Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Christmas At Strassbourg

On December 6th we moved to a new C.P. at Ribeauville.  Here we again had the use of the local church building. On December 8th a new chaplain reported for duty.  He was Chaplain Louis B. Parks.  He was assigned to the Division Artillery. He stayed with us less than a month.  He was transferred by Seventh Army Headquarters to an Engineer regiment.

On December 21st we moved to a new location near Strassbourg.  Here we had a beautiful Protestant church.  On Sunday, December 24th, we worshipped in the local church.  Christmas Eve we held a Christmas Carol Service.  At 0830 on Christmas Day we held a communion service in the local church.

Some of the men wanted to do something for the local children for Christmas.  One of the leaders was Master Sergeant Downing O. Smith.  The men collected candy and toys that they had received in their Christmas packages.  We had about 400 chocolate bars and lots of hard candy.  There were four baskets full of candy.  There were about 200 children present.

The pastor said to me, “Sie haben viel Freude heute gegeben” (You have given much joy today).

Most of the children had not had any candy for over four years.  Several of our men helped pass out the candy. The children sang for us.  I particularly enjoyed “Stille Nacht” and “O Holy Night.”

Within a week after the party Master Sergeant Smith was killed in action.  On January 1, 1945 a group of about twenty men from Division Headquarters accompanied me to the cemetery at Epinal for his funeral.

In arranging for the children’s party I received a lot of information concerning their way of life.  His oldest boy had been an engineer.  He was drafted by the French army.  He rose to be a sergeant.  Then he was recommended for appointment  to the officer candidate school.  When he arrived at Epinal, he was rejected, because the French would not accept a man whose father was of German extraction.

When the Germans conquered France, he was drafted into the German army.  He rose to be a Feld Webel.  Again he was recommended for officer candidate.  When he arrived at Strassbourg, he was again rejected.  The Germans would not accept as an officer a man whose mother was of French extraction.

He still had to serve in the German army.  They did not know where he was.  He could write to them.  They could not write to him.  While I was talking to the family in German (which I admit was not too fluent), the younger son started to laugh.

The father sternly admonished him, “If you tried to talk English, your accent would be worse than his”.

I gave the children some small gifts that my family had sent to me.  A small mirror, some small note books, a box of cocoa, a tooth brush and some tooth paste.  At the time they were real treasures for a family that had been living under German restrictions for so long.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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