World War II Chaplain to Receive Silver Star

The US military has approved the awarding of a Silver Star to Father Aloysius Schmitt, a Catholic chaplain who was aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was struck and capsized during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. More than 400 Sailors perished. Chaplain (LTjg) Schmitt is reported to have helped several men through their only means of escape — a porthole — and when it appeared he might get stuck in the porthole, declined the opportunity to escape himself, allowing others to live.

The Oklahoma was righted in 1943, and most of the bodies were recovered but buried as “unknown” in mass graves. In 2015 a mass exhumation began and DNA testing was used to begin identifying remains. Chaplain Schmitt was identified and buried in Iowa last year.

Chaplain Schmitt was the first US military chaplain killed in World War II.  While some atheists have denigrated the service of chaplains, claiming they don’t serve in “combat,” stories like those of Chaplains Schmitt, Kapaun, Goetz, and Vakoc, among others, tell a different tale.

The award is scheduled to be presented on Pearl Harbor Day, 2017.

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