Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Joining the 36th Infantry Division

I was inducted into the service for World War II with the 103rd Field Artillery of the Rhode Island National Guard.  At that time the rank of a chaplain was determined by the length of his military service.  Because I had service (in the Infantry) going back to World War I, I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in August 1942.  Thus I was a regimental chaplain with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

When Chaplain Chaitangion was promoted to Corps Chaplain, a vacancy was created in the office of the Division Chaplain of the 36th Division.  At that time the report of religious preference in the division showed that forty percent of the men were Baptist.  The Chief of Chaplains decided that this was an ideal spot for a Baptist Lieutenant Colonel, and I was ordered to duty with the 36th Division. They didn’t realize that to Texans the place of a man’s birth was more important than his religious designation.

I reported for duty on April 19, 1942.  On April 21st a division parade was held.  While talking with a group of staff officers I asked what the occasion for the parade might be.  They told me, “This is San Jacinto Day!”  In my ignorance I asked, “What is San Jacinto Day?”  They were aghast.  After a few minutes of silence, Lieutenant Colonel Moseley (the Division Judge Advocate) replied, “What the Battle of Lexington and Concord is to you damnedyankees, San Jacinto is to us Texans”.  Then I understood, but for a long time I was the Damnedyankee Chaplain.

At that time we were anticipating early combat duty.  In May 1942 the Commanding General authorized a School of Chaplains.  The school lasted for two weeks.  The school staff included Major Benjamin Primer, 111th Medical Battalion (First Aid); Captain Oran C. Stovall, 111th Engineer Battalion (Map Reading and Sketching); Captain Edwin N. Harris (Defense against Chemical Warfare); 2nd Lieutenant Lee F. Allison, (Graves Registration and Burials).  We were also helped by Captain Walter R. Keough of the 111th Medical Battalion, and the 1st Platoon of Company E, 143rd Infantry, headed by Sergeant Harvey L. Odom. 

At the conclusion of the school a field exercise was held that tested the training that had been given in the course.  Seven chaplains achieved a rating of “satisfactory”; four were rated “very satisfactory”.  None of them failed the course.  In the report to the Commanding General there were included two commendations: one for Captain Oran C. Stovall, which stated that several of the chaplains said that under the leadership of Captain Stovall they learned more than in any similar experience; the second commendation was given to the men of the first platoon of Company E of the 143rd Infantry.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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