Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division
Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
St. Marie aux Mines
At St. Maries aux Mines we
found two Protestant churches. Under army regulations no Catholic
Chaplain could use a Protestant church. After twenty months overseas this
was our first opportunity to use a Protestant church. The two Protestant
churches were only using one building, because of the shortage of coal.
The Civil Affairs officer secured coal for us. On Friday morning the
143rd Infantry used the church. On Sunday morning the 736th Ordnance
Company held a service. Division Headquarters held a service which filled
the church to capacity. On Monday morning we held a funeral service in
the church for Captain Richard Selkirk. We had made good use of our first
When we were at St. Marie aux
Mines the local Catholic priest came to me and asked for permission to
hold a Te Deum. I approved. Then he asked, if they could wear their
Alsatian costumes. The Germans had forbidden them to wear the Alsatian
costumes. It was a crime to speak French. Of course I gave permission
for such a service. Many of the children would come to me accompanied by
their parents, and speak to me in French to demonstrate that they had
defied the German authorities.
Of the two Protestant churches
in St. Marie aux Mines, one was the Eglise Reforme with a French
background. The local citizens were having combined services in the
Eglise Reforme. The two pastors came to me and invited me to participate
in a Thanksgiving Service at 0945 on Sunday morning. They told me that
the liturgy would be in German, because the Germans had destroyed all
their French hymn books. The sermon would be in FRENCH. Would I lead in
the Lord’s Prayer and give the benediction at the end of the service?
I asked whether I should give
the benediction in German or in French.
“Please give the benediction in
I said, “I know that your
people are bilingual and understand both French and German, but will they
understand my English?”
“No, they will not understand
your English, but they will understand that God hears His children in
whatever tongue they speak.”
I attended the service. The
church was filled to overflowing. They had to sing a cappella, because
the organ had been damaged by shell fire. When they sang, “Nun Danket”
(Now Thank We All Our God), it seemed to me to be the most emotional hymn
of Thanksgiving I had ever heard.
During our service in Alsace, I
developed a great sympathy for the Alsatian people. The Germans said,
“Elsass ist Deutsch fur ein tausend jahre”. The French said, “Alsace!
C’est la belle France”. The Alsatians said, “We are Alsatians. Period”.
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by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission