Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Chaplain School At Harvard University

In October 1942 I was ordered to attend the Chaplain School at Harvard University.  It was here I first met Chaplain Robert E. L. Alspaugh.  Later he was assigned to a hospital unit, but asked for transfer to a combat unit.  We received him as a replacement.  He was a fine chaplain, but was one of the older men.  When I sent him to join the 141st Infantry, he reached the foot of the mountain after dark.  He called the battalion commander, and said that he would report in the morning.  The battalion commander told him to come up “Right Now!”  Later the battalion commander told me, “When Chaplain Alspaugh arrived, I was astounded.  He seemed old enough to be my father, but he had made that difficult trip up the mountain in the dark like a good infantry man.”  Later Chaplain Alspaugh was killed in action.

At the Chaplain School I was made a section leader.  One of the men in my section was a Jewish chaplain named Robert S. Marcus.  He seemed rather forlorn, and I tried to make friends with him.  I invited him to go to dinner with me in Boston.   I thought there might be dietary problems in a regular restaurant, so I decided to go to Ye Olde Union Oyster House which specialized in seafood.  I thought fish would be safe.  I ordered two lobster dinners.  Chaplain Marcus told me, “I can’t eat lobster”.  My education in ministering to Jewish men took a giant leap.  My talks with Chaplain Marcus made possible the 36th Division record of outstanding care for our Jewish men, despite the fact that we never had a Jewish chaplain in combat.  Chaplain Marcus presented me with a copy of the book; “The Jews Come to America”.  On the flyleaf he wrote “To Chaplain Herbert E. MacCombie, ‘he has the quality of the heart in every fiber of his being’”. 

In the next session of the Chaplain School Chaplain Dan Laning was a student.  While he was there Cardinal Spellman visited the school and gave a dinner for the Catholic chaplains.  He sent word to me by Chaplain Laning.  “Tell Chaplain MacCombie that this dinner was strictly for Catholic chaplains.  I did not even invite Cardinal O’Connell.  Otherwise I would have invited him to join us”.  I thought it was a very gracious message.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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