Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Chaplain Roemer and the 636th

When we were in North Africa, the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion was sent to the Sebdon Desert for special training.  Under the Tables of Organization they did not rate a chaplain.  I talked about the problem with Chaplain Roemer.  One chaplain was all that we could spare.  He was a Roman Catholic and could say mass for the Catholic men.  Would he also undertake to conduct a General Service to which the Protestants could come?  He had never done such a thing and was not acquainted with the Protestant hymns and order of service.

I found an officer in the battalion who agreed to help with the singing and worship.  Chaplain Roemer agreed to do his best.  When he arrived at the training area, he found 5,000 men and no other chaplain.  The army chaplain and the other units had done nothing.  He went to work to care for the needs of ALL the men. When he submitted his monthly report, it was revealed that he had the largest PROTESTANT attendance of any chaplain in the corps.

This disturbed the Corps Chaplain who sent a DIRECT letter to Chaplain Roemer, condemning him for conducting protestant services when he was a Catholic chaplain.  Chaplain Roemer reported the matter to me, stating that in carrying out my suggestions he had come under the censure of the Corps Chaplain.

To make sure of the facts I drove a thousand miles to the training center.  When I arrived at the camp I was met by a very alert sergeant.  He gave me a snappy salute and asked if he could do anything for me.  I told him I had come to see the chaplain, and asked if he knew him.  “Yes, Sir” was the answer.  “Do you like him?” “Very much, Sir” “I suppose you are a Catholic” “No, Sir, I am a Protestant”.  “Do you mean to tell me that he takes care of the Protestants as well as the Catholics?” “AND the Jews also!” was his immediate response.

That was enough for me, but to make sure I visited Lieutenant Colonel Van Pyland of the 636th T.D. Bn. He was unstinted in his praise of the service of Chaplain Roemer.  I reported the facts to the Chief of Staff together with citations from Army regulations that indicated a chaplain should care for the needs of all men in his unit.  General Walker wrote to the Corps Commander reporting the facts and indicating that if the Corps Chaplain had any comments on the work of any chaplain he should do so THROUGH CHANNELS.  We never had any more trouble with that Corps Chaplain.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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