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what should be done for "a dying Catholic in the hospital or on the field, with no priest at hand,” Chaplain Lee J. Levinger was asked how Christian chaplains might best “minister to a Jewish soldier in extremity.” Levinger repeated to them the old Hebrew confession of faith: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." Then he told them to lead the soldier in reciting it or, if necessary, just to say it for them. Levinger was deeply touched by his colleagues' eagerness to support each other in providing spiritual care:
These men did not go out to convert others to their own view
Chaplain Levinger did not forget what he had learned at the Chaplain School, for he ministered to a number of dying soldiers, both Jews and Christians. He led the Jews in their traditional confession of faith, read a psalm for the Protestants, and once borrowed a surgeon's rosary and held the cross to the lips of a dying Catholic.20 Chaplain Tetreau, a Methodist, reported a similar experience with a dying Catholic, who upon seeing the silver crosses on Tetreau's shoulder straps, began to speak: "Tell my mother I am sorry I grieved her so often, and I am sorry I cut Mass so often back home. I am sorry for the curses I have spoken.” He called in desperation, “Oh, Holy Mary!" Tetreau described what then happened:
I reached 'neath his shirt, and brought out a small crucifix and
mists of death clouded his gaze, and he was gone
On one occasion, Francis P. Duffy, the Senior Chaplain of the 42nd Division, called a meeting of his chaplains to discuss several matters of common interest and later reported that “every single topic was decided by unanimous vote":
The clergy discover in circumstances like these that their fundamen
tal interests are absolutely in common. I do not mean to say that
there is any tendency to give up their own special creeds; in fact, they
Duffy always referred to the Protestant men of his unit as “my Protestant fellows” and, when no Protestant chaplain was available, held services for them. Once, he and another Catholic chaplain, James M. Hanley, visited the companies of their regiment and "had brief exhortation and silent prayer” for non-Catholics. Chaplain Levinger frequently held “nonsectarian" services and found that wherever he went, the soldier “discriminated only in a special case, such as the memorial prayer (kaddish) for the Jewish boy, or confession for the Catholic.” He claimed that chaplains were first of all chaplains in the Army, and second representatives of their own religious bodies. **
Circumstances, as well as the personality and religious tradition of the chaplain, usually dictated the setting of the chaplain's services. They were held in recreation buildings, mess halls, an old fort, village churches, trenches, under trees, in forests, and at gun emplacements. Circumstances also influenced the style and content of his services and messages. He quickly learned that soldiers wanted to sing familiar hymns and take communion frequently. He found it inappropriate to speak of courage to men in the Service of Supply, of home and mother to troops about to enter battle, and of sacrifice to men who had recently returned from battle. He also found that his most effective sermons were simple, practical, informal, direct, concrete, and presented in the language of the soldier, minus the profanity. Most important, he soon discovered the truth of the words spoken by Chaplain Leslie R. Groves 20 years earlier: “It is the one who lives with the men, enduring the same hardships and encountering the same dangers, who is ruled not by selfishness but by love for all men ... who can speak when the time comes the words that will be listened to.” In short, the chaplain's best sermon was his own presence and example, rather than his preaching.
Circumstances also encouraged the chaplain to present services and sermons relevant to the immediate situation. Before going into battle, Chaplain Tetreau and the soldiers of his unit prayed: “Almighty God, who of thy great mercy hast promised forgiveness of sins to all them that
with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto Thee, have mercy upon us .” Then he spoke some brief words of encouragement:
We are called to meet and destroy an enemy in order that men may have peace, may return to their homes and to their accustomed ways of living. This is a task for no ordinary men. Though we feel that we are ordinary, we must rise to the demands upon us. We are fighting for the right to live like free men and would rather die than
live under an oppressor He closed the service with an extempore prayer. After thanking God for his continual care over them and their loved ones back home, he petitioned God to keep them steadfast as soldiers, to guard them through the night and the morrow, and to be with their leaders and guide them in their responsibilities. Later, on the first Sunday after Armistice Day, Tetreau had to whisper a communion service, because he had been gassed in the Argonne Forest and was unable to make normal use of his voice.25
Chaplain Duffy occasionally wove into his sermons the history of the area in which his unit was fighting and found that it kept the men "awake to what he had to say.” Before his unit went into battle, he always heard confessions and held Mass. He also observed special holy days, even on the battlefront. On St. Patrick's Day 1918, he told the “Irish 69th” that “New York would talk more [and] ... think more of them than if they were back there.” He said that their nation's leaders had called them to fight for human liberty and the rights of small nations, and that if they rallied to that noble cause, they could establish a claim on the United States and on humanity in favor of Ireland. Later, at a regimental Mass before a battle, Duffy said to the men:
