Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Authorized 36th Infantry Division Chaplains

While we were making preparations for our attack upon the mainland of Europe, the Fifth Army issued orders that all units could carry an excess of 15% in combat officers.  This excess did NOT include the service branches.  This meant it did not include an excess of chaplains.  I discussed with Colonel Kerr and Lt. Colonel Ives my plans for chaplains in combat.  Unit chaplains were to be located no farther to the rear than battalion aid stations. This would make them as vulnerable as any line officer.  We should, therefore, have an excess of 15% for chaplains.  They agreed, but said this was an army order and nothing could be done about it.

General Walker gave me permission to take the matter up with the Fifth Army Chaplain.  I drew up a careful statement of our plans and needs in writing.  I went to see Chaplain Ryan of the Fifth Army. I persuaded him that our plans were adequate and that our request was justified.  He arranged for a conference with General Clark.  He approved our plans and we were authorized three additional chaplains for combat.

It was fortunate that this plan was approved.  The normal complement of a division is 15 chaplains.  In combat we had two chaplains (Chaplain McDaniel and Chaplain Alspaugh) killed and thirteen chaplains evacuated to hospitals.  One chaplain of the attached Tank Battalion was also killed.  This gave us a fifth catholic chaplain.  I placed him with the Clearing Station.  Later on at a conference of chaplains at Epinal I was told by the chaplain of the Evacuation Hospital that he had never met a man from the 36th Division who had not been seen by a chaplain prior to his evacuation.  He was amazed at such a record.  Our ability to maintain full strength in chaplains was the envy of other units.

When we were in France, Chaplain Donnelly of the Seventh Army called me to his office for a conference.  He wanted to know why we had so many chaplains.  I explained to him the authorization given to us by the Fifth Army.  He told me that we were now in the Seventh Army and we would have to give up our extra chaplains.  I persuaded him that for the sake of morale among the chaplains this goal should be achieved by attrition and not by transfer.  He agreed.  We were soon down to normal strength.  Our chaplains had one of the highest rates of casualties in the Army, but we were seldom under strength.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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