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the regimental colors. While returning, he was hit by one of the last German shells and died with his company's flag in his arms.
Though there was a shortage of chaplains throughout the Great War, commanders continued to assign additional duties to their chaplains. The most onerous was that of unit postal officer and censor, for when chaplains deemed it necessary to delete important parts from letters, they sometimes found that their relationships with the men were impaired. It was also a time-consuming task. While sailing to France, Chaplain Ovid V. Sellers found that he had to spend much of his time censoring mail. While in France, Chaplain Paul S. Palen was “occupied principally with the ... mail, and also with the censoring of mail.” One chaplain complained that he was unable to devote sufficient time to his ministry because of his postal duties. Because the duty of postal officer and censor was so burdensome, Bishop Brent wrote in his diary on 4 June 1918: “We must rid the chaplains of some of their encumbrances of work-censoring." 35 Three weeks later the General Headquarters, A.E.F., published an official bulletin which said:
The importance in wartime of the chaplain's work can hardly be
Though holding a military commission, it is on the basis of the
performance of such functions. 36
Brent believed that the “pitiful” description of the chaplain's duties in Army regulations was one reason why some commanders regarded chaplains as handymen. Conversely, Chaplain Francis B. Doherty, who worked closely with Brent in Pershing's headquarters, said that the "work depends upon the chaplain,” and that if "he does what he can find to do, he will be fully occupied.” 37 Chaplain Joseph S. Loughran, who served in Siberia, agreed with Brent:
How vulnerable the Chaplain was in those days. There was no
Army officer, since his duties were not well defined.
Loughran knew what he was talking about. While he was visiting troops in the Lake Baikal region, the commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment ordered him "to marry all GIs who were anxious to wed Siberian women.” Then, after the ceremonies, he was placed in "command of a special train to take 78 Russian brides to Vladivostok.” The “Bridal Special” consisted of boxcars dubbed “side-door pullmans.” Loughran was assisted by a medical officer and a sergeant who spoke Russian. When the train stopped at the city of Chita, the regimental commander told Loughran, “I wish these women to have a bath, and you will personally supervise it.” Although the chaplain said, “Very well, sir,” he gave that responsibility to the sergeant, who took the women in groups of 10 to a public bath. Upon arriving in Vladivostok, Loughran was commended by Major General William S. Graves, the Commander of the A.E.F. in Siberia, who rewarded him by placing him in charge of 105 Russian brides on their way to Manila."
One additional duty undertaken by a few Protestant and Catholic chaplains, and one that was actually related to their vocation, was that of conducting religious services for prisoners of war. There were about 2,000 German and Austrian prisoners guarded by the 27th Infantry Regiment in the Lake Baikal region of Siberia, and while Loughran was stationed there, he not only conducted services for them but also organized about 90 of them into a 60-voice choir and a 30-piece orchestra. On one occasion that great ensemble gave a beautiful rendition of one of Schubert's masses in German. At another time, when the camp at Lake Baikal was threatened by attack from a contingent of Cossacks, the regimental commander told Loughran, who acted as the liaison officer between American military authorities and the prisoners, to arm the prisoners with rifles and machine guns in case of any emergency. Fortunately, there was none, but had there been one, the prisoners would have been "staunch allies.” 40
Other tasks to which chaplains were assigned during the war and the occupation included those of unit historian, librarian, post exchange officer, mess officer, defense counsel, regimental statistical officer, bond sales officer, band director, athletic officer, morale officer, venereal disease
control officer, graves registration officer, education officer, courier, scorer on the rifle range, and citizenship training officer for troops of foreign extraction who were seeking naturalization. Many of the duties were obviously those that no one else wanted and, like that of postal officer and censor, kept chaplains away from their religious duties. Some were related to the chaplain's mission of caring for the moral and spiritual welfare of servicemen and were undertaken by the chaplains voluntarily or out of necessity. While performing those duties, chaplains often became quickly and closely identified with their soldier parishioners, which might have been one reason for a comment that appeared in The Stars and Stripes under the title of “Things One Learns In This Man's Army”: “That a chaplain is a human guy.