Much as I love you all I would rather that you and I myself, that
Once a battle started, there were no sermons. The chaplain traveled with the unit first aid stations and provided physical and spiritual care to the wounded and dying. They worked closely with the other noncombatants: the surgeons, ambulance crews, and stretcher bearers. Many were extremely brave and rescued wounded men from the battlefield, thus exposing themselves to gas and to various kinds of fire. Going “over the top” with his unit, James T. Simpson, a black chaplain, was hit by a piece of shrapnel from a large shell. Fortunately, the shrapnel ricocheted off a metal part of the gas mask he was wearing, and he suffered from a
severe case of shell shock rather than what might have been a fatal head wound. Twenty-seven chaplains were awarded the Purple Heart, four with an Oak Leaf Cluster. Eleven were killed in action, or died from wounds received on the battlefields. Twenty-seven were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; 18 were awarded the Silver Star, three with an Oak Leaf Cluster. Some received foreign decorations and awards from France, Great Britain, and Belgium.27
For the most part, the citations for the awards and decorations were similar. Typical was that of Julius J. Babst, who received the Distinguished Service Cross with an Oak Leaf Cluster:
Chaplain Babst displayed exceptional bravery and devotion to duty
under fire. 28 The citation for the Oak Leaf Cluster read no differently, except that part of it was more specific; it said that Chaplain Babst:
personally administered to over 50 officers and men, also assuring their evacuation. He showed remarkable devotion to duty by refusing an opportunity to attend chaplain's school, preferring to accompany his regiment into battle, where he labored unceasingly
for 7 days, during which time he performed many acts of bravery.?
The citations for some chaplains, such as Murray Bartlett and David T. Burgh, indicated that their heroism was an inspiration to the soldiers in combat. Those for George R. Carpentier, Patrick R. Dunigan, James M. Hanley, and John Carroll Moore said that they were wounded or gassed. Moore received his wound from picking up a German grenade and returning it; it exploded as it left his hand. Though the citation of John B. DeValles did not mention it, he also threw some grenades, but they were not German; neither was he wounded. The citations of Coleman E. O'Flaherty and Charles D. Priest showed that the Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to them posthumously; O'Flaherty was killed in action, and Priest died from battle wounds. O'Flaherty's commander said that the initial letters of his Distinguished Service Cross really meant: "Died in the Service of Christ.” 20
The chaplains' duties during the aftermath of battle were often as demanding as those of the battle itself. While their units recuperated
and prepared for another “push,” they went about their grisly duty of helping to collect the dead and of giving them decent burials. Chaplain Tetreau, who kept careful records, buried 92 soldiers, including 72 Americans, 19 Germans, and one French aviator; Chaplain Duffy called the burial service the “last act of love that I can do for them and the folks at home.
After the burials chaplains ensured that each grave was marked with the decedent's full name, unit, and date of death; that the information on the marker corresponded to the unit records of the decedent; and that the grave location was reported with the map coordinates, name, and scale. The Graves Registration Service of the A.E.F. Quartermaster Department supplied the chaplains with pegs and labels for the markers. Graves registration was one of the chaplain's prescribed duties and was taught in the A.E.F. Chaplain School. Chaplain Charles E. Pierce, who returned from retirement to active duty after the declaration of war, served as Chief of the A.E.F. Graves Registration Service. In that position he received quartermaster promotions to lieutenant colonel and colonel and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for performing “his important task with exceptional success.
Once chaplains completed their graves registration duties, they returned to the hospitals to visit the wounded and dying, and then to their units to write sympathy letters to the next of kin. Tetreau wrote 132 sympathy letters. In addition, they went about their other duties, such as counseling, holding religious services, writing letters, and making their weekly reports."
Finally, Armistice Day arrived, and at 11:00 A.M. the shooting ended. In contrast to the victory celebrations in the United States, there were few cheers at the front. The doughboys continued to move about stolidly, as they had under battle conditions. Perhaps it was because they could not believe it; they had often been disappointed by peace rumors. Or perhaps, as Chaplain Duffy described it, it was because of the thought of their friends who were not alive to enjoy the triumph, along with the effect of constraining their “natural feelings” for so long. By evening, however, many began to laugh, joke, and sing. Chaplains responded similarly and, at an appropriate time, celebrated with prayers of thanksgiving, both private and public. One chaplain just missed the celebrations. When word spread on the morning of 11 November that the firing would cease one hour before noon, Chaplain William F. Davitt and his commander arranged for a celebration, and Davitt went to get