Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Commissioning Private Schwatz

One of my activities, which gave me much satisfaction, was my success in securing commissions for the men of my section.  The division chaplain’s office was entitled to have three chaplains and four enlisted men.  The enlisted men included three corporals and one sergeant.

While in the States we had three men accepted for Officer Candidate School.  One of these men was Sergeant Bernard Altman.  After his commission he was assigned to another division.  He was killed in the Malmedy massacre during the battle of the Bulge.

One day Lieutenant Colonel Moseley, the Division Judge Advocate came to me.  He had contacted a young private in one of the infantry regiments.  He was Charles Schwartz, a graduate of law school.  He had come to Colonel Moseley for help in being accepted for the bar.

Colonel Moseley said to me, “I think he is good material for a commissioned officer.  You have had success with other men from your section.  Do you think you could help him get to O.C.S.?”

I agreed to try.  I told Private Schwartz that I could not help him if he wanted to enter the Signal Corps or the Engineer Corps.  I did not know enough of their branches of the service, but if he wanted to go into the infantry or the artillery, I might be able to help him.  I had been a reserve officer in the infantry and I had served for twelve years as a chaplain with the artillery.

He came into my office and studied hard from appropriate manuals.  When the next examinations were held, he passed with fine grades.  He was accepted for Officer Candidate School.  Unfortunately for him, before the school opened the division was frozen for overseas duty.  He could not go to school.  He was with us at the famous chess match in Morocco, and gave good representation on behalf of our enlisted men.

Shortly after this a Board was convened to examine candidates for a commission.  Again he passed with fine marks.  He was recommended for a commission in the infantry.  Before the orders were processed, we were ordered to invade Italy.  He went with me in the forward echelon.  During the fighting at Salerno he was wounded.  He was evacuated in a British hospital ship.

Then his commission came to us.  In order for it to be valid, it was necessary that he take the oath of office.  We could not locate him.  After several months, he returned to the division.  He immediately took the oath of office and was assigned to the 141st Infantry as a second lieutenant.   Later he was promoted to first lieutenant and served with division headquarters.  His promotion meant that out of an authorized strength of four men, we had had four men receive commissions.

Later on Sergeant Franklin Sweigert was offered a commission.  He declined it because he believed that the work he was doing with the Chaplains Section was more important than any other job in the army.  Considering the dedication and efficiency, which he displayed, I think he was right.  Later on I was glad to recommend him for a Bronze Star Medal, which he received.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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