When the Armistice was declared, many were quickly discharged, and no new chaplains entered the service. Many A.E.F. chaplains returned home with the troops, as did the religious workers of the welfare agencies. As a result, Bishop Brent found that the shortage of chaplains was as acute as during the war. He endeavored to assign his best chaplains to the Army of Occupation, the ports of embarkation, and the Intermediate and Advance Sections of the Service of Supply, but he did not have enough chaplains or welfare workers available to assign to smaller organizations. He attempted unsuccessfully to assign a Catholic and a Protestant chaplain to each homeward-bound troop ship, but was successful in persuading the War Department to assign two chaplains and an Army welfare officer to each troop ship making the round trip to France from the United States. Not insignficantly, being convinced that the chaplains' “responsibilities and opportunities for increased contact with and influence over soldiers [had] become increasingly important” once the fighting stopped, he arranged for A.E.F. chaplains to receive a higher priority for transportation.“
The postwar ministry of the A.E.F. chaplains was much like that at military installations in the United States: holding worship services offering other religious activities and ministrations, visiting hospital patients, counselling, and providing welfare assistance. Many chaplains also organized various types of recreation activities and supervised some portion of the A.E.F. education program. Chaplain Ovid R. Sellers served as entertainment officer and education officer for his regiment. For a while, he
directed the band and presented concerts at regular intervals. He also organized a show troupe which included a contortionist, an accordian player, a cellist who played an instrument fashioned from a German helmet and a broomstick, a baritone with church and concert experience, a pianist, and some actors who put on a skit. Other chaplains organized similar entertainments, or promoted athletic events. The sports page of The Stars and Stripes even announced that two chaplains, Earl A. Blackman and Charles Rexrode, were scheduled to “lay down (their] Bibles for boxing gloves” and meet in a 10-round bout in the Palais de Glace in Paris. Both chaplains weighed 164 pounds and had ring experience. Blackman, “the fighting parson,” was 37 years old; Rexrode, “the fighting lumberman,” was 40. One week later, however, The Stars and Stripes announced that Army authorities had stamped “K.O.” instead of “O.K.” on the bout which would have marked an "epoch in A.E.F. fistic history.” 13
Equally important to the morale of the Army of Occupation was the A.E.F. educational program, which began on 1 January 1919. It was designed for “every American soldier in France,” whether he was “unable to read or write or a college senior transformed by the war into an Artillery lieutenant.” It offered courses in the class room or by correspondence. The classes were held at all posts, hospitals and rest camps, and areas with a constant population of 500 or more. The curriculum included subjects in the arts, as well as those considered vocational and academic. The Stars and Stripes announced that 150,000 men enrolled in the program, that 9,500 of that number were studying in foreign universities, and that the instructors were selected from among 47,000 men of the A.E.F. who had some teaching experience."
Although Chaplain Sellers was extremely busy with his religious and entertainment programs, he also organized the school in his regiment. Fortunately, there was a lieutenant, an experienced educator, who assisted him, and together they recruited two teachers from the enlisted ranks and obtained class rooms, texts, and school supplies and equipment. Eventually Sellers turned the operation of the school over to the lieutenant so that he could attend to his other duties. He said that the results from his class of illiterates were especially gratifying; in just a few weeks they were writing their first letters home. Other chaplains had similar results with illiterates. After a Tennessee mountaineer wrote his first letter home, he was very proud, stood at attention, and gave Elzer Des Jardinas Tetreau a snappy salute. Obviously proud of his student, Tetreau wrote, “Today
he was a better soldier, tomorrow a better citizen of his Tennessee community.” Chaplain Merril J. Holmes, whom Chaplain Francis P. Duffy said operated the best school in the 42nd Division, was especially proud of the number of foreign born soldiers who had improved their ability to speak, read, and write English."
Everything considered, whatever their additional duties, most chaplains managed to function as the religious leaders at their stations. Furthermore, relief from many additional duties was not far away. In the summer of 1919, the War Department adopted a policy that permitted them to concentrate their energies on their religious mission. It began by relieving the welfare agencies, with the exception of the Red Cross, of their recreational, educational, and religious functions. Then it published an order for each commanding officer to appoint on his staff an education and recreation officer. The same order said that chaplains were “not available for assignment as education and recreation officers.” Secretary of War Newton D. Baker said that the reason for the policy change was that military authorities wanted to bring the recreation and education program under the “control and discipline of the Army," and to entrust the “religious side of life” to the chaplains. Chaplain John T. Axton hailed the policy change as the "dawning of a new day of happier and more satisfactory service for the chaplaincy.”
VENEREAL DISEASE AND PROSTITUTION
Wherever American troops were stationed during the war and occuption period, prostitution and venereal disease were problems, and in many situations formidable ones. They attracted the attention of civilian religious leaders, military leaders, and chaplains. An extensive survey of United States military installations taken by the General War-Time Commission of the Churches, a commission within the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, showed that moral conditions in numerous towns and cities near the installations left much to be desired. The survey report about Camp Travis, Texas, indicated that San Antonio was “wet, and contained] much vice in spite of closing [the] ... red light district,” and that the city “presented one of the most serious moral situations in the country." Chaplains at Kelly Field agreed. Charles H. Stevens reported in July 1918 that venereal disease cases increased during the month, and that servicemen seemed “to find houses of ill-fame without much difficulty.”