Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Popularity Of Religious Services

In his book, “Crusade in Europe”, General Eisenhower states (Page 187) “At one time it looked so probably that the invasion forces might be divided that General Clark made tentative plans for re-embarking his headquarters.”  While we were at Salerno, I talked with hundreds of men of the 36th Division.  Of all these men only one indicated by word or deed that he thought the Germans might stop us.  We were Texans and nobody in the world could stop us.

In my report on Operation Avalanche (the Salerno landing) I noted, “It has been reported by many individuals that there has been a marked increase in the religion among men going into, or engaged in action.  Religious services have been conducted whenever and wherever the opportunity afforded.  In many cases civilians have come to our services by the score.”

Several Catholic chaplains told me with delight that they had received confessions from men who had not made a confession for years.  I, a Baptist, conducted eight baptisms in the Sele River while we were preparing for the invasion of France.  The co-operation and interest shown by men of all ranks was a great encouragement.

Many years after the war I was present at a large meeting in Toledo, Ohio.  At the close of the meeting a young man pushed through the crowd to greet me.  He called, “My chaplain, my chaplain!”  It was WOJG Donald McClenahan of Division Headquarters.

I must admit that there were probably many motivations for this increased interest in religion. Many years later one of the unit commanders, Colonel Stovall, told me of a young lieutenant in his battalion.  The lieutenant was a hard drinking, loud cussing young officer who attended all services regardless of who was conducting.

When questioned about his practice, he said, “Well, Colonel, I don’t know much about this religion, but if there is anything in it, the enemy might be working on the same channel, and I sure don’t want them to get any unfair advantage of me.”

I am sure there were many different motivations for attendance at church service, but I also know that attendance was voluntary.  No one had to go to church.  Sometimes church attendance involved real hardships.  Usually during combat it was difficult.  There was not much glamour.  There were no wives or mothers present to urge attendance.  Nevertheless, they came.  Sometimes in small groups, sometimes by the hundreds.  I think the chaplains helped.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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