Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

The Church At Alta Villa

When we attacked Alta Villa, I was with the Corps Artillery officer, Colonel H.S. McLeod.  As we looked up at the hills, we saw a church.

He said, “That would make a fine registrations target for the artillery”.

He was a long time friend of mine.  I pointed out to him that it took a lot of sacrifice by devoted men and women to build a church.  I asked him to spare it, if he could.

After we had captured Alta Villa, Chaplain Fenton called upon the pastor of the church. He could not speak Italian.  The local priest could not speak English.  They conversed in Latin.

The priest said, “Germani non religiosi”.  (The Germans are not religious)

He showed Chaplain Fenton where the Germans had torn out his altar to make their Command Post.  They had used the steeple as an observation post.  I wondered how many lives would have been saved, if I had kept my mouth shut.  After that I never urged our men to spare any building no matter how sacred.

To me the lives of living men were more important than any structure made of wood and stone.  If it were the life of someone near and dear to you that was at stake, you would feel the same.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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