Father and the Flag

Wednesday, June 14, AD 2017

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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6 Responses to Father and the Flag

  • When I read stories likes this, I wonder what exactly Protestant preachers and minsters have to offer the dying on the battlefield. The answer of course is nothing. Oh, there were many brave Protestants on the battlefield. Desmond Doss of Hacksaw Ridge fame comes to mind – a subject of a previous post here. But he wasn’t a preacher. Dietrich Bonhoffer, a Lutheran pastor and an anti-Nazi spy in WW II also comes to mind, but did he give spiritual aid and comfort to the dying on the battlefield? I just wonder: what logic is there in a Protestant preacher being on the battlefield when he doesn’t believe in the power of the Sacraments for the dying?

  • Am reading (started 2014 and going 100 years ago daily) Kipling’s The Irish Guards in the Great War, he writes how the chaplains were so important to troop morale/unit cohesion that the brass tried to order them to stay back. The priests’ response was “What is a wound when a soul is to be saved?”

    Born on Flag Day! The only better birthday would be the Independence Day.

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  • Thank you for another example of heroic faith and cheerfulness, always ready to give an explanation of why hope and optimism flow out from a wellspring that is the water never leaves one thirsty..a water the Samaritan woman heard about from the source itself. May we all have Fr. Heindl courage and Faith. God bless him!

    Thanks again.
    Great story.

  • Happy Birthday Father Elmer W. Heindl

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A Priest Born on Flag Day

Saturday, June 14, AD 2014

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.

Continue reading...

2 Responses to A Priest Born on Flag Day

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:

Continue reading...

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!