Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Operation Avalanche

In the report of the Office of the Division Chaplain on “Operation Avalanche” it was noted that the Division Chaplain landed with the Commanding General’s party.  Many of the unit chaplains landed early in the operation coming with the second and third waves.  A few chaplains landed as late as D2 or D3.

Chaplain Davis was evacuated to Africa as wounded.  One chaplain’s assistant was evacuated to Africa as wounded.  One assistant was killed in action.  The reports of most commanding officers indicated that the work of the chaplains was highly satisfactory.

Those chaplains who landed early did the most effective work.  Several chaplains had to take the initiative in handling of the bodies, because the stench caused enlisted men to retch and hesitate.  The work of Chaplain Fenton was reported as superior.  An adverse report was made on one Chaplain.

There was a marked increase in religious interest among men going into or engaged in combat.  Many civilians came to our religious services.

It was recommended that not more than one cemetery be established within a radius of fifty miles and that bodies be evacuated by truck.  (Previous regulations had been based on World War I experience and provided for new cemeteries at ten to twenty miles radius).  Later on we had cemeteries two hundred miles apart.  The new program worked very well.

I am proud of the chaplains of the 36th Infantry Division.  They were hard working and devoted men.  They faithfully served their country and their God.  I remember seeing them come back from the hospital still wearing bandages.  Bandages on their heads.  Bandages on their feet.  Bandages on their legs.

I remember Chaplain Murphy who went AWOL from the hospital in order to come back to us.  His head was still bandaged.  I told him that we had already requisitioned a replacement.

He asked me, “Why are you wearing that silver oak leaf, if you can’t take care of your own chaplains?”

I thought it was a good question and told him to stick around for a day or two.  Then I contacted the Seventh Army Chaplain for permission to keep Chaplain Murphy.  After some discussion, he agreed to secure orders for Chaplain Murphy to stay with us.  The hospital did not prefer any charges against the chaplain for going AWOL.  I guess they thought it would do them no good.

On a previous occasion some enlisted men had gone AWOL from the hospital to return to the division.  The hospital was upset by such action and requested their return for disciplinary action.  General Walker decided that any man who wanted to return to combat after having been wounded in action belonged in the division.  The men stayed with us.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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