Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division
Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
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
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
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.
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by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission