. Capadano, Medal of Honor Winner.

  • The first Chaplain killed in WWII at Pearl Harbor was a Catholic Priest. Another fine example.

    Born in St. Lucas, Iowa, Fr. Schmitt studied at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He then studied in Rome for the priesthood. He was ordained on December 8, 1935. Father Schmitt was assigned to parishes in Dubuque, and one in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After four years, he received permission to become a chaplain, and joined the United States Navy. He was appointed Acting Chaplain with rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG) on June 28, 1939.

    Assigned to the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor
    On December 7, 1941, Fr. Schmitt was serving on board the battleship, USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. A Japanese hit caused the ship to capsize. A number of sailors, including Fr. Schmitt, were trapped in a compartment with only a small porthole as the means of escape. Fr. Schmitt helped a number of men through this porthole. When it came his time to leave, he declined and helped more men to escape. In total, he helped 12 men to escape.

    Fr. Schmitt died on board the Oklahoma. He was the first chaplain of any faith to have died in World War II.

  • Father Schmitt has been the subject of one my posts.

    As for Servant of God Capadanno, I am making my way up to him.

The Archbishop and the Concentration Camp

Tuesday, August 17, AD 2010

Retired Archbishop Philip. M. Hannan of New Orleans, still alive at the age of 97, discusses his service in the video above, made in 2007, with the 505th parachute infantry regiment of the 82nd Airborne in World War II.  Ordained at the North American College in Rome on December 8, 1939, he served with the 82nd Airborne as a chaplain from 1942-46, and was known as the Jumping Padre.  He was assigned to be the chaplain of the 505th Regiment with the rank of Captain shortly after the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.  He had many adventures during his time with the 505th, but perhaps the most poignant was what happened to him on May 5th, 1945, in the final days of the War in Europe.

On May 5, 1945, the 505th overran a concentration camp near Wobbelin in Germany.  Captain Hannan and his assistant James Ospital hurried to the camp to see what they could do to help.  A scene of complete horror awaited them.  Corpses were sprawled everywhere.  Dying prisoners lay in filthy bunks crudely made out of branches.  All the prisoners looked like skeletons, both the dead and the living.  The camp reeked of the smells of a charnel house and a sewer.

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10 Responses to The Archbishop and the Concentration Camp

  • Now this is a story worth posting! Thanks!

  • Stories such as these keep me returning to The American Catholic daily. Thanks so much for this many other posts!

  • Thanks for the kind remarks. The Church has a great story to tell and I like to do what I can to tell a minute portion of it.

  • Thank you for writing this tribute to Archbishop Hannan. I did not know about this WWII experience. Archbishop in Combat Boots shares a similar title with the canonizable Father Emil Kapaun’s biography: Shepherd in Combat Boots. Interesting aside: I read in Michael Davies book on Pope John’s Council that the outspoken Hannan made a statement to the press during the Council to this effect — the best thing that could happen to Vatican II is that it ends.

  • “I read in Michael Davies book on Pope John’s Council that the outspoken Hannan made a statement to the press during the Council to this effect — the best thing that could happen to Vatican II is that it ends.”

    I could imagine him saying that. The main hallmark of the Archbishop’s career has been courage and an unclerical willingess to call a spade a bloody shovel.

  • Hannan has had his memoir recently published, I think. Probably worth the read.

    The citizens of Ludwigslust were forced to dig the graves. Also per Eisenhower’s standing order, all adult citizens of Ludwigslust were required to take a tour of the concentration camp.

    An interesting punishment but I wonder if there aren’t some moral problems with “forcing” and requiring the citizens to do it. Is there anything in just war doctrine about this kind of stuff that anybody has?

  • It would be interesting if we as casual bystanders to the grave atrocity of abortion would be forced to dig graves for our dead and tour the grounds of the abortion mills

  • I wonder why Ike is not posthumously, indicted, prosecuted, convicted, disinterred and properly dishonored for his “crimes and lack of sensitivity”?

    God help us.

  • MD,
    I think you are working “Just War”, just a bit too hard. Just war is primarily about the decision enter into or to accept combat and the limitations to be placed upon the subsequent use of force. I know you want to disapprove of a US General’s handling of an issue, but the corpses posed a public health risk, and that primarily to the German populace. Having permitted, even encouraged their government to inititiate a global war on humanity, the German population had seen their dreams of world conquest come to naught, and themselves abandoned to the control of their defeated government’s conquerers. The graves needed to be dug, the martial administrators were under no obligation to provide the labor force, or to pay for it.
    Eisenhower also ordered every Allied General officer (and all senior field grades who could be spared) in Europe to visit at least one concentration or death camp.
    this was necessary to ensure that once they started coming out of the woodwork, Holocaust Deniers like Mel Gibson’s father would be immediately and universally known for the psychopathic liars they are.

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