Stories from the past: WWII Episcopal Chaplains

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from our Archivist at The Commons, Greg Farr. He had found a small box filled with pictures and correspondents between Episcopalian Connecticut natives serving as chaplains in World War II. 

These letters and photographs were sent upon the request of the Rt. Rev. Walter Henry Gray, the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.

Greg writes, “Upon the request of [the bishop], Connecticut natives entering the military as chaplains were asked to send photographs to the bishop depicting their wartime situation and to write corresponding statements and updates to be shared at that time with Connecticut parishioners.” 

We have decided to let the past tell its story this Memorial Day. 

We thank Greg for his work in pulling together this collection from ECCT and this country’s past. If you are interested in learning more about this collection, or our archives in general please email Greg Farr

A Prayer For Heroic Service:

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 839)

The Rev. Alfred B. Seccombe, U.S. Navy Chaplain:

“The statement that there are no atheists in foxholes is no remarkable revelation to me. What else or who else is left for a man to turn to? His predicament leaves him absolutely to the mercy of Almighty God. The task of the Chaplain is to make a man’s foxhole experience an abiding experience of trust and dependence upon the Mercy of God.” (1944)

The Rev. Carter S. Gilliss, U.S. Army Chaplain

Noted in a commendation of service to Chaplain Gilliss by Lt. Col. Herbert M. Brown: “Practically all great leaders, both past and present, are all agreed that courage, physical endurance and stamina are all wonderful qualities to possess, but when all else fails, faith and the knowledge that divine assistance is on the side of the ones who are fighting a just cause, helps armies win battles, and equally important, enables individuals to fit themselves mentally for all the hardships and sacrifices caused by war.” (1944)

The Rev. Charles R. Stinnette, Jr., U.S. Army Chaplain

“Four days were spent in the field with the Group during the month onField Problems. One special mission was given chaplain: to locateand bury troop casualties at a designated point and to record informationon a map sketch. The mission was accomplished. The Chaplaindivided his time in the field between Group Headquarters and theBattalion Aid station.” (1944

The Rev. Edward R. Merrill, Chaplain, U.S. Air Force

“We are so prone to look upon this war as a war against our enemies … outside that we fail to consider the enemies within ourselves. We look for great changes from this war but the most essential change which should come is a change in self. Have we seriously considered that the seeds of war exist within the human breast, and war is possible because those seeds are allowed to grow. Let each one ask himself this question: if the war should end today, would it find me a better person than when it started. Unless our answer can be an honest yes, it is both possible and probable to have a repetition of this global catastrophe.” 

The Rev. Hamilton H. Kellogg

“Don’t, please, let the same mistakes occur, relative to the Church’s attitude toward and reception of the returned service man of World War II, that occurred, when the “Sammie” of World War I came marching home in 1918-1919.

“He will be the same boy, who went away to war, and, yet, he won’t be the same boy, because he will no longer be a boy; he will be a man, – in maturity of experience and outlook, if not in years. He will have rubbed shoulders with the world. He will be less a denominationalist than he was, when he entered the service, because he will have been where the brotherhood of man has the most nearly approached reality of any place on this earth.

“This is particularly true, if he’s been through that supreme ‘spiritual crucible,’ which is battle service, as it exists in a modern war, fought thousands of miles away from the home hearth. More, – despite the babble of explosive noises with which he has been surrounded, he will have found something, which he, probably, never found before, namely, time to be still and hear His Father’s voice, and know Him even as He himself is known of the Father.

“He will be realistic as well as both objective and subjective in his religion. He will demand the utmost reality and sincerity; he will ask for the spiritual bread of Life. His Church dare not, must not offer him less, – certainly not a stone! Therefore, the Church must be willing to take the time to carefully study the returned Soldier, Sailor and Marine and their problems, and, furthermore, be sufficiently humble and receptive to be willing to learn the lessons, which they can teach the Church out of their ‘spiritual-crucible” experience.'”

The Rev. Col. J. Jack Sharkey, U.S. Navy Chaplain aboard U.S.S. Honolulu

Full statistical report of duties performed aboard the U.S.S. Honolulu, 1944. Some of which include:

  • 59 “Divine Services” on U.S.S. Honolulu
  • 3 Baptisms
  • 2 Funerals
    • 17 buried bodies
  • 1 Memorial service
  • 21 Community Sings before movies
  • 12 Shore Steak and Beer parties
  • 376 Visits to Sick Bay
  • and 807 Interviews with Men

The Rev. Lockett Ballard

“A long tough war lies ahead of us and in the final analysis the fighting forces will do much the same job the home front does. Don’t expect that a “double standard” will work for long. The country will get the kind of Army the country is itself. Much work is still to be done in educating the Army and the country to a full understanding of America’s opportunities and responsibilities in a world society. Perhaps the dearth of this generation will destroy our complacency.”

The Rev. Capt. Thomas Richey, Chaplain, U.S. Army, Infantry

“God grant that our Church may ever bear witness to Him who came among us to minister to mankind – and to SERVE!! To-day man’s need, and that of the world, is no greater than it was before, but we see it more clearly. Let us all serve mere faithfully – and unsparingly. Surely no sacrifice of ours for God, for Christ, for others, for His Church, has ever been, nor will it be, in vain, – but will bear fruit abundantly now and in the days ahead.” (1944)

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