Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Independence of The Division Chaplains

There are many leaders in America who object to the appointment of military chaplains.  They believe that the chaplains are too subject to the control of unit commanders.  They hold that chaplains cannot preach freely their convictions.  They do not understand the policies of the Chaplain Corps.  Chaplains hold rank only for purposes of pay and allowances.  They are always properly addressed as “Chaplain”.  This is true whether the man is a brand new 1st Lieutenant or whether he wears the two stars of the Chief of Chaplains.  He is still addressed as “Chaplain”.

I served for thirty years as a chaplain in the National Guard and in the Reserves.  Never once was I told what to preach or how to conduct my religious services.  On some special occasions such as memorial services or special holidays I would submit to my commanding officer the proposed program, especially if he was to participate.  Never once was the program changed.  The nearest I ever came was a suggestion made to me by Captain Rush Wells of the 36th Reconnaissance Troop.

It was always a pleasure to hold services at the Recon Troop.  They had a young officer, 1st Lieutenant Roger L. Gutterman.  He was a Jew.  He took it upon himself to select the place where we would hold religious services.  He would clear and level a place for the altar table and the organ.  He would pick wild flowers for the vases.  Unfortunately he was killed on Anzio beachhead.  I went out to recover his body and got stuck in a shell hole.  It was night and we were within range of enemy fire.  It took a long time to get out before daylight.  We just barely made it.

After one of our services at the Recon Troop Captain Wells said to me, “Some of the men have been asking why it is that in the Apostles’ Creed we say, ‘I believe in the holy, catholic church’ when we are Protestants”.  I told him that at our next service I would preach on that subject.  The next Sunday we had a large attendance.  Captain Wells said that every man who was not on fatigue or guard detail was present.  As a result of his suggestion (question) I prepared a series of sermons on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.  This was the only time I ever had an officer even suggest my sermon subject.  I appreciated his help.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

redline.gif (912 bytes)
menu2.gif (2093 bytes)

This World War II history
is sponsored and maintained