Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Reflecting Upon 1944 (Italy And France)

One of a chaplain’s most important responsibilities was his personal contacts with his men.  Usually such contacts involved personal counseling.

I have had many men of all ranks from new recruits to generals come to me with their personal problems.  Oftentimes one contact meant several additional contacts to help solve the problem.  Sometimes we had to contact the Division Psychiatrist, Major Walter L. Ford, for his assistance.  He was always interested and helpful.

There was one case of a soldier who came to me with a “Dear John Letter”.  His wife wanted a divorce in order to marry another man. Before we could take any action, he was killed.  I suppose the “widow” collected $10,000 and shared it with her lover.  We did not have time to change the name of the beneficiary of his insurance.

During the year 1944 (Italy and France) the chaplains of the 36th Division made 1,370 visits to the various hospitals.  During these visits they contacted 19,054 patients.  Some patients received more than one visit, which is included in the above totals.  We made 79 visits to the Guard House where we contacted 457 men.  The chaplains had 31,138 pastoral contacts, involving 53,241 men.  They conducted 19 baptisms and 3 marriages.  In addition to these military contacts we made 92 contacts in the civilian communities, involving 8,834 persons.

For every burial the chaplain was expected to write a letter of condolence to the next of kin.  Because of censorship restrictions, the regulations concerning letters of condolence were continually changed.

Most of these letters were prepared by Sergeant Franklin P. Sweigert of my office.  He typed the letters for myself, Chaplain Roemer, Chaplain Lehne, and Chaplain Drury.  He wrote literally thousands of such letters.  In addition he prepared the mountains of paper work demanded by the army.  This involved checking the monthly reports of every chaplain, preparing monthly rosters, preparing the monthly report of chaplains’ activities for the Division Commander, and keeping the Daily Journal for Robert Rear.

Since Chaplain Roemer and myself were usually forward with the troops, he gave personal counseling to men who came to the chaplain’s office at the rear C.P.  He had hundreds of counseling sessions which are not included in the above reports.  He was an efficient soldier and a courteous Christian gentleman.  He well deserved the Bronze Star medal conferred upon him by General Walker.  He merited at least another medal, but never received it.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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